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B2B start-up zeroes in on relationships

Working from the idea that what counts in business is whom you know, entrepreneur Zack Rinat unveils a software company focused on private business-to-business exchanges.

Working from the idea that what counts in business is whom you know, technology entrepreneur Zack Rinat on Tuesday unveiled a new company that looks to re-enforce relationships in online commerce.

Start-up Model N is offering software designed for building private business-to-business networks between buyers and sellers, for companies that don't feel comfortable joining the many-to-many, or consortium, marketplaces that have been the hot thing in business-to-business e-commerce.

The software, called Private Business Network Platform, fits into a growing trend of companies looking to build internal networks, or portals, that allow them to buy and sell goods and services with their existing suppliers and business partners and to maintain existing close relationships.

"We see companies wanting to build inter-enterprise networks," Rinat said. "Our solution allows for relationship-based transactions rather than transaction-based relationships."

Model N isn't the first venture by Rinat to challenge norms in the technology sector. In the early 1990s, he founded NetDynamics, one of the first companies that built software to help employees and customers gain access to computer systems and resources through a Web browser. Sun Microsystems bought the company in 1998 for about $180 million.

In the late 1990s, Rinat founded TradingDynamics, a pioneer in online transaction software, which Ariba purchased in 1999 for about $725 million.

With his new venture, Rinat is focusing on what he considers a missing element in today's B2B world, the business relationship. The company's software, some 18 months in development and testing, comes in two pieces: a Business Network Server and a host of Inter-Enterprise Applications.

The South San Francisco-based company has completed beta testing of its software at companies such as Tyson Foods, Mid West Medical Supply and Provision X, a meat and poultry online exchange. Pricing for the software was not made available.