Internet service provider
As the story goes, Zen Internet began in a pub when company founder Richard Tang met his brother for a pint. The two got talking about technology and Richard asked the question that was doing the rounds in the world's boardrooms back in 1995: "This internet thing, do you think it'll take off?" His brother replied: "I suppose it's worth a look." And the company was born. Tang established his company in a spare bedroom and 13 years later, and with four PC Pro Best Broadband ISP awards on its mantelpiece, things are looking rosy.
"The company really kickstarted in 2000 when Freeserve made internet access free," said Simon Evans, Zen's financial controller. "That changed the residential market significantly, but it really opened our eyes to the business market, which wanted high-quality business services. Businesses are prepared to pay a little bit more for that insurance policy."
What's more, Zen remains fiercely independent. While several of the UK's larger independent ISPs have been snapped up by the likes of BT, Sky and Tiscali, Zen has rebuffed any talk of takeovers. Tang even delivered a polite snub to BT at an event hosted at Telecom Tower last year. And having just moved in to a sparkling new HQ in its Rochdale hometown, Zen looks set to continue sailing solo.