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Lights out at Allurent; chairman and CEO off to new ventures

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 14, 2010 12:08 PM

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Sounds like the lights have been turned out at Allurent, a Cambridge e-commerce software provider founded by alumni from ATG. I'm told the shut-down happened sometime within the last month, and that Allurent had been in discussions with a potential acquirer up 'till the very end.

[ UPDATE: In January, Boston-based Jenzabar, which makes software for educational institutions, acquired Allurent's assets and said it would try to hire former Allurent employees to continue running the business. ]

Allurent had focused on helping big retailers like Reebok, Borders, Sears, and Sports Authority add more sophisticated shopping features to their sites. Various Allurent "widgets" would allow retailers to show current inventory availability, or let customers rate and review products. The company's primary pitch was increasing the likelihood customers would make a purchase, and increasing the average purchase size.

Allurent had about 40 employees at peak, and had raised almost $14 million in funding, mostly from Waltham-based Polaris Venture Partners, though angel investors like One Laptop Per Child founder Nicholas Negroponte and the late Alex d'Arbeloff, co-founder of Teradyne, also participated. Pennsylvania-based GSI Commerce, a publicly-traded company that owns RueLaLa in Boston, was also an investor. The company's most recent round of funding, totaling $2 million, took place this past spring.

Allurent co-founder and executive chairman Joe Chung confirmed the shut-down in an e-mail this morning. Of the acquisition that didn't happen, he writes, "I can't say much, but let's just say it should be (maybe will be?) a [Harvard Business School] case study on what happens when an acquisition goes sideways. The weird thing is that the acquirer couldn't/wouldn't tell us why they had to bail out out, other than to say that it wasn't anything they found in due diligence..." Chung added that the purchase price wasn't the issue. He didn't name the would-be acquirer. My guess is that it could've been someone like Adobe, Oracle, or IBM.

Chung is working on a new project with ATG co-founder Jeet Singh called Redstar Ventures, which sounds like it plans to launch multiple new start-up companies. Graeme Grant, formerly Allurent's CEO, is working on a new Cambridge start-up called CQuotient, which says it has attracted venture capital funding. Ex-Allurent vice president of product management Doug McIver is now working at a Los Angeles company, Magento.

My calls to a half-dozen Allurent executives haven't been returned, and Jon Flint, the Polaris co-founder who served on Allurent's board, also didn't return a call. Allurent is no longer listed on the Polaris site as one of the company's investments, nor does it appear on Flint's profile page.

Polaris' Cambridge start-up space, Dogpatch Labs, is based in East Cambridge office space that Allurent didn't need, and it expanded earlier this year as Allurent shrank. (Several former Allurent employees report being part of company-wide lay-offs in September.)

While Dogpatch Cambridge endures, Allurent doesn't.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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