Established Firms Rebrand as E-Business Services

At a time when dot-com startups are spending millions to get people to recognize their names, two venerable companies -- by IT standards -- are swapping their well-known names for new ones.

Say goodbye to Banyan Worldwide ( and Micro Modeling Associates Inc. (MMA, Say hello to ePresence ( and Plural Inc. (

Both companies are now focused on e-business consulting and services. For Banyan, the switch to ePresence is an effort to shake a strong association with its Vines networking software. For MMA, the switch to Plural is an effort to step out of the shadows.

"We decided to keep [the] Banyan [name] last year because too many people in the market knew Banyan," says Scott Silk, senior vice president of marketing and business development at the company. At that time, the company switched from Banyan Systems to Banyan Worldwide. "Now we don’t want to get pigeonholed into the [notion of] Banyan. When people think Banyan, they think Vines. But we’re not a software company anymore."

According to Silk, company officials also realized the e-business services business was gathering momentum. Banyan ended 1999 with revenue of $45.8 million. That 65 percent increase over 1998 revenue was fueled by 75 percent growth in the ePresence Solutions e-services business, which accounted for $37.5 million last year.

At the time of the name change, Banyan had a fairly strong cash position. It finished 1999 with $130.8 million in cash and marketable securities from investments by Microsoft Corp. and CBS and from returns on investments in and Switchboard Inc., which had an IPO in March. The company has also formed a new unit called ePresence Ventures to focus on acquisitions and investments.

EPresence burned some of that cash on its new branding strategy this month with a national advertisement campaign in major daily newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

For MMA, a company with 1999 revenue of $54 million, the name change to Plural represents an effort to secure a higher profile and shake a desktop services image.

MMA got some notice last year when the Nasdaq Stock Market adopted Windows NT for its transaction monitoring system. MMA worked with Unisys Corp. ( and Microsoft ( to prove to Nasdaq officials that the much-maligned Windows operating system could handle the job on Unisys hardware.

"We’ve been sort of a stealth company over the last 10 years," says David Osborne, chief technology officer at Plural. "Our clients know and love us. Other organizations that aren’t that familiar with us are going to start working with us."

The MMA name stems from the company’s relationship with Microsoft, and its roots in delivering financial applications for the desktop. The company currently has nine offices around the US and about 450 employees. "We’re looking at doubling in size within the next 12 months," Osborne says. The company has grown from fewer than 150 employees three years ago, he adds.

Plural is also spending big bucks on getting brand recognition for its new identity. The company hired a New York-based advertising firm for a campaign centering on Plural's tagline "strength.multiplied."

ENT’s Northwest correspondent Tom Sullivan contributed to this article.

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