Winners in the race for the web

For a decade, the doubters have said you couldn't make money from the internet. But a swathe of British companies are proving them wrong, as Manish Madhvani reports

The apparently simple concept of providing an online facility for two people to bet against each other has been the cornerstone of Britain's fastest growing media company.

Betfair was founded just six years ago by Edward Wray and Andrew Black and has seen its annual revenues increase from £480,000 in 2001 to £107m in 2005, with a loss of £2m in its first year transformed into an operating profit of £22m in the same period.

The company, based in Hammersmith, west London, and Stevenage, expects this summer's World Cup to generate at least £300m in bets, from which it will take between 2 and 5 per cent of net winnings.

Betfair, which has 800 employees, including in Australia and Ireland, is at the head of the Media Momentum top 50 fastest-growing UK media companies, an annual league table published by the technology investment bank GP Bullhound, with Barclays and Olswang.

The table is based on growth in sales between 2002 and 2004; companies are then asked to demonstrate their "exceptional growth potential" by making a presentation to the Media Momentum panel in the style of TV shows such as Dragon's Den and Pop Idol.

The judging panel included Seb Bishop, who in 1999 co-founded Espotting Media, the online advertising specialist, and sold the company in 2004 to Miva for $170m. George Coelho from Benchmark Capital, the venture capital backer of eBay, is another judge.

The Top 50 companies collectively grew their revenues from £158m in 2002 to a staggering £596m in 2004. Not surprisingly since last year's event, there has been a spate of acquisitions by traditional media companies of digital media assets. News Corp spent well over $1bn on internet acquisitions in the second half of 2005. Google also recently announced plans to raise $2bn to take its war chest of cash to more than $10bn (£5.7bn).

GROWTH POTENTIAL - THE FIVE BEST COMPANIES

COMPANY: Betfair
WEBSITE: www.betfair.com
REVENUE GROWTH % 2002-04: 996
MEDIA MOMENTUM RANKING: 6
SECTOR: online betting exchange
DESCRIPTION: Betfair pioneered the concept of the online betting exchange. With cutting-edge technology, Betfair enables punters to choose their own odds and bet against each other, even after an event has started. It processes 5 million transactions a day and more than 300 bets a second.

Launched in 2000, Betfair is a debt-free company and its annual revenues have recently broken through £100m. A privately owned company, its largest shareholders are Andrew Black and Edward Wray, the co-founders. Earlier this year Betfair was valued at over £1.5bn when it sold 23 per cent of its shares to Softbank, the Japanese technology group.

COMPANY: Latitude
WEBSITE: www.searchlatitude.com
REVENUE GROWTH % 2002-04: 3,659
MEDIA MOMENTUM RANKING: 1
SECTOR: search engine marketing
DESCRIPTION: Formerly Corporem Global, Latitude was formed in 2001 as one of the UK's first search engine marketing firms. According to Nielsen NetRatings, Europe alone has nearly 100 million search engine users.

From only six staff and £100,000 in sales in 2001, the company has grown to become one of the UK's leading search engine marketing agencies. Latitude now has nearly 70 search engine marketing staff working in three offices. The company's turnover for 2005 was £18.8m, and enables clients such as Alliance and Leicester, Auto Direct and Ocean Finance to rank in the best possible positions on the search results page.

COMPANY: Vibrant Media
WEBSITE: www.vibrantmedia.com
REVENUE GROWTH % 2002-04: 346
MEDIA MOMENTUM RANKING: 9 SECTOR: online advertising
DESCRIPTION: Founded in 2000 by Doug Stevenson and Craig Gooding, two former AOL executives, Vibrant Media has been one of the pioneers of contextual online search.

With offices in San Francisco, London and New York, Vibrant Media enables its international network of web publishers to optimise the value of their content by harnessing its "intelligent" advertising technology. In an increasingly cluttered cyberspace, Vibrant has launched two products that enable clients such as Universal McCann, Microsoft and NEC to communicate with their customers when they're most likely to be interested in purchasing their products.

COMPANY: Inspired Broadcast Networks
WEBSITE: www.inspiredtg.com
REVENUE GROWTH % 2002-04: 2,833
MEDIA MOMENTUM RANKING: 2
SECTOR: entertainment
DESCRIPTION: Provides software and platforms for server-based entertainment, betting and gaming.

Inspired provides software and content to more than 30,000 pay-to-play networked terminals in pubs, shops, licensed betting offices, bingo halls and casinos in the UK and abroad. Inspired provides consumers with a range of pop music, retail, entertainment, betting and gaming services. Fixed odd betting terminals managed by Inspired achieve more than £10m in bets a day. Inspired also supplies virtual events to the betting community generating more than £1bn in annual turnover for the industry.

COMPANY: Sit-Up TV
WEBSITE: www.sit-up.tv
REVENUE GROWTH % 2002-04: 261
MEDIA MOMENTUM RANKING: 25
SECTOR: TV retailing
DESCRIPTION: Since 2000 Sit-up TV has pioneered retail TV channels in the UK. The channels comprise of bid tv - the world's first auction channel - and price-drop tv, the world's first falling price auction channel.

The company attracts more than 5 million viewers a month and has almost 3 million paying customers. Last May sit-up TV was wholly acquired by its then-majority shareholder Telewest Global (through its wholly owned subsidiary Screenshop), in a deal that valued the company at more than £194m.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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 Media

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Guru Careers: Product Design Engineer / UX Designer

£20 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a tech savvy Product Design Engineer /...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: German speaking Account Manager / ...

Guru Careers: System Administrator / Sys Admin

£23 - 30K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a System Ad...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor