iComs Trims Staff While Shifting Strategy

iComs of Nashua, N.H., one of the earliest outsourced providers of order and payment processing for e-commerce sites, has laid off an undisclosed number of workers this week as it continues to focus on its revamped business strategy and becoming profitable.

Chairman Cliff Conneighton said most of the cuts came from its engineering deparment, which iComs eliminated, but also included other jobs. He would not detail the total number of cuts or the current headcount at the private company, saying only that it employs under 100 people.

Conneighton said the job cuts come as iComs continues shifting from being an order and payment processor to being an application management provider, helping companies build and run entire e-commerce systems using other companies’ software, such as IBM’s WebSphere platform.

The cuts also come as iComs, founded in 1997, seeks profitability. “A motivation is to get ourselves at break-even as soon as we can. We’re within striking distance of break-even,” Conneighton said. He noted that, like other venture-funded companies, iComs’ investors want to see at least break-even results sooner rather than later.

Since last summer, iComs has moved away from being an order/payment processor to building and running e-business systems for large companies, such as Lycos (an investor that owns about 10 percent of iComs), MyFamily.com, publisher Houghton Mifflin and big banks that handle e-commerce for clients.

As part of the shift, iComs last August acquired another Nashua company, Cambient Inc., which helps companies with their e-business software systems. Twelve layoffs resulted from the merger.

Among Cambient’s clients: Delta Airlines, which turned to the firm to design software systems that manage things such as fight status, flight rebooking and planning for the most efficient timing and location for airliner refueling.

As a provider of transaction processing, iComs’ clients included Hasbro, Stanford University, Radio Shack Canada, major league baseball teams and hundreds of others. iComs generated revenue by charging customers a monthly fee for its services plus pennies per transaction.

Conneighton said those services have been dropped, and iComs instead is helping big companies establish and run their entire e-business infrastructures, providing it with significantly higher revenue possibilities.

The company has raised more than $32 million in venture capital financing since it launched four years ago, including a a $20 million round last May. Investors include Lycos, which owns a 14 percent stake in iComs, as well as Technology Link Capital, Corning Capital, Venture Investment Management and FINECO.

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