Think of Chuck Bay, the CEO of Kana Communications, as David facing several Goliaths. "Kana's biggest challenge is the billions of marketing dollars Siebel and Oracle spend to get our message across. They say they do things on the Web, but they don't. We can't compete with their marketing dollars, but the fact is, they don't do what we do."
What Kana does offer is Web-based CRM solutions, a field that has become increasingly competitive as the market consolidates and the economy sags. But Bay, a man with a formidable high-tech management background, is rising to the challenge. "I've been through 15 up-and-down cycles, and that experience helps as the economy grows and shrinks."
The experiences upon which Bay draws are impressive. He is not, by training, a technologist, but a lawyer with expertise in international tax and trade. One of nine children, this native son of Chicago came to California for a two-week vacation "to hang out" after graduating from law school and never left. "I ran out of money and had to get a job, so in the summer of 1982, I joined Coopers & Lybrand, where I worked in their high-tech headquarters for two years," he says.
Bay then made the jump to the law firm of Baker & McKenzie, where the first client he brought in was none other than Steve Jobs. "He told me he was going to leave my office and go make a billion dollars," Bay says. "I realized that as things were, I'd be left sitting in my office, earning a salary." For all the obvious reasons, Bay left with Jobs, joining him at NeXT, his first major post-Apple project.
The rest is a tale of professional successes as Bay worked with several technology concerns, including Spatial Technology and Pure Software. Eventually, he made his way to Broadbase, the CRM analytics vendor, where he worked until the company merged with Kana last April, and Bay, with the Broadbase management team, took charge of the newly formed entity.
Kana under Bay's leadership is a company with formidable strengths. Prior to their union, both Kana and Broadbase had merged with or purchased numerous business software companies, which ultimately brought cutting-edge eCRM technologies into one highly respected e-business application suite. Focusing on the areas of marketing and customer service, Kana's solutions now automate such companies as Ford, BP, Amoco, Microsoft, General Motors and Disney, to name a few.
Though Kana's reputation for eCRM products and services remains high, Bay, as CEO, faces the same challenges all CRM executives in his position currently face: tough competition and an even tougher economy. "The economy is horrible," Bay says. "We are going back to the early '90s where the software industry is just a dogfight."
But, Bay says, Kana is ready. "You have to be very good at what you do to survive. And we are."