US backs Brits in weekend fun site

March 24, 2000

Electronic entrepreneurs from Staffordshire University have put together a multi-million pound deal to take their vision of the perfect weekend online.

Chris Loughlin and Rueben Yau, graduates from the university's BSc technology management course, are founders of Weekends.com, a pioneering e-business that provides the ultimate online marketplace for buyers and sellers of weekend products and services.

"The initial response to the site has been fantastic," said Mr Loughlin. "As an idea generator and good-time facilitator we believe there is a global market for the services we provide."

The entrepreneurs are based in New York and aim to expand the Weekends.com service to London, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Staffordshire pair set up the company a year ago with two United States graduates, Ludovic and William Hood, raising $1 million (Pounds 635,700) in seed funding from US investors to launch the site in February.

Mr Loughlin said that his online ambitions could only be realised in the US.

"In the US there is more of a willingness to invest in new ventures and business start-ups. While the United Kingdom market remains responsive to proven business concepts, there is still a reluctance to back young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.

"Most good ideas are generated in the UK. Yet this lack of support means that graduates with business concepts like ours have to go to the US to make their mark and then bring it back to Britain when they are established in the marketplace."

The team has just signed a $10 million media-for-equity deal with international barter company MRI International, giving the business-to-consumer site international credibility and visibility.

The agreement will allow Weekends.com to attract customers to the site through national online and offline advertising using MRI's established global media connections and corporate bartering power.

The two entrepreneurs praised the role of Staffordshire University. "The technology management degree gave us the technical ability and programming skills but also the key management skills such as managing people, suppliers and the supply chain, which are all vital to building a successful on-line operation. Also the emphasis that the course placed on teamwork makes what we do today a lot easier," said Mr Loughlin.

Alan Eardley, head of IT for strategic management and business computing at the university, said: "Graduates with a fusion of both business and technology skills are not only increasingly sought by employers but also have the ability to develop innovative, wealth-generating enterprises of their own.

"Chris and Rueben are excellent examples of what can be achieved when ambition and ability are matched with a course tailored directly to the needs of the marketplace."

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