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Ukibi Inc. Keeps Digital Addresses Current
By Karen Lam,
Oct 25, 2000 11:34 AM ET

Twenty-something Huy Nguyen Trieu, chief executive officer of Ukibi Inc., believes the following scenario to be a familiar one:

You have a new extension number for your telephone at work and you need to get the information out to your gargantuan list of contacts.

Before sending out your mass e-mailing though, you must first consolidate the e-mail addresses you have scattered between your Rolodex, PDA and the business cards still waiting to be keyed into a database.

In February 1999, Nguyen Trieu co-founded New York City-based Ukibi Inc., to help solve such problems.

"Keep all your contact information, both business and personal, in the same place," he advises.

But more importantly, he says with a chuckle, you should keep this kind of personal information on his Internet service, StayInSync.

There are many virtual address-book options available to consumers these days, he says. But what makes StayInSync unique is that those you contact with your new information will not need to update the information in their address books. It happens automatically.

When information is updated, all the StayInSync-using contacts that have you in their digital address books will find the information automatically updated.

The functions are accessible by personal computer, personal digital assistants and WAP-enabled phones, through the Internet, providing a multi-functionality that targets the estimated 45 percent of online users that are expected to connect to the Internet via multiple devices by 2003, according to Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

Marketing services to businesses

While StayInSync includes WAP e-mail in its suite, its "self-updating" function is emphasized in its marketing.

Consumers should not expect to see any billboards or fancy advertisements about the product any time soon though. As a business-to-business company, its marketing dollars will be spent predominantly in technical trade publications and conferences.

"So if iVillage decides to license our service, it will be available to their users via the iVillage site. But their users will not see the Ukibi logo," says Nguyen Trieu.

Its greatest target market among consumers though, he adds, is among mobile professionals.

"It's a smart function," says Sreenath Sreenivasan, a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism associate professor who gauges new media practices.

"But this will only work if the mass consumer picks up on it for their personal lives, not just for work. It's going to be a slow process. Anything that involves the sharing of information online gets people a bit queasy. But people will pick up on it slowly but surely."

Ukibi licenses StayInSync for intranet use, Internet portals, telecommunications companies and wireless services providers -- charging on a sliding scale that depends on the number of users the client company introduces to the service. "We charge several dollars per user, per year," says Nguyen Trieu.

"Our original business plan called for a focus on marketing StayInSync to Websites," he says. "But as telecommunications companies are aggressively pushing their wireless services, we've shifted our focus a bit to hone in on that market."

The company has been funded in two rounds for $8.5 million. The first round, at $1.5 million, was by Mars Capital (New York and Paris) in the spring. In September, it joined Europ@web (Paris) in Ukibi's second round of $7 million.

Ukibi is targeting Websites with a subscriber base of 300,000 or greater, such as Yahoo!, said Nguyen Trieu.

Updating address books in three languages

Its product is available in three languages: English, French and German. Spanish and Italian are both in the works for year-end and Asian languages, such as Chinese and Japanese, are also in the plans for as early as next year, said Nguyen Trieu.

There's a great interest in entering the Chinese-language market, especially since Ukibi believes that it will surge in the number of personal computer and WAP device used over the next two to three years, he says.

Ukibi, a made-up word, may not yet be as "ubiquitous" as the name seems to imply, but it could be well on its way.

The co-founders are natives of France and the company maintains an office in Paris, which houses most of its 15 engineers. And it made it a point to choose a name that will present it as an international company, rather than an American firm, despite its Silicon Alley address.

It has so far gathered a handful of clients including hobbyists community site available to users in Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K., and British women's community site, Its American clientele includes and Jotter.

A partnership with application SmartCalendar Inc., San Jose, makes StayInSync available to the online calendar site's users. And a packaging deal with X And Mail, a Paris-based Internet communications company, lends weight to its efforts to market to virtual desktop sites.

Company: Ukibi Inc.

Year founded: 1999

Number of employees: 40

Revenue: License fees from telecommunications and Web community companies that package the StayInSync option into their products; fees for the tailoring, implementation and maintenance of the product.

Strategic partners: SmartCalendar Inc., X And Mail in Paris

Investors: Mars Capital and Europe@web, a branch of the Paris-based Arnault

Management: Huy Nguyen Trieu, chief executive officer and co-founder; Sebastien Luneau, chief technology officer and co-founder; Cyril Morcrette, managing director, France and co-founder; Eric Bergerson, vice president of engineering; Eric Doescher, vice president of marketing; Philippe Dewost, vice president of business development; Sri Bhattacharya, communications director; Steven Swagel, chief financial officer; Stephane Marcovitch, general counsel and chief privacy officer; Marc Chanteloube, vice president, sales. | stuff | quotes: