MOO in the Sunday Times Magazine

MOO & Dopplr!

Link

From The Sunday Times

March 30, 2008

The new dotcom boom

Sarah or Thomas could be the next Bill Gates. So could anyone with a bright idea and a laptop — pensioner, housewife or student. Oliver Bennett finds out how broadband is turning Britain into a nation of entrepreneurs. Portraits by Leo MaguireAbout 60 people are mixing, mingling and chatting in the fifth-floor cafe at Waterstone’s in Piccadilly. Coffee is fuelling an intense atmosphere of handshaking and exchanging of business cards. Most are male, under 40, wearing open-collared shirts, casual jackets and jeans. Several people have laptops open and sit rapt in front of screens, showing companions their web pages. Here is the Swedish start-up Tablefinder, finding global restaurant reservations; there is the Slovenian start-up Zemanta, offering online links. Potential internet companies from all around Europe have converged on this central London marketplace.

Among them is Damien Tanner, 20, who gave up his biology degree course at Imperial College, London because he was making money with New Bamboo, the web-development company that he co-founded with Max Williams. “The right conditions are here,” says Tanner, whose company now employs 10 people and which, he claims, is heading for a revenue of £1m this year. “We were growing so rapidly that I couldn’t wait. I had to leave college to grab this opportunity.”

This weekly networking event is called OpenCoffee Club, and is one of a significant handful of meetings for a bounce-back generation of internet entrepreneurs, future technocrats and investors to hook up and share: perchance also for some “VC” – venture capital – to change hands. Here, amid the banquettes and table lamps, it’s as though the dotcom crash of 2000 never happened.

Saul Klein, 37, who set up OpenCoffee Club last February, says the idea came at the right time. “There are now OpenCoffee events in more than 80 locations around the world, which shows the extent of the interest in internet companies.” Klein’s aim is to bring the informal business culture – that go-for-it Californian positivity – of Silicon Valley to the UK. A veteran of various dotcoms, including Lovefilm and Skype, he prefers to see the start-ups as companies rather than just “dotcoms”. “You don’t think of Tesco as a dotcom, do you? But it makes millions from its internet platform.” Last year he set up an entrepreneurs’ forum called Seedcamp, which attracted interest from 274 internet-based companies. Twenty were chosen for the forum, which is likely to become an annual event.

The housing market may be wobbling, the financial industries suffering from the reckless sub-prime lending credit crunch. But the internet is bullish. Commentators are referring to the second web boom and, once again, venture capitalists are circling, seeking to invest in fledgling internet companies – the start-ups. “There has been spectacular growth,” says James Brocket of Calibre One, a head-hunter in the internet sector. “Funding in the UK has gone up considerably. In the first quarter of last year, $24m of VC funding to internet companies was disclosed. In the second quarter, it had risen to $75m.” He adds that this figure is conservative – much more will have gone undisclosed. Fred Destin of Atlas Venture says that, in 2007, £894m was invested in the UK and Ireland by 282 investors. “Perhaps 2008 will be the £1 billion year,” he adds.

The number of British-based start-ups is also hard to gauge: it includes everything from minor-league bloggers hoping to attract a few ads to web applications for bricks-and-mortar companies. But Brocket says that, again, there has been a significant rise in serious start-ups: “In the second quarter of 2007, 58 were started, with 63 in the third quarter. I’m talking about motivated businesses with over $2m behind each of them.”

From the perspective of a British start-up, this presents a real opportunity to get some funding behind them. “There are at least five venture-capital companies investing between $200m and $500m each across Europe, with at least 40% of this going to start-ups in the UK,” says Saul Klein. Add this to the incalculable amounts added by “seed” investors and “angel” investors – smaller investors who often provide the essential early push and who mostly remain private – and it runs into many more millions being spent in Britain. Library House, a research organisation in the technology industries, says that the total disclosed amount of venture capital invested in UK start-ups in 2007 was over £1.4 billion. This is still much less than the dotcom bubble of 2000, which some estimated at about £5 billion, but enough for a consensus to treat it as a “boom”.

If a boom it is, then there’s another vital reason: millions more people have broadband connections. “Broadband penetration is at the tipping point,” says Dan Wagner of Bright Station Ventures, which funds and promotes start-up companies. Wagner, a veteran of the early internet boom, believes there is an unprecedented opportunity for internet start-ups at present, which is why he and his partner, Sháá Wasmund, have set up: “We’re going to spearhead the resurgence.” He also points to the take-up of the internet. “In the first dotcom boom, only around 5% of us had an internet connection,” he says. “Now it’s 50 to 60%.” According to the Office of National Statistics, there are now around 15m households in Britain with internet access – 4m more than in 2002 – and this figure is rising all the time. We are all jumping on the broadband bandwagon.

