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Great ideas win prizes

Using the Net to link schools with the suppliers of goods and services hit the headlines recently when Colin Robinson became the joint winner of Channel 4's E-Millionaire Show.

His idea of a site where lower prices for everything from photocopiers to minibuses can be negotiated by schools buying with others won him pound;1 million venture capital funding.

Days afterwards, he attracted more publicity by selling his concept to, a UK-based online educational community, for shares in parent company BiblioTech that could be worth as much as pound;5 million.

Mr Robinson, 37, has joined Schoolmaster to run his e-commerce idea. Nabil Shabka, CEO of BiblioTech, said the company had been working on similar ideas, so joining forces made much sense.

Schoolmaster will vet and approve suppliers and work closely with the British Educational Suppliers Byts for 4-5not trying to reinvent the wheel."

The company, which will earn a commission on every transaction made through the site, is expected to launch the purchasing service early next year.

Schoolmaster, which won a BETT award in January for best secondary school application, is used by 20 per cent of high schools. Despite marketing itself in only six countries, schools in 50 countries have signed up. The secure service offers email, web space, chatrooms and interactive learning.

However, there are at least two other competing ventures in Britain. One is, run by former teacher Neil Coram, while the (Schools and Colleges Educational Maintenance and Equipment Supplies) claims to have been first off the block, setting up early last year.

Chris Johnston

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