The incubator

If you still aren't convinced that the dot-com era is fading, take a look at the new joint venture between two Old Economy warhorses Dow Chemical and Andersen Consulting.

If you still aren't convinced that the dot-com era is fading, take a look at the new joint venture between Dow Chemical and Andersen Consulting. Two Old Economy warhorses have teamed with Internet incubator Campsix to launch a company that helps other companies develop products.

The venture is named iVenturi, after the Italian physicist Giovanni Battista Venturi, who discovered that fluid accelerates when it passes through a constricted channel. Which party is playing the part of the constricted channel here is unclear.

But the idea is that companies and their partners and suppliers will use iVenturi's tools to collaborate on product designs, specifications and confidentiality agreements in a common network space. iVenturi will add consulting and research services, as it figures out what those services should be.

Why couldn't Dow or Andersen provide iVenturi's products? Apparently, they move too slowly and lack the required expertise. Why can't companies figure out how to do this on their own? They may lack the big IT infrastructure of a Dow, according to Dow's e-business development manager Ken Van Heel, who is also an iVenturi founding team leader.

So what makes iVenturi different from other dot-coms that were born of an interesting idea and died through lack of planning or funds? Not much. iVenturi is backed by two companies with deep pockets that are hurtling themselves into the "e-Future," as Andersen puts it, so they should be motivated to make iVenturi succeed. They also have better access than the average dot-com to Fortune 1000 clients, which the pair claims are beta-testing iVenturi's products.

But on the surface, iVenturi appears similar to many other Internet start-ups, such as OpenAvenue, which is commercializing network-based open-source methods of developing software, and Ray Ozzie's Groove Networks.

Other vestiges of the dot-com era are visible as well. On Jan. 1, Andersen Consulting will change its name to Accenture, a made-up word intended to convey Andersen's role as "a bridge builder" between the old and new economies. The new name is required by the terms of Andersen's split with Arthur Andersen and survived a three-month search that involved law firms in 49 countries checking for violations of intellectual property and cultural sensitivity. In keeping with its new image, Andersen claimed the search was conducted in record time.

Historians no doubt will record the events preceding April's stock market crash as a pre-millennium version of the Roaring 20s - a time when money and champagne flowed freely, and common sense went out the window. But the really interesting time is now, as the era of dot-coms gives way to the era of elephantine companies pondering how to make their way in the face of the Internet. And as we all know, the Net changes everything.

Deborah Gage is industry editor of Sm@rt Partner. She can be reached at debbie_gage@ziffdavis.com.

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