Rowland back in dot.com game with social media flotation

Jonathan Rowland, the investor who made his name during the dot.com boom, is to return to the technology market with the launch of an investment vehicle targeting social media companies.

Over a decade ago, Mr Rowland's investments made him more than £40m at the age of just 25, and yesterday he announced the intention to float his new venture, Jellybook, on the Alternative Investment Market.

Jellybook – a reference to his earlier investment vehicle Jellyworks – will focus on digital media and social networking companies. This comes at a time of huge interest around investing in digital companies, especially those with social networking operations.

LinkedIn, the professional networking site, saw its shares double on their first day of trading in New York last month, and there has been huge interest in discount site Groupon, which has filed its IPO papers. The market also anticipates a similar move from Zynga and Facebook. Jellybook will be targeting companies this side of the Atlantic.

Mr Rowland, the son of property tycoon and former Tory party treasurer David "Spotty" Rowland, said: "The rise of social media in the past five years has been a development of global proportions," before adding: "Yet until now public market investors have had limited opportunities to invest in this fast-growing sector. We believe that Jellybook will provide them with that opportunity in the UK."

In the drive to make Jellybook "a leading European social media company", Mr Rowland has called in some heavy hitters in the industry to bolster its credentials. These include Julie Meyer, who set up Ariadne Capital in 2000 and was behind networking forum First Tuesday. Michael Wright and Walter de Brouwer join her on the board.

The company will list on London's growth market as a cash shell and aims to make one big acquisition or investment within its first 18 months on the public markets.

The company did not want to provide further details on the potential targets before it starts trading in two weeks. The directors hope to raise a minimum of £3m from the float, which is being underwritten by the Rowland's Luxembourg-based family bank, Banque Havilland.

Mr Rowland made his name in 1999, when he founded Jellyworks, a venture backed by the Barclay Brothers, and floated it at 5p per share. He was an early investor in companies including Demon Internet and 365.com

The shares in his investment vehicle soared 2,000 per cent in just three days as the clamour for dot.com investments reached fever pitch.

Yet, the euphoria waned somewhat the following year and the shares retreated. He sold to Shore Capital in 2000, shortly before the dot.com bubble burst, and still made £42m from the deal. That was not his last venture into technology investment. He floated the Nettworx cash shell on Aim in 2005, which was also set up to target telecoms deals, and which he had dubbed at the time "Jellyworks Mark 2". Its backers included the billionaire Joe Lewis and Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Lastminute.com. It was liquidated in 2009.

Mr Rowland pointed to statistics from April last year that showed more than 110 billion minutes were spent on social networks and blogs, a fifth of all time spent online, and the numbers have soared since then.

Yet despite the strong growth, businesses in the social media sector have struggled to raise capital in the wake of the downturn.

The group said it would not be focusing specifically on any particular place, although given the board's expertise in Europe, they will be "well positioned to consolidate opportunities in Europe".

Mr Rowland added: "We believe that the investment case for Jellybook is clear and is backed by an unprecedented interest in social media, from investors to end users. Social media is helping redefine global business and the way in which people go about their daily lives."

He said the company was closely following the listings of LinkedIn and the Chinese social network Renren. It will also await Groupon's flotation after expressing its interest to float.

Mr Rowland has been chief executive of Banque Havilland for the past year. The Rowland family established the bank by picking up some Luxembourg assets from the rubble of the collapsed Icelandic group Kaupthing in July 2009.

The operation has been the focus of interest from both the Luxembourg police, and the Serious Fraud Office, although the company stressed that these visits related to operations that were taking place before the current management had become involved.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

Guru Careers: FX Trader / Risk Manager

Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue