The UK is Europe's Internet and new media hot spot, with dozens of companies likely to go public next year. Britain's IPO hopefuls range wildly in type, from a digital music label (Peoplesound.com ), to a small business services agency (Mondus.com ) to an online wedding-arrangements specialist (Confetti.co.uk ).
The Internet floatations hype began in Britain with the IPO (initial public offering) of Freeserve, the Internet service provider launched by retail electronics-chain Dixons Group. Freeserve pioneered a new business model and quickly grew to surpass AOL as the largest ISP in the UK. But once the novelty wore off investors fled, and Freeserve (along with online finance group eXchange Holdings) recently dropped below its original offering price of 150p for the first time.
Is this a bad sign for British tech startups? Not at all, say analysts, who point out that Freeserve was probably overvalued in the first place. The argument is that the best is yet to come, and as strong, innovative Internet players come onto the UK market they will get the valuations they deserve.
Venture capitalists seem to see it that way too. Last year, venture capitalists invested E1.5bn in startup businesses in all sectors, but Internet venture-capital investments worth more than E1bn have been announced in the last few weeks alone.
The following 20 companies are just a few of those competing to be the Net's next big thing -- to do something really new, and, they hope, make a big splash on the market. They're divided into three broad areas: those focussed on content, business/finance and e-commerce.
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