Candle, according to chief operating officer Bob LaBant, is a quiet company. Certainly, for a 20 year old supplier with 1996 annual revenues of $265m, it has an extremely low profile. We operate at the ‘get the work done’ level, explains LaBant, attributing the company’s modest image to its background as a technology firm selling tools for the mainframe environment. Candle, he says, works in the boiler room, working out which pipe is connected to which pipe. But things are changing at the former mainframe systems management tools vendor, and Candle is espousing more aggressive marketing techniques to reflect this transition. In July, it launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign, with the go-getting title Igniting the Candle Brand which will initially span nine countries and seven languages. Candle’s main challenge, says LaBant, is to increase user awareness of the company’s broad product portfolio, and to establish the Candle name as a leader in systems management tools for distributed systems and in messaging middleware.
Since 1995, it has been selling products for distributed systems, and now offers a range of 120 products which contributed $45m to the companys coffers in 1996. 1997 has also seen Candles first foray into the AS/400 market. Although Candle originally wrote the Automation Center 400 systems management product, until late last year it was sold exclusively by IBM. Candle has now regained control of the product, renaming it Command Center for AS/400. Despite IBM’s conspicuous lack of success with Automation Center 400 – the company only installed 150 copies during its three-year stewardship of the product – Candle is now bullish about the product’s future. Wayne Walkley, AS/400 solution manager at Candle, attributes its uninspiring former history to insufficient marketing. Candles quest for dominance in the messaging middleware market, meanwhile, has sparked a flurry of acquisitions. In September 1996, it acquired Amsys, a middleware services provider. The following month, it announced the purchase of PowerQ Software, a developer of application test and development tools for MQSeries, IBMs messaging middleware. Then, in January, Candle beat rivals Boole & Babbage in a race to snap up MQView, a product for centralized installation, configuration and monitoring of MQSeries in a distributed environment, from struggling Apertus Technologies for $7.4m. But despite the significant investments which have been poured into Candle’s middleware ambitions, LaBant is non-committal about the companys prospects in this area. Market analysis suggests that this is going to be a huge market, but we’re not betting the farm on it, he says. With revenues for 1997 forecast to reach $400m, some analysts are questioning whether Candle will now consider an initial public offering. But LaBant insists there are no such plans. I like being able to worry about value creation for my customers, rather than for Wall Street, he says.
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