The ivory towers of academe are the unlikely home of Mark Rowse and his company ingenta.com, which at number 12 is the highest new entry in this quarter's e25. But then Rowse - Oxford first notwithstanding - is more businessman than big brain. Before founding ingenta he spent six years in M&A at Rothschild's, then was head of Spafax, the company that supplies Virgin and BA with in-flight entertainment. Launched jointly with the University of Bath in 1998, ingenta took an existing resource - the university's BIDS database of academic journals and research - and commercialised it. Users can search for papers on anything from neurochemistry to carbon polymerisation and buy them online. Abstracts give a taste of what's in store and are free, while entire papers sell for around pounds 15 each. 'Earlier in my career,' reflects Rowse, 'I was finding content for people in planes; now I'm finding it for the world's top academics and researchers.'
Three-quarters of the revenue goes back to the publishers, leaving a nice cut for ingenta. Several new journals sign up to be listed every day, each paying a one-off fee, which gives Rowse revenue from both sides. But, he says, the real secret is that exclusivity is maintained all round. 'This content won't be found on normal search engines. It makes ingenta very sticky.'
The company raised pounds 11.5 million via an AIM listing in May, and with 2,800 publishers online and 1.4 million visitors a month, it's easy to see why everyone's happy. So far growth has largely been through word of mouth, but Rowse is now busy buying up academic key words that will point search engines to the ingenta site.