Entrepreneur hopes poison will do him good

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Jonathan Rowland, the former internet entrepreneur, is about to invest in a company that has developed a "unique" new rat poison, through his new venture, Resurge.

Mr Rowland came into the spotlight during the dot-com boom when he floated internet incubator Jellyworks, later bought by investment banking firm Shore Capital. Resurge is another investment firm, although the focus is no longer on internet companies.

Poison maker Natrocell says it has a revolutionary new product that is non-toxic to other species, and based entirely on plant material, so it is safe in the reach of household pets and children. The product is available in the UK, Singapore, Norway and Germany. However, funding is required to complete scientific tests on the product in other key markets, such as the US.

Mark Blythe, the managing director of Natrocell, said he was close to securing £500,000 of funding in return for an undisclosed stake in the company. He thinks his product could give poison manufacturers like Reckitt Benckiser, the pharmaceuticals and home products firm, a run for their money.

"The prospects are unlimited, we are the only one with a natural product. Everyone is getting very green and concerned about the environment and toxic elements put into the air and soil," said Mr Blythe. Analysts estimate that Reckitt Benckiser's rat poison brings in around $40m (£28m) sales a year.

Natrocell's substance is entirely plant-based, made with fibrous cellulose. The product works by reacting with a rodent's digestive system in a way that leads to the rat or mouse dying from dehydration.

Resurge floated on the Alternative Investment Market last September and offers short-term financing to companies with cash-flow difficulties, in return for a high level of interest on the money loaned, or an equity stake. Jellyworks, Mr Rowland's previous venture, floated on the stock market during the dot-com craze. Although the shares were placed at 5p, they soon rocketed up to a high of 122.5p at the start of 2000, valuing the company at nearly £300m.

When the shares slid, substantially, it was taken over by Shore Capital in an all-share deal in July 2000. But Jellyworks was unusual in some respects, as it reported a profit before being taken over.

Mr Rowland follows in the footsteps of his father, David "Spotty" Rowland, who made millions as a young entrepreneur in the 1970s.