This Year’s Model

While independent exchanges are stalling, industry-led trading hubs are gaining in popularity. Here's what we found when we examined E-marketplaces in four industries: metal, chemicals, paper, and energy.

Petrocosm (www.petrocosm.com)

Details: Consortium. Went live July 2000.

Skinny: For our money, coolest of all new-economy monikers … Founded by Ariba and Chevron, with additional investment from Texaco, National Oil Well, and private equity investors … Petrocosm has huge market, but dominant customer for hub’s 300 suppliers still company backer Chevron. To get to next level, site must earn stripes with other oil bigs.

FuelQuest (www.fuelquest.com)

Details: Independent. First transaction conducted October 1998.

Skinny: Backed by Lehman Brothers and Accenture Technology Ventures. FuelQuest’s platform uses Broadview technology on front end, Oracle on back end … Private marketplace, FuelQuest’s revenue stream based not on commissions, but on $300 monthly fee for users ($2,500 for premium service) … Site merged with Oilspot.com in September … FuelQuest CEO Richard Cilento a real rocket scientist. Former Xerox executive worked seven years at NASA, including stint as space shuttle flight controller … US State Department appears to think highly of FuelQuest. DoS brings in FuelQuest managers to brief foreign leaders on ecommerce.

Energy: Electricity/Gas Commodity and Equipment

Pantellos (www.pantellos.com)

Details: Consortium. Formed March 2000.

Skinny: Similar to Petrocosm and Trade-Ranger in oil space, this developing site facilitates buying and selling of equipment used by electric companies … Founded last spring, hub’s 21 investors and capital partners are major North American utility operators … Pantellos offers Web-enabled “asset management and optimization,” a nifty feature … Initially, payment settlement will be handled via purchasing cards and direct invoicing. But Pantellos officials say they’re working on electronic payment and settlement system.

HoustonStreet (www.houstonstreet.com)

Details: Independent. Launched July 1999.

Skinny: Originally conceived as a means of marketing power produced by Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear power plant. Now the independent site is a commodity exchange for electricity, gas, and oil … Spokesman describes HoustonStreet as “hybrid of coalition models and independent plays.” Industry heavyweight Enron recently agreed to run its exchange data on HoustonStreet’s site, making life easier for Davids who don’t want to deal directly with Goliath … Arthur Andersen monitors the site for neutrality. Performs similar service for Switzerland … Almost 2,000 individual traders, representing 250 energy companies, use HoustonStreet … HoustonStreet’s online credit-approval services support liquidity by taking burden off traders. But site operators must make sure participants don’t use credit profiles to identify anonymous bidders. “There might be people who rig the system, and we didn’t want any of that gaming going on,” says spokesman.

Altra (www.altra.com)

Details: Independent. Launched 1996.

Skinny: Initially an exchange for natural-gas liquids, Altra now also handles gas, electricity, and crude oil for more than 7,000 traders … Site competes with HoustonStreet as independent commodity exchange … In 1997, Austin Ventures and Battery Ventures acquired complete control of company … Altra revenues for trading platform business jumped 20 percent last year … AMR named Altra best independent online exchange of all for 2000 … In Q1, launched eGas. Better name than first choice, GasE … Company founder and chairman left Altra in February.

UniGridEnergy.com (www.unigridenergy.com)

Details: Consortium. Launched September 2000.

Skinny: Philadelphia-based UniGridEnergy.com designed specifically as E-marketplace for commercial and industrial energy buyers. That’s departure from HoustonStreet and Altra, whose players are primarily energy traders … unlike California, Pennsylvania’s aggressive utility deregulation has generated few headlines, even fewer blackouts … UniGrid spun off from Exelon, a subsidiary that grew out of PECO Energy in Philadelphia. In October, PECO Energy acquired Chicago-based Unicom and christened the new entity Exelon. Programs are available in the lobby … Will be a long time before fragmented power market resembles single national grid implied by UniGrid’s name. With pressure on utility stocks, and razor-thin margins for power, UniGrid walking a highwire.

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