Entellium Execs Simply Made Up Revenue

from the well,-that's-one-way-to-hit-your-numbers dept

It always surprises me when I hear about various tech startups that eventually resorted to outright scamming. I can understand the pressures of running a startup as things get tough, but I can't ever imagine resorting to making up revenue outright. Yet, whenever an economic downturn hits, these stories start popping up. You may recall back in 2001 when the hot startup Critical Path was caught making up about 10% of its revenue. A day later, one of the biggest speech recognition companies of the time, Lernout & Hauspie, announced that its Korean division had made up almost all of its revenue. In that case, it resulted in the end of L&H completely, as well as jail time for the CEO.

It looks like we may be getting another such story. Just a few weeks ago, CRM provider Entellium was announcing new products (which they spammed us with a press release about). On October 1st, we received another email pitch from Entellium, urging us to download its software for a free 30-day trial. That same day, the company's CEO and CFO suddenly quit. A couple days later, most of the company's employees were laid off and told that the company was out of money.

The whole thing seemed quite odd, especially considering that the company had raised over $50 million, had just launched this product and everything seemed to have been moving forward. Late Wednesday, however, the details came out. It turned out that the two execs who quit, Paul Johnston and Parrish Jones had been flat out lying to its board and its investors concerning revenue for years. For example, since 2006, the company made less than $3.8 million, but told the board it brought in $15.5 million. That's not just a slight fudging of the numbers -- that's extreme fraud, which was used to help the company raise that $50 million.

The biggest question, though, is where were the board and the investors on this. It's difficult to see how investors would hand over more than $50 million without ever conducting an audit. They simply believed the two execs. It's also worth noting how the fraud unraveled. Apparently, the VP of HR was cleaning out the desk of the former head of sales, and discovered the bogus set of books that the CEO & CFO had been showing the board. She turned them over to the company's comptroller, who gave them to a board member -- which resulted in the board pretty quickly calling the CEO to let him know that they were sending over their own "contract" CFO to "check some things out." That was the point at which the two execs resigned.

You always hope that these stories are simply cases of bad seeds, and that there aren't others doing the same, but it'll be worth watching to see if we start hearing other similar stories. They seem to come in bunches.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    J.Locke, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 5:52am

    These guys are smart enough for Wall Street

    Anyone else find it funny that many of these investment banks are blaming their failures on an inability to "make up value" concerning their portfolios (being forced to account for investments at actual market value instead of what they “wish” they were worth). What seems outrageous to many of us outside the world of finance, is simply "creative financing" to many on the inside.

     

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    NullOp, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 6:34am

    Lying

    For years I have known I would not be a "great" financial guy. Why? Because of my inability to float lies on a regular basis. Hollywood and corporate types are both afflicted with the curse of "Believing their own BS." And BTW, the bankers know how it works! If everyone started telling the truth today everything would continue normally. Its just that the "Fat Cats" have come to expect ungodly profits rather than a reasonable return on the investment.

     

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    dorpus, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 6:59am

    And this is unusual?

    Sounds like every company I came across in the Valley.

     

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    duped, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 7:32am

    ex employee

    funny STILL there are ex middle managers "urging" other ex employees to be "sensative" to the PJ and his sidekicks families that no one is guilty just yet..ahhh kool aide and office politics..Funny while these families were suffering living in muliti-million dollar homes I dont seem to remember any of them assisting me when I was layed off with less than 80.00 to my name.

     

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      Never a dull moment, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 2:57pm

      Re: ex employee

      $80 to your name?? Now that sounds like a serious money management problem! ;-)

       

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      pap, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 6:23pm

      Re: ex employee

      Are you sure you were laid off?

       

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      Octavia, Oct 16th, 2008 @ 8:12pm

      Re: ex employee

      Have you ever heard of treat others as you'd like to be treated. The families are truly victims. No sin is greater than another as God will be the ultimate judge in the end. What they did is indeed wrong, but as children of God no one should ever take joy in another persons demise.

      May the lord show mercy on PJ and Parrish and their families.

      God Bless

       

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    MadAsHellNetworkGuy, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 8:34am

    Small Timers

    Too bad these guys couldnt run up 50 billion or so in debt, then the taxpayer would have repaid everyone.

     

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    John Cook, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 9:01am

    Entellium blow up

    It is a major blow up in the Seattle tech scene and most people here in the tech community are buzzing about it, especially noting Johnston's resignation letter.

    http://www.wherearejohnandtodd.com/

    John Cook

     

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      Sneeje, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 10:00am

      Re: Entellium blow up

      Wow, that letter is actually refreshing. A CEO actually ashamed of their actions (those not in the best interest of the company)?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    Sorta like the US printing money?

