Net entrepreneur makes business top 10

An FT 'top 50' poll ranks the brains behind friendsreunited.co.uk at number 10 in the creative charts

An Internet entrepreneur has been named as one of the top creative thinkers in Britain, according to an FT poll.

In spite of the economic slowdown, Steve Pankhurst has made a hit of his five-month-old school reunion Web site friendsreunited.co.uk. The FT "Creative Business" top 50 UK creative minds" awards has ranked him at number ten -- making him a close contender to the likes of the BBC's director general Greg Dyke, the film director Ridley Scott, and the world-famous fashion designer Paul Smith.

"Life for virtually everyone is growing steadily harder as the economy slows...but, if anything, the last year has been a measure of the inexhaustible enterprise of the UK's creative industries," reads the FT's preamble to the awards list. "Some of the most striking achievements have come from recent start-ups."

Pankhurst is one of the "hidden gems" in the creative industry according to the FT poll, bringing together "commercial nous and clever innovation". The Friendsreunited service now has over two million users, and allows old school friends to get in contact with one another. Registration to the site is free, but a lot of visitors have gone on to make a secure connection and pay the £5 fee required to contact other members.

"A good idea can still take off at enormous speed on the Internet," said Alki Manias, analyst at Internet research firm NetValue. "This success story shows the power of word of mouth on the Net."

The top 50 poll was ultimately the decision of an FT panel, but advice was provided by Chris Powell, chairman of the advertising agency BMP CCP, Richard Eyre, a former head of ITV, and Alice Rawsthorn, director of the Design Museum and a creative business columnist.

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