Startup Spotlight:

This e-commerce search engine is 19-year-old Ben Way's second business. But despite his youth he says experience counts for everything

Who ever said that ten years' experience in the boardroom was needed to start up a new company? Ben Way is nineteen years old and has been a successful entrepreneur for the last four years, which values him now at around the twenty-five million mark. After being written off as dyslexic at school, he left halfway through his A-levels to set up his new online business venture,

Waysearch is a search engine that aims to cut down the amount of time spent aimlessly surfing the Web by bringing a variety of e-commerce resources into one site. Way saw this as a crucial service that didn't exist anywhere else, and so he decided to create it himself. But Waysearch wasn't his first business venture -- he had previously created a traditional business. Way spoke to techTrader about the process of setting up an e-business when you're barely old enough to get into pubs.

What is different about starting up an e-business in comparison to a traditional one? Do you think that e-business will become more like traditional business as it comes to be more accepted by the establishment?

With an e-business you outsource everything. I have run a traditional business as well as an e-business, and where the Internet is concerned, you can't expect to be able to do everything yourself. In terms of the future, a lot of e-businesses you can already equate to the high street. I predict that a lot will merge, and this will change the structure into that of a multinational. When this happens, the practice of outsourcing will become less necessary, and e-businesses will become more like traditional businesses.

You have recently received New Business magazine's Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur at such a young age?

I was fifteen when I first became interested in being an entrepreneur. I had always been told that I would never make anything of my life because I am dyslexic, and not able to read or write. I have always loved business, and wanted to prove everyone wrong.

You never completed your A-levels in order to focus your attention on Waysearch. How do you think the education system could be changed in order to foster UK technology startups?

Education should be devoted to real business, developing the entrepreneurial spirit at an early age. Business Studies was never an option available to me at school which I see as a great shame; Young Enterprise was the only scheme that I found to be helpful.

What is the most common obstacle that you encounter due to your age in the running of your company?

Inexperience is the biggest problem that I have to face. Experience definitely does count, and I can only learn by my mistakes.

How did you raise the venture capital to set up the company?

Two investors from private venture capital firms approached me, as I had already been featured quite a lot in the media. They didn't just give the money away, but rather helped to develop the business plan as well.

You claim that Waysearch will be "the most comprehensive e-commerce search engine" available. How does your business plan ensure that you can keep this promise?

We have a lot of contingency plans to develop the sales structure of our business. We will also be introducing many unique features in order to make the site as consumer friendly as possible, which will include a single shopping basket.

Do you foresee a stock market flotation in the future? How will you continue to finance the site?

A flotation on the stock market has been discussed, and is definitely a possibility. Our private investors however are willing to continue financing the site.

Startup Spotlight is a new weekly feature on ZDNet UK News and ZDNet techTrader, featuring the bright sparks of the UK's high-tech startup industry. For more of the faces behind the news see the Startup Spotlight archive.

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