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Texans sink $6m in Blackstar

Online DVD-video retailer gets cash boost

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Blackstar, an online video and DVD retailer, has not only made some money this year, but has managed to secure financial backing from US venture capitalist group, Atlas Venture. The Texan investors are parting with $6 million for a 33 per cent stake in the business. One of Blackstar's founders, Jeremy Glover, said that about half the money would be spent on marketing and promoting the company, and the other would be spent on expansion. "By the end of the day we will have twice as many employees. We're also opening a London branch, and should be employing 75 people in Belfast and London in about six months time." The video and DVD market is worth about £1 billion in the UK at the moment, and is expected to reach £18 billion in Europe by 2004. Blackstar has customers in 95 countries, but Western Europe still accounts for 70 per cent of its business. The three founders, Jeremy Glover, Darryl Collins and Tony Bowden, attribute the company's early success - revenue growth of about 30 per cent a month - to a focus on customer care, and providing a slightly different service to other online stores. "When we started, there was still a lot of worry about security of online shopping, so we had to bend over backwards to get customers to trust us. Personalising the service is important, but at the end of the day it is your relationship with your customers that keeps you in business." "The high street can't really afford to ignore us," says Glover. "There are some already online, like HMV and WHSmiths, but I think they are finding it hard to adapt to an online environment. They are still only stocking 2,000 to 3,000 titles, while we stock around 50,000 - the whole catalogue of titles available in the UK." The site is here and is nice and easy to navigate. Can we have our chocolates now guys? ®

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