Julian and Marc Worth are, by their own admission, an unlikely e-business success story but their company, WGSN, is now number 2 in the e25. Now aged 40 and 38 respectively, they were both apprenticed by their father at 16 into the clothing business in Nottingham, where they made heat-applied transfers, labels and badges.
How they came to head up WGSN (Worth Global Style Network), the world's first online news and information service for the fashion and style industry, is an odd tale. 'We were a complete couple of IT retards,' admits Marc (right), the trendier of the two. 'But we could see that the internet was the only way of doing what we wanted to do properly.' That was to speed up the exchange of information through the industry. So stills from catwalk shows are available on the site within hours, and colour and fabric predictions can be put up and changed instantly, beating conventional bi-annual forecasting books hands down.
An annual subscription costs pounds 1,850 and their clients (more than 500 companies) include not only obvious candidates like Ralph Lauren, Armani and Calvin Klein but also Disney, Nokia and Daimler-Benz. WGSN invests heavily in content, devoting 80% of its 150 full-timers, plus 200 stringers worldwide, to it. The latest clever wheeze is to offer WGSN free to students, who will then, it is hoped, want to pay for it when they start their professional careers.
The Worths' ambition is to make WGSN the Bloomberg of its industry. Having kept two-thirds of the equity, they should become rich in the process.
An IPO can be expected by early next year, assuming they are not snapped up in a trade sale.