21 Leaders for the 21st century: Net Heads

21 Leaders for the 21st century: Net Heads - Even though the phrase net head is a freshly coined addition to our everyday lexicon, we are already wondering what we did without it. So, before the internet, what exactly did fast-talking, charming, insanely

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Even though the phrase net head is a freshly coined addition to our everyday lexicon, we are already wondering what we did without it. So, before the internet, what exactly did fast-talking, charming, insanely ambitious, technologically savvy twentysomethings do with themselves?

The internet draws people into new businesses who, in other more conservative times, would probably have found themselves working for old businesses.

Tim Jackson, for example, was a journalist with the Financial Times before founding the auction house QXL. John Pluthero worked at Dixons before he took control of its internet spin-off Freeserve. Of the net heads on our list, only Danny Wagner, the founder of Dialog and a man who was pushing electronic information at a time when very few people were interested in the concept, comes close to the traditional stereotype of the typical entrepreneur.

Predicting which of the internet companies will eventually become the giants of the web economy would be a foolish endeavour; a century ago you wouldn't have predicted that Honda would be one of the biggest players in the then emerging automobile industry. The people on our list have, however, shown the vision and courage to grab an early slice of the available territory.

John Pluthero, 36 - Freeserve

Pluthero is the managing director of Freeserve, the first UK company to offer free internet access. After less than a year in existence Freeserve was worth more than its parent, Dixons

Charles Muirhead, 24 - Orchestream

A rare net figure in that he sells a concrete product. Muirhead sells software. Orchestream's programmers help make internet traffic flow better

Dan Wagner, 36 - Dialog

Founder of market analysis and information business MAID, Wagner is now chief executive of digital content and search technology provider, Dialog

Ernst Malmsten, 29 and Kajsa Leander, 29 - boo.com

A hip, glossy internet site, boo sells streetwear and sports gear at high-street prices

Brent Hoberman, 31 and Martha Lane Fox, 27 - lastminute.com

This duo pioneered the selling of last-minute travel bargains online and have expanded their site to include gifts, entertainment and restaurants

Mike Lynch, 34 - Autonomy

Lynch is the founder and part-owner of the successful quoted Cambridge-based e-commerce company, Autonomy, a business that advises others on how to manage the internet

Tim Jackson, 34 - QXL

A former Financial Times journalist, Jackson set up Europe's answer to eBay, which now auctions everything from jewellery to holidays. He became a multimillionaire after floating the business last year.

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