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Where is Commerce One Middle East?

Almost two years after the creation of the Commerce One Middle East brand, there are still few signs that B2B exchanges are actually being created in this region.

When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, called for the creation of a B2B exchange to serve the Dubai government, it took under two months to establish Tejari.com.

Tejari was set up with virtually no capital because it tapped into the systems and services of a global Oracle exchange in the United States and simply resold the services of that exchange.

That's the beauty of the Internet when it comes to B2B; physical location is largely irrelevant in terms of where you locate your data centre. What an exchange needs on the ground is a team of highly skilled experts who can help integrate a customer's processes, databases and applications into the B2B marketplace.

Compare the strategy and execution of Tejari.com with the strategy and execution of Commerce One Middle East. C1ME felt the need for a massive injection of funding before it set out to sell its services. The money, it argued, was needed to create a network of local exchanges to serve individual countries. To date, $75 million has reportedly been raised from the local market for these exchanges.

The additional benefit of securing this buy-in to the C1ME vision was that any organisation that pumped millions of dollars of funding was near certain to become a customer of the exchange. Since the money came from some of the region's largest organisations, this would create volume and momentum when the exchanges open.

There remain, however, a few questions: where are these exchanges and, perhaps more importantly, why are local exchanges necessary in the first place? If I was one of the investors into C1ME, I would also be asking: what has happened to my money?

So far, I have seen some money invested in a presence at Gitex last year. I also received an announcement that a $2 million Centre of Excellence in Bahrain had been opened.

There are obviously operating costs associated with keeping the C1ME operation running but, if I were an investor, I'd be a little disappointed if that was where my money was being spent.

The lack of action from Commerce One Middle East is all the more surprising given the enormous strength of Commerce One internationally. Analysts applaud the company's software and strategy and its Global Trading Web now connects thousands of B2B exchanges around the world.

Large organisations in the Middle East face no barriers to working with Commerce One software and consultants. Telcos like Q-Tel or STC can, if they so choose, create their own exchanges using Commerce One's proven products, methodologies and consultants. They can, like Tejari.com has proved, attract customers to these exchanges, if that is a business model they want to pursue.

My views of B2B exchanges in general are similar to any other analyst around the world: if a company's internal systems can connect seamlessly to the internal systems of hundreds of customers and suppliers via a B2B exchange, there is the potential for enormous cost savings and greater geographic reach. However, scale is all important, which is why I believe massive global exchanges will dominate in the future. I have little doubt that Commerce One will play a pivotal role in these global exchanges.

What I question is whether C1ME is spending the funding it has raised wisely up to this point. I would like to see action. I would like to see success stories. I would like to see C1ME's investors get value for money.

To find out more about Commerce One Middle East, I tried what I thought was the company's web site: www.c1me.com (I thought this because C1ME's employee e-mails are all firstname.familyname@c1me.com). Surprisingly, this took me straight to www.commerceone.com, the company's global site.

A B2B exchange provider without its own Web site? Hmmm.

Let me know what you think. E-mail me at rob.corder@itp.net.

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