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16 March, 2006 - 17:00 By Staff Reporter

Playford and Dawe boxing clever with new alliance

Serial entrepreneurs Nigel Playford and Peter Dawe have joined forces to launch a new technology venture, Business Weekly can exclusively reveal.Serial entrepreneurs Nigel Playford and Peter Dawe have joined forces to launch a new technology venture, Business Weekly can exclusively reveal.

Playford is former CEO and founder of wireless telecom firm, Ionica – Cambridge’s first, but ultimately unsustainable, billion dollar company – while Dawe is commonly credited as one of the founding fathers of the internet.

The company is currently in stealth mode, but Dawe told Business Weekly: "What I can confirm is that as a member of the ‘Cambridge Mafia’ described it, ‘two of the most dangerous people in Cambridge’ have got together.

"I cannot give away too much at the moment, but I hope our technology can become as transformational as the internet was 20 years ago."

The specifics of the technology remain tightly under wraps at this stage, and Dawe would not elaborate beyond saying that the company’s objective was "to connect the TV to the internet."

We understand that the technology involves variously: Using household electricity infrastructure to deliver broadband, potentially internet-enabling and networking a raft of domestic appliances; and the creation of a "a new breed of set-top boxes."

Dawe said that development of the technology was "progressing well," with the first service due for launch in about eight weeks, with "major announcements" expected in about 12 weeks.

The venture is "currently investigating outside-financing," and it is understood that the venture has already pitched to a number of private equity and venture investors locally.

Playford is recognised as a brilliant fundraiser - a key factor behind Ionica’s rapid ascent. He raised £500 million in nine funding rounds over six years for Ionica, in parallel with running the business. The finance included private equity, venture finance, high yield bonds and flotation on the London and New York Stock Exchanges.

It was granted a licence to bust BT's monopoly, but like predecessor, MK-based Mercury, failed to capitalise on the opportunity. Ionica went bust in 1998 after early success as a listed-company. Positive investor sentiment at one stage valued the company at in excess of $1bn.

Playford himself puts Ionica’s demise down to a combination of a premature float and the failure of technology partner, Nortel "to supply, on time, both the essential software capacity upgrades for base-stations and the planned equipment cost reductions."

Despite Ionica’s fall from grace, the company’s core technology has subsequently been rolled-out commercially around the world.

Dawe was the mastermind behind the UK's first commercial ISP, in the form of Unipalm Pipex, a business he is understood to have sold for a sum totalling tens of millions of pounds. He has also been instrumental in the founding of various internet related bodies. Unipalm and Pipex, in different forms, remain significant players in their respective markets.

Dawe has campaigned actively for Cambridge to secure a place on the world technology stage and also on issues relating to the improvement of its physical infrastructure.

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