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Great Leaders 3 – Ajaz Ahmed of Freeserve

This was an unusual week of meeting successful people. Third was none other than Ajaz Ahmed. A Dixons store manager, who came up with the idea to set-up Freeserve. Here is a bit about Ajaz from (his story is well covered)

Ajaz Ahmed is the founder of Freeserve, the UK’s largest ISP, now owned by Wanadoo. His eureka moment came when he bought a PC at PC World in Leeds and nobody in the store could tell him how to get onto the Internet. After much persuasion by him, Dixons launched Freeserve in September 1998 and became the UK’s largest ISP in just three short months. It floated just nine months later at a market cap of £1.5bn and entered the FT 100 soon after, in March 2000 it had a market cap of £9bn.

Ajaz was one of the three founding executives to launch the business, seeing it through flotation and the £1.6bn sale to Wanadoo. Ajaz held the position of Business Development Director until April 2001 when he left the company to pursue a variety of business interests. He now sits a number of boards and is CEO of Callserve, Europe’s Largest VoIP Company.

Recently Ajaz brought Browzar to market. Whilst the business case is simple to understand, I am not yet convinced majority of us will shift to Browzar from IE7, Mozilla Firefox and others. However, if it develops into a functionality rich web browser, then the take up will be different. Over 200,000 people from 192 countries have downloaded the software within few days of release. The story also captured huge media attention. Obviously, Ajaz would not have associated his name with the company if he thought the market potential was limited.

According to FAME database, Ajaz is involved with the following companies, most being start-ups:

  1. Channel 6 Internet Ltd
  2. Channel 6 Online Ltd
  3. C3i Ltd
  4. Tiva Services Ltd
  5. Rifle Fields Developments Ltd
  6. Browzar Ltd
  7. Zest Media Ltd
  8. Callserve Communications Ltd (2004 revenues: £9.1m)

Tiva is of particular interest to ebdex from partnering perspective.

Mark R, thank you for introducing me to Ajaz. Having e-mailed Ajaz, I was surprised when he responded with a kind message. It took me another e-mail to get his attention. We finally met. It took him a while to absorb ebdex’s proposition. Let’s see what happens at the second meeting.

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