BIBLE: Best of British

A roundup of the UK's top new Net companies


Founded last year by technical consultant Struan Bartlett and Nick Gilbert, a film-biz veteran and technology journo, NewsNow is the UK's 15th most popular Web site. The big idea: making life easier for those suffering from information overload by collecting dozens of major news sources into one searchable site, divided into categories and special reports. The site, with its continuous feed of the latest news from around the Web, follows in the footsteps of such pioneers as NewsHub, but with a UK focus. British rivals are already setting up shop, however.

Interactive Investor International

Interactive Investor International is one of the oldest financial Web sites, having started out life in 1995. The site relaunched earlier this year and has recently splashed out on slick adverts pushing its message of financial empowerment. The service, backed by high street broker John Charcol, offers a range of financial services -- around taxes, pensions, investments, mortgages, ISAs -- and plans to expand into a sort of financial supermarket. Rivals include Moneyextra, designed by the recently listed eXchange Holdings.

One of several startups getting a boost from the interest in digital music, wants to be your personal guide to new, undiscovered music. The idea is to use the Web's personalisation capabilities to show you just the music you want to see, and to collect valuable marketing data in the process. That process takes a page from the books of, which pioneered the idea by suggesting books you might want to read, based on what you've already bought. Founder Ernesto Schmitt, 28, came up with the business plan while on sabbatical from management consultants Bain, and raked in $20m in venture capital. The company, which launched in October, later upped investment to $500m and aims to go public in the first half of 2000.

365 Corporation

Ex-journalist Danny Kelly's Web publishing outfit made its name with Football365, and has been busy adding other 365 sites as fast as it can. Current sites include CricInfo365 and Music365. The 365 formula has proved popular with Web surfers, portalising key content areas with rich lists of links and content. A possible floatation is set for the end of November, though the company has refused to comment on the reports. A major competitor is Soccernet (, founded by 12-year-old entrepreneur Tom Hadfield and recently brought into the Walt Disney family of Web sites.

Confetti, founded by thirtysomethings Andrew Doe and David Lethbridge, specialises in wedding services, from gifts to dresses to honeymoons. The concept might sound limited, but as anyone who has ever had a wedding can tell you, the preparations are a logistical nightmare -- and that's just the problem Confetti hopes to solve. While it is still building out features, the company ultimately wants to let you find your venue and dress, organise your wedding gifts, hire a caterer and do everything else from one site -- possibly making in-laws redundant. The entrepreneurs raised £1.8m from Atlas and Botts & Co. in May.

If the rainforest motif worked for, why not The e-commerce portal, founded by 33-year-old founder Steve Bennett, went live 30 August and aims to head off competition from US-based online retailers. Bennett also owns Software Warehouse, one of the UK's largest computer retail and mail order companies, but Jungle has branched out into music, videos and games as well as computer products.


iCollector has operated for the last four years in the hot online-auctions space but, unlike the UK's or the US' eBay, targets high-end customers looking for fine art or antiques. Unlike some other e-auctions, the site's offerings come from dealers and auction houses rather than other users; more than 150 auction houses and 200 galleries and dealers use the platform. iCollector recently concluded an £8m funding round, gathering investments from Lehman Brothers International, GLG Partners (an offshoot of Goldman Sachs) and Schroder Investment Management. That raises its total investments to £14m since 1998, though £13m of that figure has come in the last year. The company has also appointed Lehman Brothers as its financial adviser, which some observers said indicates an IPO on the horizon. iCollector already has its sights set firmly on international expansion -- all its prices are in US dollars.

Channelfly like Peoplesound, is aiming for the new mainstream audience for digital music. Besides acting as a label for unsigned bands, Channelfly also publishes The Fly magazine and offers video of live performances. The company, 60 percent owned by Adam Driscoll, is also planning to take over Barfly, a London venue credited with launching such groups as Oasis, Kula Shaker and Jamiroquai. The buzz is that Channelfly is on the point of floating 20 percent of its business, with a value of about £12m, on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Like iCollector, is aimed at an upmarket crowd -- though in the field of sports apparel and footwear rather than antiques and art. With backers such as LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton, which owns Christian Dior and Givenchy, and Goldman, Sachs & Co., Boo plans to market hip gear to markets where it has been scarce -- for example, selling London brands to New York customers. After a few false starts, the site went live at the end of October and will be launched across the UK, US, Germany, France and Scandinavia with a barrage of slick advertising. The site was founded by Swedish twentysomethings Ernst Malmsten and Kajsa Leander (though it is headquartered in London) and features such cutting-edge features as rotating 3-D images of sports shoes and interactive mannequins.

Click Mango

Click Mango is jumping into what has already proved a hot market in the US, health products. But rather than an online pharmacy, the company is setting itself up as an all-around "natural portal" promoting a "wellness culture" through health advice and discussions, as well as natural health-related products. The site won't launch until early 2000, but founders Toby Rowland and Robert Norton are already infamous for an eight-day funding drive that brought in £3m. Backers of the company, valued at around £8m, include Atlas Ventures and Lord Rothschild. Rowland is the son of tycoon Tiny Rowland and formerly headed data mining at Walt Disney Television, while Norton is a former Reuters journalist.

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