     

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    Lucretious, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 10:20am

    how about a little due-diligence? The board members deserve to be taken if they were that ignorant of the situation.

    What was that story not long ago about an Indian CEO who had pulled a similar scam in his publicly traded company? Several investors took it upon themselves to physically drag the CEO out into the street where he was beaten to death by an angry mob. As extreme as that may sound, perhaps a little of that over here would keep guys like this a bit more honest.

    just sayin'.....

     

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    alden, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Well, let's look at the bright side. If a company with over 50 million in venture capital can just make up revenue, we one or two person outfits can, at the very least, say, "things are going great!"

     

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    crmhero, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 12:16pm

    we knew it was coming

    Sitting on both sides of the fence with everyone's thoughts however, we knew it was coming. There were signs leading up to this for the past few months. Yes the board should have done their part in investigating, weather or not that was why we constantly needed to be pumped with 2 million here or 4 million there if we were generating so much at the time...or should they have looked at what the money was going towards, we were hosted via 3rd party and spent a tremendous amount on a dev team in malaysia but come on...who burns through that much in a CY??? Perhaps it was the 70k a month rent we had for our building on the waterfront?? Maybe the constant "google" like atmosphere, spending tons on lunches for the whole company, drinks, m's games, seahawk games for a company of 100 that can get spendy, yes we ran out of money eventually but that may have been due to a 75% monthly churn rate...yes i said it we only kept 25% of our customers on a monthly basis...they inflated the numbers by 400K average a month...HA, just off of my numbers it was at least, AT LEAST, 700k a month on a good month and everyone in the company would have to been making 150k a year to run out...poor managing by the CEO, CFO and VP of Marketing (D.S) who took in 250k a year for sitting around downloading porn....the fact of the matter is it was not just them cooking the books the company was unsucessful due to the fact no one running the company cared about anything but "aquiring" money...the management team had no idea how to handle growth the CEO and CFO were too busy sleeping with office chics and lieing to investors to see what has happening and the co founder was too busy playing world of war craft to realize his customer adoption team couldn't even retain 50% of the customers we were deploying out....the moral of the story
    IF YOUR GOING TO START A COMPANY...Know where you want to end up...if your idea is to start a company and not know how to dynamically run the business just stop and get into wire fraud...

    P.S it would be my assumption that the HR gal that "found the books" (MW) probably accidently stumbled into the office after a little incident that left her relationship strained with a former exec....(i wonder how she kept her job) not having any hr experience before and she's the VP of HR?? two words "puts out"

     

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      Alden, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 1:11pm

      Re: we knew it was coming

      Nice comment, let's hear more!

       

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      Bringing Sexy Back, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 10:11pm

      Re: we knew it was coming

      You have a lot of inside information. I would be interested to know what your title was.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2008 @ 10:25am

      Re: we knew it was coming

      I am also a former Entellium employee. I worked on the aforementioned Customer Adoption Team (accused by crmhero of not being able to "retain 50%" of the customers deployed, although he doesn't mention that many never deployed due to data migration issues that should have been addressed during pre-sale discovery). I left Entellium in 2007 because the company was dysfunctional, and the dysfunction was not only systemic but top-down. Several of the VPs pushed Sales to "sell at all costs". Consequently, some salespeople misled customers about the nuances of the product, especially around issues concerning data migration and integration with other products. Many members of the Sales Team were either too pressured or too thoughtless not to toss the sale over the fence to the Customer Adoption Team, hoping we could "make it stick" until after they received their commission.

      There were, in fact, (and still are) many good people at Entellium, including some members of the Sales Team. The product needs to be vetted and revised, like all software products, but it is effective and powerful in several important ways. Many people were committed and truly believed they were doing something worthwhile. But, due to the immense hubris of the leadership, bad habits and dishonesty were given fertile ground to flourish. And, unfortunately, as is often the case, the lowest common denominator determined the bottom line.

       

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      identicon
      crmhero is an idiot, Oct 27th, 2008 @ 1:33pm

      Re: we knew it was coming

      Wow, you are a seriously deluded person. If you are going to rant, then keep your facts straight. I hope you feel better slandering everyone you could. How does it change the situation that the CEO and CFO lied, and many good people have been put out of a job.

