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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Zeus set to topple software gods

By BBC News Online's Orla Ryan

If the internet is the new rock and roll, then rock stars aren't what they used to be.

When Zeus Technology floats on the London stock market later this year, its co-founders Adam Twiss and Damian Reeves are expected to be worth about 200m each.

But Adam Twiss, the 24-year old chief executive of the profit-making Zeus, can't remember the last time he spent more than 200 on any one thing.

Money isn't what its about, Mr Twiss says.

The long hours and lack of holidays will be worth it once they have succeeded in creating a world-class UK software company.

Rich List kids

While many people only heard of Zeus Technology when its co-founders made the Sunday Times Rich List, more and more net surfers will have used its software.

Adam Twiss and Damian Reeves, his 26-year old partner, built the Zeus webserver software from scratch when they were computer science students at Churchill College, Cambridge.

Some say this is the product's advantage, as some of its competitors' offerings are basically revisions of older models.

It now powers 2% of the world's websites and jostles for market share with Microsoft, Netscape and Apache.

Zeus has put its sights on Netscape

Its aim now is to topple Netscape from its No 2 position in the commercial webserver market.

Netscape has about 6% of this market. "We are hoping to make big inroads into this market", he said.

Zeus now has a strategic partnership with Hewlett Packard, which is making it its preferred web server software. It is also in talks with Japan's Sumitomo Corporation, in a move which it hopes will gain it access to Far Eastern markets.

Silicon fen

Based in an industrial park outside Cambridge, the Zeus head office is quiet, with the only sound from its 40-strong staff the tapping of computers.

Adam Twiss is quietly confident, used to fielding questions about the "overnight" nature of his success.

He only appears smug in his insistence that where Lastminute.com got it wrong with their share offering, they can't fail to get it right.



Adam Twiss co-founded Zeus in Cambridge
"We looked at what happened to one or two other companies. People suffered slightly from rushing to the market before they were ready. We are going to float when it is right for us," Mr Twiss said.

While the fall-out in technology stocks might worry Zeus, ultimately it believes that there will be a flight to quality from which it will benefit.

"As one or two internet start ups start losing money, they (investors) are going to stop throwing darts at internet shares," he said.

"Lastminute.com is a high street brand name. We have been doing this for a few more years. What we are concerned about, is building a very solid business," he said.

Zeus does have what many lack: a profitable trading history. "We are a company with four and a half years of trading history. We have been profitable every year," he pointed out.

What makes an entrepreneur?

Mr Twiss and Mr Reeves set up for business in their college bedroom in Cambridge.

They were helped by having the then superfast (10 megabytes) internet connections provided by the college direct to their bedrooms.

They opted to read lecture notes on the net as opposed to attending lectures.

The two set up their own website and the poor quality of the available software prompted them to develop their own.

Mr Twiss has experienced the other side of the fence, working for one summer at computer services giant ICL.

It only reaffirmed his determination to tread the entrepreneurial route.

"It was a challenge, it was exciting, it was more fun than going out to work for some big boring company," he said.

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See also:

14 Jan 00 | The Company File
The software superpower
10 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Netscape: A history
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