Facebook, MySpace, eBay, YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, Bebo, Skype: all have become part of a daily diet for millions of Britons. Then there are the facts from the business pages: that last October Microsoft paid $240m for a 1.6% stake in Facebook; that Dow Jones recently announced that venture capital for internet start-ups had reached almost $1 billion; that global online advertising revenue is projected to rise by 2010 to $55 billion; that Google’s shares were recently valued at over $700. It is clearly a febrile time.

Why now, seven years after the first bubble burst? “Because we’re seeing the reincarnation of the internet,” says the trend analyst Michael Tchong, who envisages an online future rich with possibility – and money. “I think there’s going to be a boom that will make the last boom seem like a day on the beach. It will boggle the imagination.”

Some are more sceptical. Henry Blodget, who runs a web publication called Silicon Alley Insider in New York, featured an article called Recession Watch, which suggested a slowdown was on the cards as advertising and broadband adoption slowed down and competition between dotcoms hotted up. Still, even Blodget acknowledged the industry’s “remarkable resurgence”.

OpenCoffee is not the only networking event. Back in the 1998/99 boom, the First Tuesday networking club put investors together with entrepreneurs. Now one of the key meets is called, referentially, Second Chance Tuesday. “I launched it in 2006, and we were surprised,” says Judith Clegg of the Glasshouse, the company that runs the event. “We have a limit of around 300, and typically have to turn away the same amount again.” These are not the twenty-somethings of dotcom folklore, reckoning on a leap from bedroom to boardroom in six months. “Most are in their thirties and forties,” says Clegg. “People who know what it is to sleep on the office floor. They’re taking big risks. Some are second- and third-generation entrepreneurs. And in my experience, when they get funding they work even harder.” Clegg is excited. “It’s an interesting time. There are some really exciting start-ups.” Are there duff ideas? She laughs. “Yes. But they’re obviously high-risk. Their overall quality is excellent.” Indeed, to add to the feelings of dotcom déjà vu, First Tuesday has returned to the fray.

Much of the new interest in the internet has gathered around the notion of Web 2.0. This, the notional upgrade from the first internet boom – Web 1.0, which focused on e-commerce, or selling over the internet – is characterised by “user-generated content”: its pages filled with the words, photographs and films of the internet-using public. Facebook, MySpace, Bebo are typical Web 2.0 applications, seething with the jottings and photographs of its youthful diarists.

Since Web 2.0 came into parlance in 2003, the internet has become a mass habit. “The digital lifestyle has come to pass,” says Tchong. “It’s the marriage of man and machine. We are becoming computers, and computers are becoming us.” Son on Bebo, daughter on Facebook, Mum ordering food on Ocado, Dad blogging about golf: the British home has taken to the digital superhighway, and the predictions attributed to Bill Gates when he started Microsoft in 1975 – that there would be a computer in every home and every child would be computer-literate – have come to pass. “The interest is extraordinary,” says Matt Biddulph, 31, of the travel start-up Dopplr. “So many people use social-networking sites. It’s particularly true of middle-class affluent London.” The young, in particular, are naturalised to this dynamic information world. “The internet is no longer a weird thing you do in Dad’s study. It’s something you do on the bus.” Since the internet bubble of 2000, a generation has emerged for whom the internet has been an integral part of their adult lives. “I’m 33 and I’m not a ‘digital native’,” says Wayne Arnold of the internet-marketing firm Profero, using the term for someone who has grown up with digital technology. “But the under-25s use MySpace and Facebook as normally as a telephone – it’s just what they do. We may refer to the internet as ‘new technology’; they don’t.”

Globally, the figures are huge. As Tchong says: “MySpace has a population approaching that of Brazil.” Facebook claims 64m users. There are well over 100m blogs. “It’s a huge, driving force,” adds Tchong. “It’s a fundamental shift in the way we relate to each other. It goes way beyond online advertising. It’s social capital.” So, the new internet user is not just e-shopping at eBay and Amazon: that’s so Web 1.0. They’re socialising, sharing opinions, getting entertained – all online. “They’re moving away from print,” says Tchong. “They’re moving away from TV. The market is screaming for a new business model for these social-engagement products.” Soon, he says, they’ll be so important that would-be employees will use a Facebook page instead of a CV. “If you’re not online you might as well be watching black-and-white TV.” The internet is also remarkable for the marketing opportunities it offers and, as Richard Moross of the British start-up Moo puts it, “TV does not know who you are.” The internet does: it has followed your browsing patterns, your tastes and preferences – even your politics, should you be using Facebook. This is powerful information to advertisers.

