I wrote a piece for The Guardian. I was asked to to write about what I might do next but it was rushed and I wound up cataloguing the current buzzwords – Wi-fi, Social Software, Web Services and Moblogging. I mean it when I say these are the things that excite me right now but the problem with this kind of list is that what you actually wind up doing might belong to one or more of these big technology categories but what really defines your venture is impossible to capture in advance. another.com, for instance, belonged to the ‘web-based email’ category and also to the ‘identity services’ category but what made it unique was something else all together – something to do with personalisation, fun, youth, lack of deference and resistance to categorisation. You just can’t capture all that stuff in a ‘what’s next’ piece.
You read it here first…
After four years on the rollercoaster running another.com – 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. another.com 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.
another.com PRESS RELEASE
0870 043 4086
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9 December 2002
another.com makes a profit. Pioneering founder, CEO Bowbrick moves on
another.com, 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 another.com to switch to charging. Others didn?t believe a consumer-focused dot.com could survive the crash at all. We?ve proved them wrong.”
Started at the end of 1998, a year before the dot.com boom reached its hysterical peak, another.com raised money at a first round valuation beaten only by boo.com. Later, as the bust unfolded and investors took cover, Bowbrick and another.com 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, another.com?s 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
another.com 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 another.com and runs national advertising campaign targeting young people. Service passes 1 million users within 9 months.
March 2000 another.com 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 another.com 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. another.com 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. another.com 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 another.com 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 another.com 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 http://www.bowblog.com.
London-based another.com 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?. another.com?s personalised service attracted over 1.8M users as a free service and they created over 6,000,000 personalised email addresses between them?from firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com. 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.
My friend Lenny Barshack has a Gourmet Deli in NYC. They deliver, natch, but they do it cleverly. If you order lunch from the office, registered co-workers will be told so that they can get their order in too. If you’re planning to visit the deli, you can check in to see things are not too busy. It all sounds scarily from the future to me but, hey. It might just work.