       

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      Madison, Nov 8th, 2008 @ 6:36pm

      Re: we knew it was coming

      Did you work for the company? Just curious how Parrish became involved in this; he was such an honest person.....at least I thought so in the last 20 years I've known him. Would you say.....anyone with exposure to that amount of money would change....very QUICKLY.

       

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      notsaying, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:41am

      Re: we knew it was coming

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    1-888-OOPS-JEW

    Now taking calls...

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 1:06pm

    Has it dawned on anyone else how ironic it is that a company which makes sales-team software couldn't sell its software? Guess the product doesn't work.

     

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    identicon
    IT Guy, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 1:43pm

    Re: we knew it was coming

    Now THAT's what I call "TechDirt"!

    It does suprise me that the investors & board weren't aware of what was going on, at least financially. At one of the small consulting companies I used to work for, the President was continually having to justify every expense to the board.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 1:45pm

    Audit

    They had an audit scheduled every year, but they kept with-holding information. This year is the closest it got, hence the fraud discovery.

     

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    SeattlePapi, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 3:20pm

    Well I also noticed there were too many Bald guys at Entellium (and balding dudes). Now it all makes sense - they were running around trying to make up for that delta.

     

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    SeattlePapi, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 3:24pm

    Okay in all seriousness - what they found in the office was board decks (not books - books as in presentations bound at Kinkos) These were presentations prepared to the board with the "numbers". You think the guy would have kept cooked books in his drawer!

     

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    identicon
    Mike Muhney (Co-Inventor of ACT!), Oct 9th, 2008 @ 7:39pm

    I attempted to communicate with the CEO about 3 months ago

    Hi everyone. I just today learned of this tragic situation. I am the Co-Inventor of ACT! and was Co-Founder of its company. As a recognized CRM pioneer, and frequent Keynote Speaker on the topic of CRM, I received an invitation via email a few months back to listen to a webinar. I did, at which time I both heard as well as saw on PowerPoint screens references to ACT! - yes, still selling on the market after 21 years - so naturally I thought that the CEO might find it interesting to hear from me, and quite honestly I was both flattered and impressed that ACT! was their go-to comparison. As a speaker, I thought perhaps that it might even be interesting for Entellium to have me come up there to speak to them about the whole creation of Contact Management/CRM from one of the two guys who invented it and how they could professionally leverage that "story" to their audience. I proceeded to write a very complimentary email to the CEO, and invited a telephone call discussion. I never received any acknowledgment whatsoever. I went to the website, read Paul's "letter" about the fun the company was cultivating, changing the face of CRM, blah, blah, blah as they say. There was more there than I can remember, but I remember immediately after reading that letter how I felt it was an illusion, and I was actually quite angry that there wasn't even the courtesy to at least respond to my email, given my credentials and the fact that any professional and insightful CEO would at the very minimum wish to gain further insight from one of the two guys who started it all by - on top of the fact that CRM is all about the quality and value of relationships. The irony was too much so I wrote a second email, and basically "confronted" Paul with the fact that he couldn't even respond, that his "letter" on the website was nothing more than an illusion, that he didn't know the first thing about the right "fun" culture of a company as we had built with our employees etc. etc. I certainly thought this would provoke a response. Sadly, again nothing from Paul. I did get a phone call (I had provided my mobile number) from Paul's secretary, who did apologize for Paul's not getting to me at all saying he was just very busy and traveling and she was, again, oh so sorry. I thanked her for the call and said that I would very much like to talk to Paul, that I felt that Entellium, and its customers, would benefit from my vision, insight, and experience. I never heard from anyone again.

    I feel very empathetic for you all, the employees, the customers, and the investors. I don't know if my experience will even have meant anything to you, but I did try and I wanted you to know that. I love as you must realize the whole concept of CRM, as it is my DNA, my baby if you will. I saw the fallacy of the Siebel story, I even knew Tommy and played golf with him, but if you knew Tommy you knew he wasn't for the customer. I laugh at Salesforce.com and now had a similar experience with Mark Benioff, and now look what is coming out about them. I was actually rooting for Entellium, telling two of the young men who called me following up from my registering on the Entellium website. If there is any way that I can be a listening ear to any of you, please feel free to write me.

    Sincerely, Mike Muhney

     

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      crmcustomer, Oct 10th, 2008 @ 6:44am

      Re: I attempted to communicate with the CEO about 3 months ago

      As a current customer of Entellium I must remark that these developments are surprising. The online CRM concept is right for my company's size and we did an evaluation of many of the others before selecting Entellium. Obviously how could we know how Entellium was capitalizing its business? Salesforce.com seemed too gimicky and costly. Entellium seemed the right product for us at the right price. Given that and your knowlege in the industry which online CRM solutions do you favor?

