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Start-up looks to propel online think tank

Dow Chemical and Andersen Consulting launch a start-up that is aiming to help companies improve and simplify the process of bringing new products to market.

Heavyweights Dow Chemical and Andersen Consulting Monday launched a start-up that is aiming to help companies improve and simplify the process of bringing new products to market.

As previously reported by CNET, the new San Francisco-based company, called iVenturi, will be a virtual workspace for corporate product development teams to share documents and product specifications with partners and customers online.

"What we're proposing to do is give (teams) an online workplace where they can all go to get the same information 24/7 when working on a project together," said Ken Van Heel, a Dow executive who is one of the founding team leaders of iVenturi.

Dow, Andersen and Net incubator Campsix are joint shareholders and founders of the start-up. The companies did not disclose financial terms of the partnership.

The move is part of Dow's big push to invest $100 million this year to develop Internet businesses. The company in March said it planned to start four businesses this year alone from a recently created e-business unit.

iVenturi will provide businesses with online meeting centers, shared document management, product tools, and immediate access to various research services such as competitive analysis, prototyping and product design.

In a similar vein, software companies Lotus Notes and Microsoft have a product called Web-based "groupware," collaborative software that links communications and information over a corporate intranet. iVenturi will also offer such groupware services.

Subscription fees for the iVenturi service will run from $200 to $500 per user, per month, depending on the project, according to the company.

The venture will begin testing with several Fortune 100 companies later this year and will open its doors officially in the first quarter of 2001. Dow will be the company's first customer.