The entrepreneurial threesome of Michael Doernberg, Dave Babson and Ken Romley has struck again.

The founders of SmartPath sold the four-year-old resource management software firm to DoubleClick in an all-cash deal that was disclosed on Tuesday. The specifics weren’t disclosed.

“This is a real exciting opportunity for the company, the employees and the shareholders,” Babson, SmartPath’s chief operating officer, tells Local Tech Wire. “We’ve been very fortunate. We have a good team that we put together, we worked real hard, and we also have had some good fortune.”

“Team” is the operative word.

College friends Babson and Romley, the chief technical officer, formed Burl Software in 1991 and sold what turned out to be a top-selling Year 2000 application for $13 million in 1995. In the process of building and selling the firm, the two met Doernberg who then worked at Ernst & Young and acted as a financial advisor. The threesome teamed up to form The Marathon Group, an Internet services company, which they sold for $15 million.

The three retained technology developed as part of that firm to build the resource management software around which they launched SmartPath.

Having raised $3.2 million in venture capital at the end of 2002, SmartPath was expanding staff and sales. In search of partners to help drive their product, SmartPath executives talked with DoubleClick. The publicly traded firm decided to buy the entire company — and to sign its top managers to personal services contracts.

“Our commitment is to DoubleClick,” Babson says.

Intersouth hails deal

Helping make the deal was John Glushik, partner at Intersouth, which has provided funding for SmartPath in each of three rounds — including seed. Glushik also is a member of SmartPath’s board of directors.

“I think it’s a tremendous endpoint for everyone involved,” Glushik tells LTW. “The best thing about this deal is that DoubleClick is getting a world-class team — employees and executives who know how to build and sell leading-edge technology.

“Once again, the founders have built a successful company and made money for the investors.”

DoubleClick says the SmartPath group will remain in North Carolina. It has grown to some 35 employees from 15 over the past year. DoubleClick also said that it expects to hire additional people.

SmartPath has offices in RTP and in London.

Babson says two other executives played crucial roles in building SmartPath and in working the deal – Bryan Ferren, former CEO of MicroMass Communications, who leads SmartPath’s London operation, and Brian Branson, the chief financial officer, worked for BTI before joining SmartPath.

DoubleClick (Nasdaq: DCLK) announced the deal at its annual “Insight Conference” in New York.

Managing ‘concept to execution’

“Combining SmartPath’s powerful Marketing Resource Management solution with DoubleClick’s proven marketing automation and campaign management capabilities will provide our customers with the ability to manage marketing from concept to execution, cutting cycle times and costs and improving efficiency and effectiveness,” Doernberg, CEO of SmartPath, said in a statement.

Doernberg said that SmartPath had been seeking “partners” for over a year.

“DoubleClick is the only company we’ve found that is completely focused on marketing,” he said.

Garnter, one of the world’s top analyst and research firms, recently said that SmartPath is the fastest growing provider of marketing resource management software. SmartPath was cited in Gartner’s recent MRM summit presentation.

“MRM continues to grow and attract attention from companies that seek to strategically plan, coordinate, execute and measure the impact of enterprise marketing efforts. MRM will become a competitive necessity for large enterprises dealing with increased marketing complexity,” Gartner added.

Gartner said nearly half the Global 1000 firms now use MRM applications, an increase of 50 percent since 2000,

“The acquisition of SmartPath is a critical step in DoubleClick’s plan to become the premier provider of marketing solutions that help empower companies to manage their increasingly complex marketing environment,” said David Rosenblatt, president of DoubleClick. “As a result of the acquisition, DoubleClick will be able to offer marketers a single source for managing the operational elements of their marketing, in addition to best-in-class solutions for online ad management, email marketing, website analytics, campaign management and catalog data optimization.”