Internet star performer to set up British version of site

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The Independent Online
THEGLOBE.COM, the Internet company which was one of the most successful stock market flotations of all time, is planning to set up a British version of its site in an attempt to attract more regular users from outside the United States.

The company, which operates a virtual Internet community offering news, electronic shopping and chat, is planning to link up with UK telecoms and media groups to provide distribution and content for the site.

"We are looking for strategic partners in the UK," Todd Krizelman, theglobe.com's co-chief executive, said yesterday. "One of the most critical factors is to build our brand awareness as quickly as possible."

Although it was only set up four years ago, theglobe.com is one of the fastest-growing Internet websites in the world, currently attracting more than 8 million regular users. Of these 40 per cent are from outside the US.

Last year, it attracted the headlines when its share price rose sixfold on its first day of trading on Nasdaq, making paper multi-millionaires of Mr Krizelman and his co-founder Stephan Paternot, both of whom are in their mid-twenties. Although the shares have fallen back slightly, they are still trading at more than four times their issue price of $9, valuing the company at almost $450m.

In the US, theglobe.com has linked up with large media groups such as Fox and Reuters to supply news and other content to its site. It now hopes to sign up similar groups in the UK. Mr Paternot said the company was also seeking a telecom group which could help promote and distribute its site.

The company is competing with large internet "portals" such as AOL and Yahoo! to be the destination of choice for regular Internet surfers. It can then charge advertisers and online retailers for access to its audience. Portals including Yahoo and Excite, the group which this week was taken over by high-speed internet supplier At Home, already have specific UK sites.

Mr Krizelman stressed it was imperative to build up a brand name quickly. "In this market, which is moving in light years, time is of the essence," he said, arguing that once people were used to a certain site they were less likely to switch to another one.

Mr Paternot defended the high valuations attached to Internet stocks, which analysts have been warning are unsustainable. "There are 100 million Net users at the moment and another 6 billion to go," he said. "If we can reach them in the next five or ten years the value to be had is massive."

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