Some of the big names of the first boom have returned, including Brent Hoberman, an architect of the UK end of Web 1.0 and the one responsible, along with Martha Lane Fox, for Lastminute.com, perhaps the most famous first-wave Brit dotcom, which took the travel industry’s “bucket shop” and put it on the internet. The technology – and Lane Fox – lent it vital glamour. Hoberman went on to help found a site called Wayn, a social-networking site for travellers standing for Where Are You Now?, of which he remains a non-executive director, and he has a new start-up, Mydeco, a home-decoration site. “I think London is the best place to be an internet entrepreneur right now. Yes, the people and the office spaces are expensive, but there’s a vibrant network, good infrastructure – and the UK knows how to do creative industries.”

So the venture capitalists are converging on London, their names whispered in the networking clubs: Index Ventures, Accel, Atlas Venture. “Money is coming from a number of sources,” says Ze’ev Rozov of Sportingo, a start-up that brokers sports content. “US VCs have opened offices here, and they’re making investments in start-ups in England.” Rozov, who has worked across the world, thinks conditions in the UK are “ripe”. Some go further. “London has become the Silicon Valley of Europe,” says Eric Baker of Viagogo, a ticket-reselling site that launched in 2006 with a $20m injection – gained precisely because of the London factor. Indeed, Biddulph has noticed “there’s a lot of money and sometimes not quite enough to spend it on.”

Another factor fuelling the boom is that it’s far cheaper to set up a company now. “Lastminute used to cost millions of pounds every year in technology,” says Hoberman. “Now it is far cheaper.” How come? “Moore’s Law. Everything becomes cheaper and faster.” Can you set up for £20,000? “Absolutely,” says Clegg. “Less, perhaps.” Publicity and marketing is virtually free using social networks and blogs: “So, the only real expense is employees and office space,” says Biddulph. And sometimes you don’t even need that. I met Biddulph in a Shoreditch cafe where, at 11am on a Monday, almost everyone was using a laptop. “I can run the company from here,” he says, dressed in the geek chic of black T-shirt and trimmed beard. “It’s being called the ‘Bedouin office’.” Whether in San Francisco, Boston or Amsterdam, the company can travel with you.

In the 1990s, the dotcom crowd was characterised as young, fresh, exciting. Armed with a new lexicon – “functionality”, “content”, “monetising” – they offered the “soft launches” of their dotcoms and hoped for an early IPO, the Initial Public Offering that would be the first sale of private stock to the public. “It’s different now,” says Hoberman. “The acquisition market is stronger than the IPO market.” Indeed, anyone who “starts with the idea that they’re going to sell shares is starting at the wrong place”. This boom is more substantial, adds Hoberman; less feverish, more sustainable, with increasingly mature participants who are often armed with prior experience. “We saw a generation of talent that was blooded in 2000,” says Saul Klein. “Those survivors are gold dust.”

Another thing about the Web 1.0 bubble was that everyone was being valued as a winner, says Wagner. “Now there’s more reality in the market. Not everyone is going to win big. Some will fail. But this time it’s an intelligent boom.” Everyone remembers the disasters, such as Boo.com, the online fashion retailer that went bust in 2000 after ploughing through almost £80m. They recall the Aeron chairs that littered Brick Lane’s second-hand shops as companies flogged their assets.

But such stories shouldn’t render the dotcom idea unworthy. “The reality is that the internet, including e-commerce, has surpassed all expectations,” says Dan Wagner. “Forecasts for growth have been dwarfed. Google is now worth over $130 billion. The boom is happening, and this time it’s sustainable.” And what if some fail? “Any new industry features ideas that are ahead of its time. Some may be misguided, off the wall or ‘blue-sky’, unrooted in economic reality,” says Wagner. “You’ve got to see failure for what it is –a risk that someone took that could have resulted in an exciting venture that created wealth and jobs.” And many of the early dotcoms did survive. “We started with £500 in a garage,” says Wayne Arnold. “Now we’ve got offices all over the world, clients like Puma and the government, and a turnover of over £5.5m.”

Ah, yes: surely the government is excited by silicon Britain? Yes, says Alex Butler, transformational strategy director at the Central Office of Information, responsible for online policy. Her department has noted the Facebook effect, and is transferring it to political life. “We’re moving to Web 2.0 applications as a trusted source,” says Butler. “We’ve got to ‘fish where the fish are’, as we say.” The result will be “supersites” that meld, for instance, Ofsted reports with local house prices and online educational chat.

Will this boom bring a bust? Some think so, and the term “Bubble 2.0” is gaining prevalence from a sceptical commentariat that recalls the dotcom fallout and recoils from the overvaluations. They cite the internet entrepreneur Niklas Zennström, who sold Skype to eBay for $2.6 billion, then stepped down in October after it was acknowledged that this was an overvaluation. Add these wild projections to a marketplace pullulating with start-ups and you’ve got the ingredients of a bust.

