A leading provider of comprehensive solutions for corporate information management and collaboration, grapeVINE Technologies had a unique approach to knowledge management. Its technology combined human intelligence and advanced technology to increase enterprise productivity by facilitating the sharing, access and management of relevant information on corporate Intranets. grapeVINE worked with strategic partners, such as Netscape, Microsoft and IBM, to provide technology solutions for large corporate customers, including Dow Chemical, National Semiconductor, Amoco and Chrysler Corporation. grapeVINE’s patented technology solutions helped shape the way people managed and shared information — turning “information overload” into a competitive advantage.
grapeVINE had a strategic partnership with Netscape, which gave the company added credibility as an industry leader in the knowledge management field. However, from this relationship arose additional problems. Expectedly, Netscape, a favored topic among the computer trade press, garnered the lion’s share of the publicity in any mention of its collaborative effort with grapeVINE.
Eiler realized it was in grapeVINE’s best interest to continue publicizing its relationship with Netscape. The rationale for this strategy was simple. As a start-up, grapeVINE alone would have difficulty attracting attention of the press. Keeping Netscape in the mix made for a more compelling story. Eiler needed to emphasize how grapeVINE’s technology enhanced Netscape’s new product, a server for corporate Intranets, to ensure media understand that only through the addition of grapeVINE’s technology did Netscape’s server become a legitimate knowledge management tool.
Eiler first sent grapeVINE executives on an introductory press tour. This accomplished several goals, including informing media about market plans for grapeVINE’s new product (then in Beta 1 testing) and its partnership with Netscape. Eiler educated media about the knowledge management market in general, a tactic that paid dividends later when more companies entered the market claiming to be knowledge management providers. grapeVINE’s media ties during the market’s infancy gave it credibility as an expert and leader in a quickly expanding field. Eiler followed up on the tour with a series of phone briefings to announce grapeVINE’s product had entered Beta 2 phase. With organizations such as Amoco, Dow Chemical, NEC and the Department of Defense testing grapeVINE’s product, Eiler established grapeVINE’s position as a dominant player in knowledge management.
As expected, the knowledge management market became crowded with an ever-growing number of contenders. An InformationWeek article lamented that even the “...definitions of knowledge management abound, with no two alike.” Standing above the fray, grapeVINE possessed a clear market identity and product recognition. This differentiation was rooted in grapeVINE’s proactive PR campaign when knowledge management was just another emerging niche market with an uncertain future. Media duly rewarded grapeVINE’s early diligence with feature stories in PC Week, Web Week, InformationWeek, Info World, C/netnews, Software Magazine and ZD Net. grapeVINE’s customers also responded by offering endorsements and quotes. An extensive interview with oil company Amoco resulted in a case study article in InformationWeek, a coup for such a young company.
In summary, grapeVINE received consistent coverage during both its Beta 1 and Beta 2 announcements. This gave credence to the growing importance of knowledge management as a newsworthy topic and to grapeVINE’s position as an influential player. grapeVINE continued to grow and actively added to its customer list and workforce. With such momentum, it’s no surprise grapeVINE did not last long as what Amoco consultant Joseph Jesson described as: “The best-kept secret in the information management business.” Sun Microsystems eventually purchased grapeVINE Technologies for $9.4 million.