Rob Lewis is beefing up the sales team of his internet publishing
company NMTV - which he believes will become the internet version of
Haymarket or Reed - and the operation is likely to float within a
All key employees get an equity stake and, as some analysts have valued
the company at pounds 800 million, Lewis says, ’the chances are my staff
won’t have mortgages for very long’.
Chief executive Lewis is said to be in line for a pounds 120 million
payout, but he declines to comment on this, merely smiling in the manner
of a man who knows he’s got it made. The self-confident 30-year-old has
the ponytail and casual appearance that, in the topsy-turvy world of the
web, inevitably mask the soul of a steely entrepreneur.
He demonstrated an eye for the main chance early on, when he launched
Business and Technology Magazine ’from a bedroom in Notting Hill’
shortly after graduating in economics from Cambridge. He sold the title
to Dennis Publishing for ’a substantial amount’ in 1996.
This led, via a brief diversion into the software industry, to the
creation of NMTV 18 months ago. Lewis’s mission is simple: ’We’re
building the next generation of media business. We will provide a range
of net-based news and information products to supersede traditional
The company recently attracted pounds 11 million worth of investment
from Amadeus Capital Partners, Schroder Ventures and a syndicate
including the internet subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.
Its first product is Silicon.com, an online TV news and recruitment
service for IT professionals. Users click to view news bulletins and
interviews with the industry’s movers and shakers, all filmed in an
internet-friendly studio at NMTV’s Chelsea headquarters.
To receive the free service, users are obliged to fill in detailed
subscription forms, enabling NMTV to build up a sophisticated database
and in turn provide a closely targeted advertising medium.
’The critical benefit of the web is its ability to offer one-to-one
marketing,’ says Lewis. ’Many traditional media, no matter what they
say, are still taking a blanket-bombing approach to advertising. Our
research shows that the average IT professional receives no less than 29
free magazines a month. How many of those do you think they even open,
let alone read from cover to cover?’
The argument has convinced a number of high-profile advertisers,
including Virgin, Tesco.net, IBM, Microsoft, Intel and Orange. Lewis
says Silicon.com generated pounds 3 million in sales this year to
September ’and, of course, we’ve pulled in more since then’.
In common with most internet ventures, NMTV has yet to make a
Lewis says the UK operation is ’in break-even mode’, but he admits: ’As
a group, we will lose money over the next year because we’re about to
launch in Germany.’ The IPO in a few months’ time will fund expansion
into the US.
Lewis is convinced his idea is a winner. ’We already have 160,000 unique
users a month and can deliver a personalised news service. Soon we’ll be
able to deliver full-screen, TV-style news via the web. The net has
changed business-to-business publishing for good.’
Lewis on internet companies
’The theory is that they have high values because they will show
exponential growth in profits in the future. But the industry needs a
Some of these companies will never go into profit. You can’t make money
selling books at cost-price. We will make money because we have a
business model that works.’