Facebook exemplifies the current web bubble, thinks Andrew Keen, the chief sceptic about Web 2.0 and author of the recent jeremiad The Cult of the Amateur. “In my view, Facebook will be the pin-up for the bust,” says Keen. “Mark Zuckerberg [Facebook’s founder] is too young to have been around the first time, and it’s hard to take Facebook seriously when industry people are valuing it at $10 to $15 billion.” Social networking has fuelled a hectic, unsustainable market, he believes, and Silicon Valley is too unselfcritical to see it. “The Valley start-ups are in big dollars, and ridiculous valuations have ensued,” adds Keen. “I get called a Luddite, but in private a lot of people agree with me.” With lots of social networking sites all seeking advertising money, some kind of shake-out is due.

As to the claims of the web visionaries that the web would democratise public life, making everyone a published author, artist or photographer: well, Keen is not keen. “Democratisation is making a few people incredibly rich. And the little old lady with the pension [VCs often use endowment funds] is the one losing the money.”

So, will there be a bust? “No,” says Biddulph, packing his laptop. “The most there’ll be is a soft landing.” After all, as Klein says, “Over a billion people use the internet and that number is rising.” As to all these online hordes, chattering, blogging, putting their holiday snaps on Flickr and poking each other on Facebook, their value has yet to be ascertained.

START-UP: MIND CANDY (ONLINE GAMES)

Mind Candy is the creation of Michael Acton Smith, 33, who in 1998 set up the e-commerce site Firebox, which now has a turnover of around £11m. ‘Our latest game is Moshi Monsters, which is like an online Tamagotchi. It’s aimed at 7- to 12-year-olds, who can adopt and care for a pet monster,’ says Smith. ‘Children are very technologically adept. They’re going online at four and five years old.’ Mind Candy’s Battersea office has about 20 employees working from an injection of venture capital worth about £5m. ‘We’re not profitable yet, but I’m confident. What’s happening now is fundamentally different to 2000, as there are so many more people online.’ Smith helped found the start-up club Second Chance Tuesday

START-UP: TEXPERTS (QUESTIONS ANSWERED)

Sarah McVittie, 30, and Thomas Roberts, 30, set up the company in 2003 as 82ask, and recently gained investment to give it new life as Texperts. It is based around the text-messaging of questions to experts, who come back with a rapid answer for £1.

It is valued at around £7.4m

BRIGHT STATION VENTURES (PROMOTES START-UPS)

The venture-capital company Bright Station Ventures, which funds and promotes start-up companies, was set up last year by Sháá Wasmund, 36, and Dan Wagner, 44, veterans of the first internet boom. Bright Station is currently backing Miomi (see panel on page 67) and Osoyou, a British shopping-cum-social network site launched last November

START-UP: DOPPLR (TRAVEL CLUB)

Dopplr, which has its headquarters in Helsinki and an office in Shoreditch, London, aims to create a kind of international travel club, with tips and networking shared between high-end travellers. ‘We’re trying to recreate the joy of travel, rather than the queues and grief,’ says Matt Biddulph, 32, who spearheads the UK operation with Matt Jones, 36. The company is funded by a mix of angel investments

START-UP: MOO (BUSINESS CARDS)

Launched in 2006, Moo was dreamt up by Richard Moross, 30, to add new life to the world of business cards. ‘They’re 300-year-old social tools that have survived all kinds of new technologies, and are still useful,’ he says. ‘Even when people have Facebook and several mobile phones, they still scribble down telephone numbers on pieces of paper.’ It’s an e-commerce-type business, but has linked up with Web 2.0 companies such as Flickr, the user-generated photography site, to allow personalised cards to be made. With offices in Clerkenwell, London, Moo has raised capital to about £2.5m. ‘We’ve had orders from many countries,’ says Moross. ‘I’m confident with the model. It is supplying a real business need’

START-UP: MIOMI (ONLINE TIMELINES)

Miomi is a ‘time-browsing’ site that aims to chronicle history by way of user-generated content. ‘It allows you to help create timelines,’ says the CEO, Jonny Crowe, 37. ‘An example might be 9/11. I know someone whose plane was grounded that day at JFK. So they could put an entry on Miomi, and add to the material about that day. We’re aiming to get the world’s memories online,’ he says, ‘so that public history is augmented by private history to become a vast memory bank.’ Miomi arose from the meeting of three German postgraduate students, Thomas Whitfield, Karlheinz Toni and Richard Schreiber. Miomi is supported by Microsoft and funded by Bright Station Ventures. It has offices in Covent Garden

START-UP: PPLPARTY (SOCIAL NETWORKING)

Calum Brannan began PPLparty at the age of 15 on the family PC. Setting up a board for about 5,000 nightclubbers in the Midlands, he started to make £700 a month. ‘It was a hobby that took over,’ says Brannan, now 19. With a bit of funding from an angel investor from London, he moved to an office in Coventry last year and now has five employees — a couple of whom are old enough to be his parents. PPLparty brings clubbers together in a social-network-style format — but recently Calum decided to open it up to anyone looking to network on the web. The site is being reborn as Youmeo.com on April 14

Sunday Times. The media industry’s rising stars: top 40 under 40

40 under 40

Sunday Times, 23rd March 2008

THEY are the young guns tuned in to the accelerating pace of change in the media landscape – the trendspotters and entrepreneurs who stand to reap the biggest rewards over the next digital decade.

