British Internet Success Story Takes US by Storm

Article excerpt

In a sector dominated by US pioneers, here is a great British internet success story. An independent Web-design company decides to set up shop in New York and within 18 months is doing $2m worth of business for a roster of blue-chip US clients, including Citibank, Salomon Smith Barney and GE Capital.

Already the work of Bluewave's New York studios represents about a third of the turnover of the privately-held company. By next year, says chief executive Richard Latham, the US operation should account for 60% to 65% of the business of a company which has been doubled in size each year since 1995.

Not only is Bluewave the only European internet firm to have managed to break into the US market, it has done so "cold. Though it has an impressive domestic client list that includes British Airways and the FTSE and counts subsidiaries of Disney and American Express among its European customers, none proved particularly useful in winning business in Silicon Alley.

"We thought once we had a number of multinational clients in Europe, that would open doors for us here,"says finance director Robert Adair, who runs the office in Manhattan's Broad Street. "We also thought our angle would be multilingual sales in Europe for US companies. Neither turned out to be our foot in the door. It was actually design.

While the public websites of US companies tend to be boxy and cluttered with direct promotions the legacy of clunky, off-the-shelf products Bluewave's designs are elegant and austere, with the requisite information embedded below in layers of links.

Though most American business-to-consumer sites are now moving in that direction, Bluewave was "slightly ahead of the curve, says Adair, and that often earned them a place among the half-dozen agencies invited to pitch to Fortune 1000 companies.

After months of pounding the streets, Bluewave now typically finds itself pitted against big quoted US firms such as USWeb, Agency. …