Paul Fortin spent barely a year working for Corel at the turn of the millennium, but the company that once symbolized Silicon Valley North’s swagger perhaps better than any other still occupies an outsized space in his memory.
“It was a great stepping stone,” says the Ottawa-based business development consultant, who spent 13 months at the pioneering graphics design software powerhouse in 1999 and 2000 developing content for clients that included Microsoft and Mattel.
“It was a very tight-knit group. We worked hard and played hard. The history books will tell different kinds of things about (founder) Mike Cowpland, but he was a real innovator.”
Fortin was part of a generation of future business leaders who cut their teeth at Corel in the late 1990s. Back then, the Corel name was synonymous with Ottawa’s burgeoning tech industry as the firm known for its CorelDRAW and WordPerfect software battled toe-to-toe with Adobe, Microsoft and other giants for market supremacy while making headlines with publicity-generating moves like its sponsorship of Ottawa’s NHL arena and the women’s pro tennis tour.
“For a lot of the Corel alumni, we still stay in touch,” Fortin says. “We have fond memories of those days.”
But the iconic name that still evokes smiles from many of its past employees is no longer front and centre as the company strives to reinvent itself decades after its heyday.
This week, Corel announced it is rebranding as Alludo, calling the new name “a nod to the company’s purpose: to empower ‘all you do.’”
Corel’s leaders say the change reflects the firm’s evolution to a more broad-based software provider. A series of acquisitions in recent years has diversified its offerings to include product management software like MindManager and the Parallels suite of products, which allow Mac users to run Windows applications on their devices.
In a statement this week, the company said the new name – pronounced “ah-LOO-dough” – will bring a “cohesive identity” to its growing portfolio of software brands.
“This is a watershed moment for us,” chief executive Christa Quarles said. “We’re reimagining the way the world works by not just writing a new chapter, but a whole new playbook.
“We believe in working better and living better, and we want our solutions to deliver just that, boldly and intentionally. That’s why we’ve decided it’s time for a new brand.”
"The changing of the name, it’s time. They aren’t what they were, and it’s a different business."
For Corel alumnus Bruce Raganold, who sold WordPerfect and other products to the U.S. government during a four-and-a-half-year stint at the company in the late 1990s, the move marks the end of an era – one whose day has come and gone.
“The changing of the name, it’s time,” says Raganold, who is now the director of business development at Ottawa-based professional services firm Welch LLP. “They aren’t what they were, and it’s a different business.”
University of Ottawa marketing professor Michael Mulvey says the rebranding makes sense given the company’s gradual shift away from its graphic design software roots.
“It’s just part of a brand family now, and I think that Corel will still have its legacy in terms of being a shining star for what it does,” Mulvey says, noting that the Corel name will remain attached to its signature DRAW software package.
“The product isn’t going away – the intellectual property is a big part of the value of that company. The brand was icing on the cake.”
Aron Darmody, a marketing professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, likens the move to Facebook’s decision last fall to unite all its social media platforms and apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, under the Meta banner.
'A new brand story'
“They’re saying that this is giving them a new brand story – this is giving them sort of a new sense of purpose,” Darmody says. “So for that I think it’s an interesting and potentially a very positive shift.
“Work has changed, life has changed, tech has changed, and they’re saying that we’re going to change with this. We’re going to be this brand that empowers you, sort of gives you a sense of freedom and flexibility.”
Still, he says the new name could take a bit of getting used to – especially since its pronunciation conflicts with the “all you do” sentiment it’s supposed to express.
“You can read it both ways,” Darmody says. “It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. It could be confusing.”
Fortin, who used Corel as a springboard to a successful career as an adviser in the defence and security, life sciences and other sectors, says he hopes the rebrand will help revitalize the 37-year-old company.
“It’s one of those things that, for those of us who had the honour and the privilege of working at Corel, turning the page to a new branding, a new company, so to speak, it’s kind of a phoenix rising,” he says.
“It really kind of wipes the slate clean. It would have been nice if they could have kept something to do with the old name … but I think at the end of the day, if it’s a good, solid Ottawa-based company that is going to use Ottawa as a platform to go global again, that’s great.”