We present our list of “40 under 40” people from the media industry in its broadest sense – embracing broadcasting, computer games, venture capital and mobile technology. Most are up and coming; some have already made it. What unites them is that they are responding to the changing way in which the public uses the media and, in an age in which the internet is flooding the market with free content, figuring out how to make it pay.

The consumer is getting choosier. In Sky+ homes, for example, 17% of programmes are now “timeshifted” – or watched from the hard drive instead of when broadcasters decide to transmit them.

Internet advertising is forecast to be worth £3.4 billion in Britain this year, according to Group M. That figure is approaching 20% of all advertising spending and is closing in fast on the television industry’s total.
Related Links

Our selection process was wholly unscientific. Some of the established names are not here and we tried to limit ourselves to one person per company. We were looking for a strong mix of candidates who have got people talking. Some sit in the upper echelons of the biggest media and communications organisations in Britain. Others run tiny start-ups. All have digital media at the heart of their business. Report by James Ashton and Kate Walsh

Ajaz Ahmed, 34

Founder and chairman of Akqa Bath University dropout Ajaz Ahmed took to the internet after a short stint of working in Apple’s marketing department. He set up Akqa, a web design and marketing firm, in 1995. The company employs more than 600 people around the world and its clients include the BBC, Microsoft and Nike. The American private-equity firm General Atlantic paid £124m for a majority stake last year, and Akqa is now looking to expand by acquisition.

Max Alexander, 38

Strategy and new ventures director of Trinity Mirror Just as Max Alexander was about to set sail for a new career in Australia, Trinity boss Sly Bailey persuaded him to stay here. The newspaper publisher already has 160 websites, but Alexander wants to build “bigger, faster” businesses outside newspapers. He launched MUTV for Manchester United before a spell at BSkyB that led to a job at Carphone Warehouse as head of Mviva and Talk Talk. Before joining Trinity, Alexander was chief executive of Thomson Local.

Alexander Amosu, 32

Founder of Amosu Luxury From his bedroom, Alexander Amosu made his first million by composing and selling mobile-phone ring tones for £1 a time. Last Christmas he was popular with the bling brigade for encrusting iPhones with £20,000 of diamonds. Motorola commissioned him to design a bejewelled Bluetooth headset. Amosu is preparing to deliver a gem-laden Blackberry, costing £45,000, to the rapper P Diddy. He is also expanding into watches.

Michael Birch, 37

Co-founder of Bebo Guinness drinker Michael Birch will be toasting his success after pocketing £295m with his wife Xochi from the sale of their social networking website Bebo to AOL this month. The site has 40m users. Bebo, which came to stand for “blog early, blog often”, was the sixth internet company set up by Birch. He is not staying on under Bebo’s new owners, so stand by for the seventh launch.

James Burrows, 37

Chief executive of Litelogic Posters are history, according to James Burrows, whose firm produces digital messages for outdoor advertising. His blinking messages on the sides of buses and on lampposts are hard to ignore. Clients include Last-minute.com and Yell. Burrows worked at the advertising agencies Publicis and JWT where he took part in the campaign to introduce Coca-Cola to Russia.

Suranga Chandratillake, 30

Chief executive of Blinkx The Sri Lankan-born Suranga Chandratillake spun out Blinkx, his video search system, from the Cambridge data sorting firm Autonomy last year and floated it on the Alternative Investment Market. Chandratillake spotted that the trend in internet searches was shifting from text to video and audio. Blinkx makes money by taking a small slice of advertising income from the likes of Reuters and ITN for pointing internet users towards their websites. Some 18.5m hours of video are indexed. But Chandratillake will have to work harder to convince investors of his vision. Blinkx’s share price has fallen by two-thirds.

Neil Chugani, 39

Finance director, BBC Worldwide If the BBC’s moneymaking arm ever makes it to the stock market, Neil Chugani will play a crucial role. He arrived last October from Goldman Sachs and had also been corporate finance director at BSkyB. The acquisition of travel guide Lonely Planet underscored Worldwide’s ambitions to expand beyond selling television formats and DVDs. Chugani will have to find private-equity partners so that its buying power can be stretched beyond a modest borrowing limit of £350m.

Tristia Clarke, 35

Marketing director of Carphone Warehouse Mother-of-two Tristia Clarke put Talk Talk broadband back on an even keel after its launch in 2006 sent Carphone Warehouse’s call centres into meltdown. She struck the deal to sponsor TheX Factor on ITV and supervises branding in 11 countries. Clarke joined from Kingfisher in 2000.

