You read it here first…

After four years on the rollercoaster running – and nearly ten years in the industry – I’m a free agent again. If you know me, you already knew this, but here’s the press release (or download a PDF) that will go out on Monday 9th. is now making a profit so I’m off to look for new projects and challenges. I’ll remain a director of the business and I’ll certainly still help out from time to time. Stuart Tily, the firm’s CTO since the beginning, is now running the firm from an office in Brighton. PRESS RELEASE
0870 043 4086

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9 December 2002 makes a profit. Pioneering founder, CEO Bowbrick moves on, the subscription email service, has passed a critical milestone and is now making a profit. Steve Bowbrick, founder CEO and veteran of nearly ten years in the Internet business, is leaving the firm.

The British company has become symbolic of the effort to convert loss-making dot.coms to direct charging models and is now one of a handful of profitable subscription-funded businesses on the web. Steve Bowbrick, outgoing CEO, says “Many didn?t believe it was possible for a free service like to switch to charging. Others didn?t believe a consumer-focused could survive the crash at all. We?ve proved them wrong.”

Started at the end of 1998, a year before the boom reached its hysterical peak, raised money at a first round valuation beaten only by Later, as the bust unfolded and investors took cover, Bowbrick and battened down the hatches, made lay-offs and cut costs. The result is a successful business focused on the delivery of a useful, distinctive personalised email service to a growing subscriber-base.

The lessons learned from the switch to charging will see the business through to its first full year?s profit in 2003. Bowbrick says “It hasn?t been easy. We?ve continually reworked the business plan, trying many new approaches. Initially it was all about survival. Now we?re experts in everything from boosting ARPU (Average Revenue per User) to minimising churn and exploiting data. I think there might be a book in it!”

Nearly 25,000 subscribers have signed up so far – a fraction of the site?s huge free userbase – but the case is proven: it is possible to make a profit from a subscription service on the web. “We?ve got this far in a collapsing market. The exciting part is going to be watching the business really take off once the recovery begins” added Bowbrick.

Stuart Tily, long-standing CTO, is taking the reins and will operate the company from a new Brighton office. Bowbrick remains a non-executive director. Robin Klein, chairman of Retail Variations and founder of the Innovations catalogue, remains Chairman.

Notes to editors timelineNovember 1998 Company started by Steve Bowbrick and Graham Goodkind (Graham subsequently left the firm) with seed funding from web designer Jeremy Kerner. Largest database of Internet domain names registered to provide personalised email addresses to users.

May 1999 Service launches under the brand name Funmail.

August 1999 First round of funding from VC Eden Capital proves to be the second-highest first round valuation for a UK Internet business so far. Robin Klein joins the business as non-exec Chairman.

February 2000 Service relaunches as and runs national advertising campaign targeting young people. Service passes 1 million users within 9 months.

March 2000 moves into a custom-designed North London office complete with Britain?s only indoor lawn and a set of swings in reception. No one thinks this is in the least bit strange.

February 2001 is the number 1 UK email service and the number 1 youth web site. Site traffic puts the site within the UK top ten consistently. The site is the fastest growing in the UK.

November 10th 2001 Registrations pass 1.8 million. starts to charge new users of the service ?15 per year. Take up is good.

February 18th 2002 Encouraged by the November experiment, the free service is switched off. All users now have to pay ?15 per year for their email service. is the first email service in the world to switch off a free service entirely. Take-up beats all expectations. 15,000 subscribers have paid up within two weeks. Response from users is overwhelmingly positive.

October 2002 shows an operating profit. Subscribers now pay ?23.95 per year and pay extra for storage top-ups, domain names and personalised merchandise.

October 2002 Steve Bowbrick leaves the firm. Bowbrick retains a board seat and will continue to be involved in strategic and commercial decisions. Stuart Tily, the firm?s CTO since the beginning, will take over the day-to-day running of the firm. Robin Klein remains non-exec Chairman.

Steve Bowbrick summary biography

Steve is one of Britain?s best known Internet entrepreneurs and a pioneer of the net in the UK. 2003 will mark his first decade in the industry. John Browning, founder of First Tuesday and European Editor of Wired Magazine, called him ?Britain?s most experienced web entrepreneur?. In 1993 he was editor of 3W Magazine, the first print magazine about the net anywhere in the world. The following year he started Webmedia, the first specialist web design shop in Britain, building the firm into the number 1 UK agency, employing 50 staff across three divisions and three offices. In 1996 he secured an investment from Maurice Saatchi?s Megalomedia, the first significant investment made in a web design house in the UK. In 1997 Webmedia span off domain name registry Netnames. In 1998 Steve closed Webmedia and, later that year, founded and held the post CEO throughout. He has written and spoken on the net continuously for nearly ten years for organisations and publications from the FT to ETRE, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Marketing Week, The BBC, The New Statesman and The UK Government. Steve?s weblog is at background

London-based has defined a new category of personalised email services. Users create the funkiest email addresses on the planet and use them to make a statement: ?I?m a free agent. I have a sense of fun and I will not be told who I am by a big, dumb brand?. personalised service attracted over 1.8M users as a free service and they created over 6,000,000 personalised email addresses between them?from to The site was ranked number 1 amongst UK sites in the email Services category by Hitwise UK and was the number 1 youth brand on the web. Since February 2002, users of the service pay an annual subscription (currently ?23.95) for use of the service. 25,000 people have subscribed so far.