Ben Heald and Andrew Gray had such confidence in Sift, which they founded in 1996, that they say they turned down an offer in March 2000 from Freeserve worth £85m in shares. Sift builds and hosts online communities for customers like BT, the NHS and the European Commission. The Bristol company also runs AccountingWeb, an accounting forum that generates more than £1m of revenue. Sift has raised £7.5m from the venture-capital firms Elderstreet and Quester. The company’s sales grew 76% a year from £911,000 in 2000 to £2.8m in 2002, when it employed 78 people.
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