Clear Ink Returns

SAN FRANCISCO — Four months after shuttering operations, Bay Area shop Clear Ink has reopened as an online communications agency, marking a return to its roots.

David Burk and Steve Nelson established Clear Ink in 1995 as an Internet professional-services firm. In 2000, the company merged with Shugart Matson Young, an advertising and direct marketing agency, but retained the Clear Ink name. The merged agency reported billings of $155 million in 2000, but was soon upended by the dot-com collapse and cutbacks in client spending. Last September, it decided to close.

Starting over with a renewed emphasis on Internet communications, Burk and Nelson recently purchased the Clear Ink trademark for an undisclosed sum and re-established the business in Berkeley, Calif. The shop boasts a roster of new and old clients, including Restoration Hardware, Motiva, John Muir/Mt. Diablo Health System and PeopleSoft.

“Every interactive client we had came with us,” said Burk, adding that billings at the fledgling shop are $6 million.

Burk and Nelson have 12 contractors working for them. “We’re waiting for the environment to settle down a little more before we do major hiring,” Burk said. For now, the shop is building on its experience in the digital domain and looking to acquire new clients. Burk said he has been filling out a proposal a day on average in recent weeks. Motiva, a software provider in Pleasanton, Calif., was one of the first clients to sign on with Clear Ink after it reopened. The shop launched a new Web site for the company in mid-December and continues to handle its Internet maintenance chores.