Christina Domecq, 31

Spinvox converts mobile-phone voicemails into text messages. The service was devised by chief executive Christina Domecq, a scion of the Spanish sherry dynasty, after she became fed up with scrabbling in her handbag for a pen to write down messages.

The five-year-old company has raised another £50m from institutions led by Goldman Sachs. The money will fund expansion into Portuguese, Italian and Arabic.Domecq hopes to reach 30m customers this year. Spinvox, run in partnership with Daniel Doulton of the pottery family, is already operating in seven countries, including Canada and Australia.

Domecq forecasts sales of £40m this year, jumping to £100m next year after doubling its number of mobile-phone partners from 12 to 24. GLG Partners, Blue Mountain Capital Management and Toscafund Asset Management contributed to the latest fundrasing, bringing the total raised so far to £100m and valuing Spinvox at more than £250m.

The firm’s latest application lets people update their Facebook page by leaving a voice message. Converting messages from office voicemails is on the way.

Adam Driscoll, 39

Co-founder and co-chief executive of the Mama Group Adam Driscoll moved from business publishing to showbusiness early in his career. He runs AIM-listed Mama, which failed to buy the ailing music group Sanctuary but has been buying up small music venues, including London’s Jazz Café. Mama also manages artists such as Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs. Its profits were £2m last year.

Paul Farley, 34

Managing director of Tag Games As one of the Dundee designers who worked on the hit computer game Grand Theft Auto, Paul Farley thinks that the future of gaming is mobile. Two-year-old Tag’s first release, Dead Water, a Poseidon Adventure-style game set on a sinking ship, was downloaded 250,000 times. A second title, Rock‘n’Roll, is being distributed with mobile carriers in America, bringing Tag to the attention of top publishers such as Electronic Arts.

Andrew Fickling, 35

Chief executive of Sport Media Group The Daily Sport earned Fickling’s loyalty by sponsoring his Brunel University degree. Now his task is to tone down the salacious newspaper to widen its appeal. But the rest of his AIM-listed group remains resolutely adult, selling racy pictures and chat over mobile phones. Huddersfield-born Fickling started as an IT underling and rose through the ranks, becoming chief executive when the Sport was reversed into Interactive World, another company owned by David Sullivan.

Mark Fitzgerald, 31

Founder of MX Telecom Hot tips and pictures sent to The Sun’s newsdesk arrive through MX’s text-messaging technology. It also streams videos from the BBC and Big Brother producer Endemol to mobile phones and has a mobile-phone payments arm, Payforit. MX was set up eight years ago by Mark Fitzgerald, a former JP Morgan derivatives trader, and his partner Thomas O’Donohoe.

Mark Gallagher, 37

Corporate affairs director of ITV Thanks to his powers of persuasion, News at Ten moved its time slot twice when Mark Gallagher was at ITN, but he arrived two weeks too late at ITV to take credit for the bulletin’s latest switch, back to 10pm. His greatest achievement was helping Camelot to win its third lottery licence. But after moving to ITV, he must convince the press and investors that recovery is truly on the way.

Jonathan Goodwin, 35

Chairman of global media investment banking at Jefferies This man has carved out a profitable niche by working on mid-sized media deals such as the £175m sale of Friends Reunited to ITV and EW Scripps’ purchase of Uswitch. More recently, Jonathan Goodwin helped Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Productions to buy Reveille Productions, maker of Ugly Betty. Last year he sold his boutique investment bank Longacre Partners to Jefferies, netting up to £15m, much of it in Jefferies stock.

Nick Gregg, 37

Founder of Strategy Eye Nick Gregg says he dreamt up the idea for the graduate recruitment website Milkround.com “in his spare time”. The business was sold to News Corporation for an estimated £20m two years ago. His new venture, Strategy Eye, combs the web for information on specialist sectors and sells it to clients that include Microsoft and Nokia.

Nick Green, 35

Chief executive of Tangent Communications Nick Green has big footsteps to follow in the shape of Uncle Michael, the Carlton supremo who investors blocked from chairing ITV. Green Jr cut his teeth at Teletext. Later he launched the marketing site Advertising.com in Britain. At the head of the direct-mail firm Tangent, which is backed by his uncle, he failed to take over printer St Ives and is now embroiled in a £30m battle to take control of the e-mail marketer TMN.

Andrew Gower, 29

Founder of Jagex Never mind the games console. Andrew Gower and his brother Paul only publish online the computer games dreamt up by their Cambridge firm. Rune Scape, Jagex’s sword and sorcery epic, has 1m subscribers paying £3.20 a month. Profits of £15m last year on sales of £28m led to a dividend payout of £8.6m. The American investor Insight Venture Partners owns a third of the business.

