35: King.com (originally Midasplayer.com)

Founded in August 2003 by Riccardo Zacconi and Toby Rowland, the two entrepreneurs self-financed the online gaming site’s first year as they couldn’t find a venture capital backer. Today, King.com is the largest skills gaming site in the world, hosting more than 80 million games every month.

So what was behind the phenomenal growth? King.com carved out a niche for itself by only providing skill-based games. This is a crucial differentiator – as they are not games of chance, they are not subject to gambling and gaming regulations. As a result, King.com does not require a licence in most European and US territories. The site is now available in nine languages, seven currencies and more than 50 countries. Players can win cash prizes by participating in game tournaments where they are matched with other players of the same ability – £1.5m worth of prizes was won in January 2005.

Headquartered in London, with its development team based in Stockholm, King.com makes its money by charging a small administration fee for hosting the game. In September 2005, the company received a £25.2m investment from Apax Partners in return for a minority stake. The company has seen 100 per cent growth over the past four years and now turns over £12.9m. Zacconi said he does not foresee any need for further external capital: “We can now de-focus from financing and totally focus on the business.” www.king.com

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