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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Clive James to launch website
Clive James is the latest celebrity to back a website
Clive James is the latest celebrity to back a website
by BBC internet correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

The Australian writer and broadcaster Clive James has become the latest celebrity to put his name behind a dot com enterprise.

He has agreed to be the non-executive chairman of Welcome Stranger, a company which plans to provide sites for Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders who come to London.

The idea appealed to James because it was a real business with a site which had already launched, aussieinlondon.com.

"Over the last two years," he told News Online, "I've received dozens of offers from dot coms to act as something like a totem pole at the entrance to the site. But these guys really seem to know what they're doing."

Welcome Stranger

Welcome Stranger has been founded by another Australian, 25 year old Simon Larcey, who has worked in marketing for BT and EMAP.

"I got the idea after dozens of Aussies started pitching up at my door in London," he says."They all wanted a job and somewhere to live." The brewers Scottish and Newcastle have agreed to advertise bar jobs in London on the site and Loot will supply accommodation listings.

Larcey approached Clive James after reading his book "Falling Towards England" which relates his arrival in a cold and rather dismal London after a six week voyage aboard a battered former cruise ship. Mr James has agreed to give his backing in return for what he described as "a small piece of the action".

Risks to dot.coms

With Clickmango, the online health retailer promoted by Joanna Lumley, now facing closure, celebrity endorsement is no guarantee of success.

But Clive James say he hopes that his business experience in the fiercely competitive world of independent television will be an asset. "I'll be warning them that small things like the stationery bill can kill you."

In the long run he hopes to start using the internet as a medium for getting his writing and broadcasting to a new audience. But he won't be able to use clivejames.com as a domain name.

"That's already been snapped up by another Clive James - he's a jetski instructor in Miami", he confides ruefully.

Welcome Stranger is now looking to raise half a million pounds in venture capital. It will use half the money to spread its name in the UK and back in Australia. But its founders are obviously hoping that the publicity generated by its famous backer will be its most valuable asset.

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