Brent Hoberman, 39

Executive chairman of Mydeco Two years after selling Last minute.com and netting £26m, Hoberman has spread his wealth and his time widely. He sits on the board of Guardian Media Group and chairs Wayn.com, a networking site for gap-year travellers. Hoberman’s priority, though, is Mydeco, an online furniture seller that brings together ranges from 500 retailers.

Rob Horler, 39

Founder of Diffiniti Rob Horler had his first taste of the digital world at Line One, an early internet service provider. After that he went to the media buyer Carat, part of Aegis. There he set up Diffiniti, a specialist online planning and buying company, which is expected to have turnover of about £70m this year.

David Joseph, 39

Chief executive of Universal Music UK Perhaps the only way is down for David Joseph, who has just replaced Lucian Grainge as head of Britain’s largest music group. Last year it had seven of the top ten albums, including Amy Winehouse’s bestseller Back to Black, pushing its UK market share close to 33%. A 15-year veteran of the music industry, Joseph oversees labels such as Island, Mercury and Polydor and artists such as Take That.

Roma Khanna, 38

The Global networks president at NBC Universal was promised excitement by NBC’s international boss, Pete Smith, if she swapped Toronto for London. He did not disappoint her.

Within weeks of Khanna arriving in September, after being prised from Canada’s Chum TV, NBC paid £175m for Sparrowhawk Media, owner of 18 international versions of the Hallmark Channel.

As part of a film and TV production hub being set up in London by NBC, Khanna oversees 48 pay-TV channels, including the Sci-Fi Channel and Movies 24. Her challenge is to double that to 100 in the next two years, plugging gaps in Asia and eastern Europe.

Debbie Klein, 39

Chief executive of WCRS South African born Debbie Klein’s advertising agency dreamt up the moustachioed 118 118 runners. The former Saatchi & Saatchi planner was a founder partner who bought out the agency from Havas in 2004. Billings were £253m last year after winning the Sky account more than offset the loss of the mobile-phone firm 3.

Saul Klein, 37

Partner of Index Ventures Since arriving from Skype last year, Saul Klein has brought together start-up companies and venture-capital backers for regular coffee mornings at his local Starbucks. Cambridge-educated Klein has put money into Glasses Direct, the spectacle seller. His own seed investment firm Tag has stakes in rising digital stars such as Moo.com and Stardoll.

Richard Jones, 25

Founder of Last.fm Cornish-born Richard Jones was living in a tent above his Shoreditch office when the music recommendation website Last.fm was set up in 2003. He can afford something more luxurious after banking £19m when he and co-founders Felix Miller and Martin Stiksel sold out to American broadcaster CBS for £140m last year. However, Jones, who was at Southampton University when he dreamt up the software that can track a user’s music tastes, remains “100% committed” to the business. Last.fm has 21m users.

Saul and I

Richard Moross, 30

Founder of Moo.com Richard Moross believes he is putting a new slant on business cards for the digital age. A partnership with the photo-sharing website Flickr allowed users to print their own pictures on cards and caused some initial buzz. Stickers have followed. Agreements with Second Life and Bebo helped the output of the London-based printer rise to 10m cards last year.

James Murdoch, 35

Chairman and chief executive of News Corporation Europe and Asia James Murdoch braved accusations of nepotism when he became chief executive of BSkyB in 2003. He expanded the satellite broadcaster into a broadband and telephony provider, and set its sights on having 10m customers. Last December, he became chairman of Sky, replacing his father, Rupert. Sky is 39% owned by News Corp, the ultimate parent company of The Sunday Times. His new job gives Murdoch his first taste of managing newspapers.

Darryl Newton, 37

Managing director of Factory Media This man quit a marketing job at the lads’ magazine FHM in 1999 to join Onboard, a snowboarding magazine based over a nightclub in Chamonix. Backing of £4m from Acuity Capital funded the acquisition of Dirt, a motorbiking title, and Sidewalk, a skateboarders’ magazine. Factory Media should turn over £9m this year. Its websites have 450,000 users and carry 192 hours of user-generated videos of sporting stunts.

Alexander Northcott, 39

Founder of Gorkana Alexander Northcott has become the public-relations man’s friend by keeping track of journalists’ job moves. Named after his right-hand man during the four years he spent as a captain in the 7th Gurkha Rifles, Gorkana has a database of 65,000 hacks working in sectors from finance to politics. It is estimated to be worth more than £20m.

Crevan O’Grady, 36

Head of media at 3i If there is a media deal to be done, Crevan O’Grady is often in the thick of it. On his watch, the private-equity firm led the buy-out of VNU’s business media arm, where he now sits on the board. He financed Lord Alli’s deal to privatise Chorion, owner of the kids’ character Noddy. O’Grady qualified as a chartered accountant at KPMG and joined 3i 10 years ago.