       

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      identicon
      Outside Act!, Nov 3rd, 2008 @ 5:33pm

      Re: I attempted to communicate with the CEO about 3 months ago

      Hello Mike,
      Are you saying that the hosted CRM may not be what we want if we are a 5 user small business just looking to keep a simple CRM system going? It looks like ACT for 5 users is a one time $1000, obviously there would be charges to update the SW, but I have been spending $1000/qtr for over 2 years and still haven't gotten Entellium to integrate my data and get me up and operating. Assuming they crash and burn shortly, it doesn't matter but I feel like I am fluching the money down the toilet being locked into a non-performing annual contract. I would like to contact you - do you have a website where I could ask further questions?

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 10:37pm

    Ignition's Michelle Goldberg was on the board? Hopefully blame will finally flow to the higher-ups who deserve it.

     

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    Another Coward, Oct 9th, 2008 @ 11:13pm

    Hard to believe that only two knew of the scam

    How the hell, over the course of 3-4 years could two people keep this big a fraud secret?

    Who/where were the auditors?

    What about their lawyers who probably worked the contracts?

    What about sales execs in the board meeting?

    How about sales people who kibitz on sales numbers and probably could not come close to the claimed figure?

    More here than stated in the CEO/CFO emails IMHO

    Somebody will have an interesting time tracking down expenditures to Malaysia.

     

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    Saw Through It First, Oct 10th, 2008 @ 2:45pm

    religious cult

    You folks wanna know where that money is look at the weird religious cult in Malaysia PJ fronted before moving here...

     

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    identicon
    Ex Entellium in Malaysia, Oct 12th, 2008 @ 6:30pm

    History Lesson

    Entellium was "founded" not in 2004 but really in May 2001 in Malaysia. So much money was owed to suppliers, contractors, the government (withholding taxes from employees collected but not paid to the government, and employees) and many more including creditors giving personal loans. I was at the "launch" of the company, a very elaborate party held at the Petronas Towers. Here's a link to a news of one of the first "investors". http://asia.internet.com/news/article.php/773871/entellium+Malaysia+Loxley+Thailand+Sign+JV+Agreeme. htm So I am not surprised that this happened. He is a flight risk, he ran away from Malaysia; our laws here are a little bit more forgiving to foreigners in business as the government here is afraid it may jeopardize foreign investment. As a result, locals get screwed. The man just took his family and left the country... Good thing that won't happen in the US. God Bless America!

     

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    Unethical Losers, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 10:34am

    This surprises you?

    This is a Ignition Partners screw up. Check out another one at globalscholar.com where you can pay a small fee and they will cheat on all your school work for you.

     

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    identicon
    Never a dull moment, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 2:32pm

    he ran away from Malaysia

    Re: "The man just took his family and left the country..."

    Interesting, I'm not sure what is being implied here, that PJ also did something illegal in Malaysia and fled the country? That's quite odd as I saw him travel to Malaysia approximately 4-6 times a year and he actually worked with the Malaysian government to receive additioanl funding (did he lie to them also about earnings, probably), but what I'm intrigued by is the accusation that he did something previously in Malaysia that caused him to "run away"? I've never heard this before and if it's true the Malaysian government must have been very forgiving because they continued to give him money.

     

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      identicon
      Ex Entellium in Malaysia, Oct 15th, 2008 @ 2:03am

      Re: he ran away from Malaysia

      I am not implying anything, I am telling you that when PJ left Malaysia he left with a trail of debt. Entellium didn't startup in US, it was started in Malaysia in 2000. Many staff were left with no pay, no EPF (social security) and witholding taxes not paid to the govenment. Did he cook the books here? I have no proof now since Entellium Malaysia no longer exist as it morphed itself into Entellium Technologies. Shut down one company, declare it bankrupt and open another. And yes, PJ did come back to Malaysia, how many times, I don't know and yes he did get funding from the Malaysian government but they are NOT direct government agencies, i.e the Ministries, MAVCAP are run by a bunch of guys as useless as the Entellium board of directors in the US who didn't even bother to ask for any audited accounts before plunking down millions. Am I pissed off.... yes I lost time and lots of money so let him rot in jail.

       

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    identicon
    Brian, Oct 14th, 2008 @ 4:28pm

    we are a customer

    we are a small Seattle based company that uses their CRM product. I have to say I am happy they went down; I have to use that crap product every day and now we will be moving off of it! Thank you lord..!!

