As a journalist, Joe Saumarez Smith, 29, felt he was expected to keep his head down. That did not come naturally, 'Even when I was on newspapers I always thought I was likely to be a serial entrepreneur,' he says. The former education correspondent at the Sunday Telegraph and education editor at the Daily Express soon spotted an opportunity for an education web site providing in-depth news for schools, teachers, parents and pupils.
It remained an idea while Saumarez Smith pursued an MBA course - until former Express colleague Greg Hadfield called him to say they had the seed funding for the new business. Saumarez Smith quit the course to help work on the site. A year later, Schoolsnet turns over pounds 500,000 per annum, thanks to advertising and sponsorship deals. Despite a difficult climate for start-ups, its second-round funding raised nearly pounds 6 million, from regional newspaper group Newsquest and technology firm FDM Group.
Schoolsnet claims to be the UK's leading education web site in traffic terms, receiving about 25,000 hits a day - rivalled only by the government's National Grid for Learning site. Even DfEE officials log on for education information. The next step is to make the site international. 'If we can be the dominant education brand in the UK, we can take that across the world. The UK national curriculum is the basis of education systems in numerous countries.'