Tim Pilcher, 38

Finance director, Clarion Events Dealmaker Tim Pilcher joined Clarion Events from Ernst & Young after advising on its buy-out in 1999. Since then Clarion has been sold twice more. The latest deal valued it at £120m. Pilcher aims to boost earnings from £11m to £50m in four years.

Toby Rowland, 38

Founder of King.com Online gambling is out since the crackdown by the American authorities. But skill games, such as the word challenge Boggle, are gaining in popularity, particularly among women. King, with 11m users worldwide, was set up in 2003 by Toby Rowland, son of the late colourful tycoon Tiny Rowland. He began the venture after selling his Udate dating website to the American company IAC. Rowland sold a 30% stake in King to Apax Partners for £26m in 2005.

Christian Schneider-Sickert, 35

Strategy and operations director of Fremantle Media It already produces Britain’s Got Talent, but Christian Schneider-Sickert wants Fremantle to find even more talent. The former Goldman Sachs banker runs a £28m fund for the television producer, which is already backing actor Trevor Eve in several dramas. Schneider-Sickert joined the company in 2004 from Arvato, the outsourcing and printing division of Bertelsmann. He also co-founded the Oxford Business Group, a consulting firm.

Nathalie Schwarz, 37

Corporate development director of Channel 4 Relentlessly optimistic, Nathalie Schwarz took Channel 4 into digital radio just as her former employer GCap Media was giving up on the medium. But before the first new station, E4 Radio, even goes on air, she has been promoted to find new business opportunities for Channel 4. Schwarz, who qualified as a lawyer at Clifford Chance, worked on several acquisitions when she was at Capital Radio.

Nicola Shindler 39

Founder of Red Production With hits including Clocking Off, Queer As Folk and The Mark Of Cain to her credit, Nicola Shindler runs perhaps the best independent television producer that has not sold out to the big boys. The former Cracker script editor, who based Red in Manchester, stands to gain when part of the BBC relocates north by 2012. Old pal Russell Davies, the creative force behind the revival of Doctor Who, is likely to return to the Red fold after his tour of duty in the Tardis finishes.

Josh Silverman, 39

Chief executive of Skype Ebay has owned up to overpaying for Skype, which carries cheap phone calls over the internet. A £700m writedown of the 2005 deal’s value pushed the online auctioneer to a third-quarter loss. With nippy rivals like Rebtel amassing millions of users of their own, what does the future hold? The answer lies with Silverman, an American who previously ran Shopping. com, another eBay division. He arrives to take up his new post in London this week. Skype may have 276m users, but advertising revenues have been hard to come by.

Daniel Spencer, 31

Head of artist relations at Slicethepie.com He may be a frustrated musician, but Daniel Spencer is in the right place to make dreams come true for young bands that have no record deal. Artists sign up to Slicethepie to have their songs rated by members who chip in to fund an album release for their favourites – it costs about £15,000. Both sides share the profit. This month, indie rockers The Alps were the first to release an album this way.

Ashley Tabor, 30

On Wednesday, Ashley Tabor, chief executive of Global Radio, is expected to be crowned king of commercial radio. That is the deadline for Global Radio’s £371m bid for GCap Media, owner of Capital Radio, XFM and Classic FM.

It has been a heady rise for Tabor, son of the self-made billionaire bookmaker Michael Tabor.

Global, backed by Tabor Sr and Irish tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus, entered the British radio scene only last summer with the Heart and Galaxy stations acquired from Chrysalis.

Tabor said he would be involved in the industry even without the backing of his father. “I love radio,” he said. “It’s instinctive to me.”

His passion goes back to stints on hospital radio in Watford General at the age of 14. Two years later, he left school to become an unpaid runner at Capital, the station he will control.

“I would do daytime there, go home, sleep for a few hours, then drive up to Dunstable and do an overnight shift at Chiltern Radio. It was like that for a year. That’s how much I wanted to be in radio.”

Alex Taylor, 33

Chief executive of Jalipo Former IT manager Alex Taylor was made redundant from Cable & Wireless when the dotcom bubble burst in 2000. He later joined the internet video outfit Eonstreams. Jalipo brokers deals between rights owners and websites. It sold live coverage of Scotland’s European football qualifier against Italy to the Scotsman’s site last November.

Peter Ward, 29

Co-founder of Wayn.com Peter Ward returned from back-packing in 2002 with pal Jerome Touze and debts of £40,000. The former management consultant set up Wayn (Where are you now?) as a social networking website for travellers. It attracted £5.5m of funding at the start of 2007. But backers including Friends Reunited founder Steve Pankhurst and Brent Hoberman of Lastminute.com fame, could cash out now that the investment bank Lazard has been appointed to find a buyer for the business.