SNOWBIRD, Utah -- There are wake-up calls, and then there are WAKE-UP CALLS! Attendees at the

Chase H&Q


conference today were jolted from sleep at sunrise by between 50 to 100 loud explosions just outside the

Cliff Lodge


So much fresh snow had fallen here over the last week -- more than 13 inches in the last 24 hours -- that the


and nearby


resorts, working with the

Utah Department of Transportation

, had to do avalanche control. They set their cannons on huge overhanging drifts. "Routine road work" they called it. According to a Snowbird official, they used 75 mm howitzers, 90 mm howitzers, hand charges dropped from helicopters and a giant 105 mm howitzer.

The maneuvers closed roads in and out of the resort, stranding people who were staying at other hotels (including two


reporters I know) and delaying the start of today's conference sessions by about a half-hour. But it also brought fresh, exploded powder on top of the 13 inches -- and it's still snowing. Consequently, not a few money managers sat in sessions in full ski gear, prepared to rush to the slopes as soon as the conference ended.

Who wouldn't?

Pathological Presenting

"This is the first time I've spoken at a conference where I've been upstaged by avalanches," said the slick Doug Hickey, CEO of San Francisco-based

Critical Path


. Though it may have been without explosions, Hickey's presentation was attention grabbing.

Critical Path does "messaging." That's more than email; it is the rapidly growing slew of nonvoice products that put people in touch. Critical Path offers companies email, calendaring, digital delivery guarantees, receipts, IP-based faxes -- everything but the singing telegram.

Corporate America is experiencing growing pains with email messaging stuff. "We keep kidding by saying that this looks like the national debt," said Hickey. "There are currently 1.4 trillion emails sent annually and that's on its way to 4 trillion by 2002, according to

the research firm



The name of the game for Critical Path is to capture mailboxes, and then "up-sell" an increasing variety of products to each customer. The mailbox numbers unveiled today were remarkable.

You've Got Mailboxes
Critical Paths has seen dramatic growth in mailboxes.

Source: Critical Path, Q1 00 estimate from Chase H&Q

Funding this rapid growth, said Hickey, will not come at the expense of near-term profitability. "We'll achieve fourth-quarter profitability," he said, "and at the same time achieve explosive revenue growth."

Hickey also talked for the first time about a new deal with


(T) - Get Report

, in which the company will provide calendaring and guaranteed delivery solutions for AT&T's B2B portals. "This is a multiyear deal," Hickey says. "We believe that you need to offer your customers a full envelope of services, so this is a foot in the door." Hickey admits, however, that AT&T is already using an internally developed system for email.

H&Q, which is advising Critical Path in a deal with a company called


, is brimming with Critical Path fans. "On this one," said one H&Q banker, "back up the truck."

Travelocity Finds a Bottom?

Here's a new one.


CFO Ramesh Punwani boasted of his company's improving bottom-line growth. Earnings? Nah. He means the company's negative operating margin.

"Although we are not profitable," Punwani said with a straight face, "our bottom line, or operating margin, is improving, from a 460% loss in the first quarter of 1998 to a 110% loss in the fourth quarter of 1999." (Operating margin subtracts total expenses from total revenue, then divides that total by total revenue to get a percentage.)

Still, he would not predict when the company would be operating-margin positive ... sorry, in English, profitable. Though he did note that with the merger of

Preview Travel


completed, the company would have $125 million in cash and marketable securities on the balance sheet. At 47 million preferred and common shares, that translates into $2.66 a share.

CEO Terrell Jones would not say when the company would turn cash-flow positive. He did, however, predict that the company's new deal with


TheStreet Recommends


will jump-start revenue. "Quarterly revenues are growing at about 30%," said Jones. "We would think that revenue growth would continue at about that rate, but when the AOL deal kicks in this April, that will really affect that revenue growth."

Techs Insensitive to Alan

What the hell is

Alan Greenspan

trying to do? Although 80% of stocks are now off 20% from their highs (this according to New York-based economist Lawrence Kudlow of

American Skandia

), Greenspan, of course, is still trying to slow down the market by raising rates.

Chase H&Q's head of research Todd Bakar believes the Fed is actually forcing tech stocks higher and in the process causing unnecessary pain. (It should be noted that Bakar, a

Golden State Warriors

season-ticket holder, knows from unnecessary pain.) "Everyone keeps waiting for when this bubble or euphoria would end," he said.

"But as we've always said, it's product cycles, not economic cycles, that govern technology stocks. So raising interest rates actually hurt the interest-rate-sensitive companies -- the


(CAT) - Get Report

and the like. The economic environment of rising rates hurts the Old Economy companies and limits investment alternatives. So everyone is turning to technology stocks, which are, to a large degree, interest-rate insensitive."

One for the Road

B2B prodigy



has seen phenomenal growth in its short, three-year existence. Most of that has come on the coattails of a driven, 90-person direct-sales team. It has propelled revenue to a 521% year-over-year growth rate.

But E.piphany President Gayle Crowell told investors today that the company is about to see that sales force significantly enhanced. "Most of our success today has been driven through our direct-sales organization," said Crowell. "And that success speaks for itself. But we're also leveraging now, in a very big way, the indirect channel."

In the fourth quarter, E.piphany signed up a pile of resellers from all different stripes:



Hewlett Packard







(PVTL) - Get Report








(BVSN) - Get Report

, to name a few.

"That revenue hasn't really kicked in yet," Crowell told

. "But that should start to show up strong by the second and third quarter."

As originally published, this story contained an error. Please see

Corrections and Clarifications.

Cory Johnson files weekly from's San Francisco Bureau. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he neither owns nor shorts individual stocks, although he owns shares of He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Johnson welcomes your feedback at

For more columns by Cory Johnson, visit his column