‘WebSideStory’ founder returns with next generation business analytics venture

By Arthur Lightbourn


People say to him, “Blaise, you’re a serial entrepreneur.”

“No,” he insists, “I’m a serial retiree.”

French-born Blaise Barrelet, Web analytics pioneer and founder of WebSideStory Inc., who retired 10 years ago at age 36, is back in business with a new, next generation Internet-based business analytics company called Anametrix based in Sorrento Valley.

He turns 47 next month.

“I’m looking forward to my next retirement, but before that happens, as my next goal, I’ve decided to build a $1 billion company within the next three to five years, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Barrelet’s initial analytics company, WebSideStory, founded in 1996, enabled webmasters to track and analyze traffic to their Web sites, providing them with such information as number of “hits,” time spent on site by visitors, returning visitors, page views, referring URLs and loyalty index.

The San Diego-based company offered the information to clients via Software as a Service (SaaS).

“We weren’t selling a software. We were one of the first to say [to clients] we’ll give you something that looks like a software, but that’s not. You don’t install it on your computer. You just go on the Internet, you log on, and here you have everything that happens on your Web site.”

In its early days, WebSideStory became a favorite of porn site webmasters who had tons of traffic to their Websites but had no way to audit it.

Heady stuff back in the mid-1990s.

His new company, Anametrix, founded four months ago as an independent data integration company, also using the SaaS model, is offering corporations a new technology with the ability to access, integrate and analyze anything and everything pertinent to their business, on and off the Internet, including data streams from customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, direct mail, social media, search engine marketing, video & audio, and e-commerce, even census and weather information, via a cloud computing platform to help their businesses compete and thrive.

Or, as Anametrix stated in a recent press release, it will enable corporations “to aggregate online, offline and external databases to drive actionable business insights.”

Anametrix’s chief technical officer is Anders Olsson, who was Barrelet’s lead software engineer at WebSideStory.

Anametrix’s services to corporations via SaaS starts at $50,000 a year.

Barrelet was born and raised in Paris, France. His father was a CPA and owner of a Peugeot car dealership.

When he was 12, Barrelet read a “how to” book on electronics and decided then and there, “I’m a tech guy.”

At 14, he decided he wanted to become an engineer, work for NASA in Silicon Valley and become a millionaire by the time he was 35.

He founded WebSideStory as a bootstrap, self-financed company in 1996, and at age 36 in 2000 became a millionaire when he sold 10 percent of WebSideStory for $30 million.

WebSideStory went public in 2004, and, after merging with Omniture in 2007, was acquired by Adobe Software for $1.8 billion in 2009.

What Barrelet learned during his career, he said, were four, correction, make that five valuable lessons:

One: You need sufficient working capital for a business to grow.

“I started my first company, an electronics design company, in France in 1983. It did well, but it was just in the wrong country. I discovered something in finance that’s called working capital ... and back then, people, including banks, didn’t know anything about computers. And if you don’t have working capital, there’s no way you are going to grow.”

Two: “If you want to spend a dollar, you have to make that dollar first.”

That has become his business mantra and how he is financing his latest business venture, Anametrix.

Three: “When somebody is willing to give you money, take it.”

When two respected private equity firms in 2000 offered him $30 million for 10 percent of the then-thriving WebSideStory, he said “yes” and suddenly achieved his childhood goal of becoming a millionaire.

Four: Listen to your doctor.

“A typical French guy, I was smoking two-and-a-half packs of cigarettes a day, eating steak, enjoying good wine and working too much.

“My doctor said, ‘Blaise, you have lots of money, you can buy yourself a really fancy coffin. If you continue the way you are going, you’ll need it within six months to a year.”

Taking his doctor’s advice, he retired in 2000, but remained on the board of the rebranded WestSideStory until recently.

And five: When you have money the “almost most important thing” is time.

Today, he limits his work to 40 hours a week, “not one hour more,” so he can enjoy more time with his family.