    Salesforce.com here we come.

     

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    identicon
    God fearing ex employee, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 2:28am

    ex employee

    I treat others just as I would want them to treat me.. that has been my motto; if I rip someone off then I should face the consequences.. He ripped many PEOPLE off not just financial instituitions. I have nothing against their families but God will judge him when he meets him. The law will judge him as a crook because he has personally stolen from me and many of my friends. Besides he is not dead

    (deminse = Main Entry: 1de·mise
    Pronunciation: di-ˈmīz
    Function: verb
    Inflected Form(s): de·mised; de·mis·ing
    Date: 15th century
    transitive verb
    1: to convey (as an estate) by will or lease
    2obsolete : convey , give
    3: to transmit by succession or inheritance
    intransitive verb
    1: die , decease
    2: to pass by descent or bequest

    So once again...let the idiot rot in jail... I am not asking him to be executed; one less conman in the world means more lives will not be affected. Perhaps he will repent when he gets out and does God's work. He professes to be a Christian, I have my doubts. Don't be conned.

     

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    identicon
    Customer, Oct 20th, 2008 @ 7:56pm

    An angry Customer

    I must say, we have been on Entellium for about a year and as every day goes by we understand the snow-job that was delivered during the sales process. We looked at many different solutions and agreed that this was the right move for our growing company. We found out a few things along the way - Integration stinks; the service side was not all it was cracked up to be; the consulting offering was a joke; on an on....As decision makers we put out butts on the line and this is what we got!! Oh I almost forgot, if (or should I say when) we decide move, they have refused to provide us with our current data...(*^&#*&$#^*%!!!

     

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    identicon
    greenberg, Nov 6th, 2008 @ 9:05am

    Entellium is Disgrace to CRM

    Although Entellium called itself an on-demand crm vendor, the reality was so different. Entellium was merely a contact management solution that used a client on the desktop to retrieve the data from it's servers; by no mean this is on-demand crm!!!

    Then comes the inflated revenues, but only 4 years after the scam started; oooooook!!
    In a market where customers are welling to sign yearly contracts, entellium offered none; don't you think they were trying to avoid any future liabilities?
    Also, I have to be really dumb to believe that the ceo and cfo of entellium were the only two persons involved in this scam.
    I spoke to a customer service and support agent of entellium via online chat and he told me that most of the story in the media is false and wrong, and they are still in business; yet many customers have told me that they could not get their data out of entellium!
    If you look at salesforce.com books you will find that they mentioned Entellium as a close competitor ; and that gave many people the idea that entellium is a good company, but the reason salesforce.com mentioned them is that they represented no threat to them at all, but I am sure it helped get entellium major funding.

    Anyways, Entellium customers have to quickly move to other crm vendors, and there are only three worth looking at: Salesforce.com, Netsuite, and Salesboom.com

     

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    identicon
    keep them honest, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 1:16pm

    Where was the board?

    What I can't understand is WTF the board was doing? Totally asleep at the wheel. It actually figures -- if you dig into Michelle Goldberg's background - you will see she hasn't really worked in a company or run a company. Yes, she did a couple of years of contract work at MSFT and some 1-2 years of consulting at AT kearney as a junior analyst. This doesn't quality her to be on the board of entellium. Perhaps the bar at Ignition is very low - which is likely the case. I suspect the partners at ignition run it as a cocktail conversation thing for themselves and side hobby not as a serious VC house. No wonder people like Michelle become partners there. Hope this taught them a lesson. WAKE UP!

     

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    tomm Greenberg, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 1:07pm

    Shame

    Wow. It is so sad to see a software-as-a-service player go away. It must be so hard for the employees and thier families. I wonder if this bad news will heart the other on demand crm players such as Salesforce.com, Salesboom.com, Netsuite and others??

    Although the actual sales are much lower, the true numbers do show traction, so the model is sound, it is just the players were dishonest and didnt have to work hard to create sales, they just made them up....

     

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    identicon
    Get a grip, Mar 29th, 2009 @ 3:39pm

    Your all missing the big picture

    Regardless of how they got the money or how much they got, the company was losing money period!!! The company would of gone down anyway. They could of ran it leaner but they didn't. I'm sure the economy had an effect as well. The fact is the money DID go towards the compay. If they where smart they would of gradually of decreased the revenue until it was correct.Too bad they missed out on a sale of $100,000,000....that's when you gotta kick your self...... Someone wanted to buy your product for 100million and you blew it..

     

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