Commerce One runs out of cash

After spending several years in a protracted death spiral, Commerce One is finally on the verge of ending its misery by running out of cash. The San Francisco software maker laid off most of its staff this week and said in a Friday regulatory filing that it is down to its last US$300,000 in operating cash.

Commerce One has become a poster child for dot-com collapses. The nine-year-old company went public in 1999 with a history of losses and a grand plan to become the eBay of the business world thorough a portfolio of online business-to-business supplier networks. While the company's revenue grew to US$400 million at its height in 2001, Commerce One never turned a profit, and as the bubble popped, so did Commence One's business model. SAP, which owned 20 percent of Commerce One, eventually wrote off the investment.

Commerce One retooled its business model and tried to reposition itself as a developer of business process integration software. But it struggled to make that business viable: In 2003 it lost US$65 million on revenue of US$36 million, and last quarter its revenue slipped to US$2 million, with a loss of US$5 million.

Commerce One said this week that its attempts to find additional investment or debt financing have been unsuccessful, and that it expects to file for bankruptcy. It said it is trying to sell its supplier relationship management software business, but does not expect the sale to generate enough cash to cover its debts or to return anything to stockholders.

Ailing companies often fire their management, but Commerce One has stuck with Chief Executive Officer Mark Hoffman, who previously co-founded database company Sybase, throughout its rise and fall. The company announced Friday the layoff of 56 employees, leaving it with 36.

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