Paul Wahl leaves start-up for Siebel

After just eight months at Silicon Valley Internet security software firm TriStrata, Paul Wahl is leaving the start-up to take over as chief operating officer at Siebel Systems.

Kim Girard
Kim Girard
Kim Girard has written about business and technology for more than a decade, as an editor at CNET News.com, senior writer at Business 2.0 magazine and online writer at Red Herring. As a freelancer, she's written for publications including Fast Company, CIO and Berkeley's Haas School of Business. She also assisted Business Week's Peter Burrows with his 2003 book Backfire, which covered the travails of controversial Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. An avid cook, she's blogged about the joy of cheap wine and thinks about food most days in ways some find obsessive.
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After just eight months at Silicon Valley Internet security software firm TriStrata, Paul Wahl is leaving the start-up to take over as chief operating officer at Siebel Systems, the company said.

Wahl is also the former head of U.S. operations for German software giant SAP.

At Siebel, Wahl joins former colleague Jeremy Coote, who left SAP in March to take over as Siebel's vice president of North American Operations.

Wahl, who met Tom Siebel about a decade ago, said he agreed to join the firm after lengthy discussions with the company, as well as talks with Coote.

"It really heated up over the past several weeks," he said. "I did some background searching on Siebel and I knew Tom from a previous life."

Wahl said his decision was driven, in part, by a wish to help Tom Siebel fulfill a dream of making Siebel Systems a "dominant player in the Internet world" through future e-business initiatives.

Wahl called his stint at TriStrata "a fun exercise" at a "fun place," where he was able to sharpen his Internet skills. But while there, Wahl said he had no opportunity to manage huge, multinational accounts, as he did at SAP, and added that he is looking forward to helping Siebel expand globally. About 30 percent of Siebel's business is now done abroad, he said.

He said he left TriStrata with a strong management team, including Ken Coulter, former head of world wide sales, who is taking over as president.

No. 1 front office software firm Siebel makes customer relationship management software that helps companies track customer sales, call center data, marketing needs, and services. The company's two closest competitors, Vantive and Clarify, are roughly a third of the size of Siebel, which reported 1998 revenues of $391.5 million.

The firm's rapid growth was a driver for creating the new position of chief operating officer and president for Wahl, the company said.

"Siebel Systems has very quickly become the world's third largest provider of enterprise applications software," said Siebel CEO Thomas Siebel, in a statement. " It is critical that we continue to expand the depth of our management expertise to continue to meet the needs of our growing customer base." Siebel will remain as chief executive of the company he founded, and no changes will be made to the Siebel board, the company said.

Wahl worked at SAP for seven years as a member of the executive board and head of SAP America, where he managed revenue growth from $650 million to $2.2 billion within three years. He left SAP to take over as chief executive of Redwood Shores, California-based TriStrata.

Analysts said Wahl had been talking to Siebel for several months.

"Siebel is considered to be the hottest company in what is going to be the next multi-billion market opportunity," said BT Alex Brown analyst Timothy Dolan. "They continue to recruit the cream of the crop."

AMR Research in Boston expects the market for front office software to reach $11.5 billion in the next four years, up from $1.2 billion in 1998.

While large enterprise resource planning (ERP) firms including Oracle and SAP are quickly plotting moves into Siebel's market to expand revenues, Dolan said they will likely steal market share from the smaller, weaker players rather than Siebel.

And while SAP has long been considered the biggest potential threat to Siebel as a competitor, it is Oracle that has emerged as the first of the large ERP software makers--who focus on applications that manage a company's financials, human resources, and manufacturing needs--to ship Web-based front office sales and customer service products.

SAP isn't expected to release its customer relationship management software suite until next year.

Siebel also announced several more new hires yesterday including two former IBM executives, Thomas E. Hogan, as vice president, international operations, and Karen M. Riley as vice president, global services; as well as former Oracle executive Kirk Krappe, as vice president, industry-solutions marketing.