Bigfoot Interactive Inks Pact with Japanese Giant

E-mail technology and services player Bigfoot Interactive has scored a strategic investment and partnership agreement with Japan’s Mitsui & Co., a conglomerate ranked as the world’s 13th largest company by Fortune magazine.

Although neither company would give details about the dollar amount of the investment, it was characterized as a seven-figure deal, which could be valued at eight figures if the total amount of support services were included.

The deal calls for Mitsui Tokyo’s Electronics and Business Information unit to use New York-based Bigfoot’s email technology internally to communicate with its divisions, subsidiaries, and portfolio companies, as well as to resell it to its clients. The division’s subsidiaries include ISP DoCoMo AOL, loyalty provider NetMile, agency and Web developer Curiocity, and digital broadcaster SKY PerfecTV. It also has investments and relationships in diverse fields such as mobile, IT, electronics, and the telecom industry.

“We’re going to be able to provide them not only the technology piece, but the sales and marketing expertise that we’ve gained from our experience in the U.S.,” said Al DiGuido, chief executive officer of Bigfoot. “I think that’s a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace. They don’t have to make the mistakes and start from scratch.”

The email partnership is meant to provide a crucial piece of the puzzle as Mitsui’s Information unit assembles what it calls a “digital dashboard” for the running of interactive marketing campaigns. In addition to the services it provides through the abovementioned companies, Mitsui has a joint venture in Japan with affiliate network LinkShare, through which it has clients such as United Airlines, Dell, Toshiba, and Sony Music, as well as a variety of other players.

The relationship is a big win for Bigfoot, which will have a Mitsui executive sit on its board in an advisory capacity. In addition, the deal establishes a foothold in Japan, a market the company had attempted to enter before its merger with Expression Engines in March of 2001. That venture was disbanded after the merger.

Bigfoot considers Japan to be an emerging market for email, but says it hopes to learn about the wireless arena in the nation that is arguably the most advanced with that technology.

“Ultimately we plan on having Bigfoot’s tool be able to manage online and wireless through one interface,” said Andrew Van Etten, senior director of the Electronics and Information Business Division of Mitsui USA.

Mitsui also serves as Bigfoot’s entry into other parts of Asia.

“Mitsui is very strong in Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China,” said Van Etten. “Once we get Japan up and running, it’s an easier implementation into some of these countries.”

Beyond the strategic implications of the relationship with such a giant corporation, Bigfoot also banks another round of financing. The company says it plans to expand its sales efforts, continue to develop automated solutions tailored to specific industry verticals, and keep a lookout for potential acquisitions.

“We will expand our whole penetration into the verticals, but we are also looking to see if there are values in the marketplace that can help us grow the company faster,” said DiGuido. “[This investment] increases the resources that we have for making this type of move.”

The deal with Mitsui follows on the heels of Bigfoot’s recent agreement with another Japanese firm, Fujitsu. Fujitsu licensed Bigfoot’s software code for integration into its CRM solution.

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