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Young entrepreneur raises funds to wake Europe's 'sleeping giant'

By Aimee McClinchy

Thursday 20th April 2000

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The Nasdaq slide has vindicated one young entrepreneur's resolve to start up his dot.com in the UK rather than the US.

Scott Spence, son of Matua Valley wine founder Bill Spence, said he could not understand this country's focus on US markets at the expense of Europe, which is considered a $US64 billion e-commerce market by 2001.

Mr Spence saw the limping of the European markets - with one or two spectacular falls - while the Nasdaq staggered to its knees as further proof local investors should invest in UK-based dot.coms that base their development here.

Mr Spence (27), now living in London, was in Auckland this week meeting investors in a bid to raise a $1.2 million first round of funding for a b2b venture tentatively called The Ealing Project.

He will release few details about the plan which he said was a functional portal targeting a huge business audience in a single industry in the UK. It had four revenue streams and was not dependent on banner advertising.

He has already secured minor key investors with UK financial institutions in a round he described as "angel" funding and was striking strategic alliances with local suppliers in this country.

He said he would be back within four months to raise another couple of million.

Mr Spence, in the tradition of the more experienced UK venture capital market, has made all potential investors here and in the UK sign a non-disclosure agreement.

He said he and his wife, Fiona Millson (32), "even carry [the documents] to parties."

Mr Spence said his b2b company was basing all technical and development work in Auckland, with a small team already working on a strategic plan.

He has already founded a small successful website design company, Noggon (www.noggon.com), after working as a technical manager for Ubix, as a consultant, and in Chase Manhattan Bank's high-tech division, Chase H&Q, with entrepreneurs and angel investors.

"Launching this venture in the UK and not the US was a conscious choice because research shows Europe is the next big emerging market," Mr Spence said.

Internet penetration in Europe averages 21% but adoption of mobile phones is four times greater than the internet.

"It's been described as the 'sleeping giant awakening.'

"We have created a very strong design team, who develop the site in New Zealand while we are sleeping in London. The time difference works excellently and in the wake of the Nasdaq slump local business people and investors should be looking at the European market for certainty."

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