'Cupid' could be 'worth a billion'


Love is in the air -- the latest Cambridge company predicted to be worth 1 billion, is a dating service.

But founder and computer boffin, Dr John Bates is more inclined to call his new software a 'killer' application than 'cupid'.

Word is that Apama will be bigger than Autonomy.

Dr Bates' company, which has just moved into Rustat House off Clifton Road, is all about data, handling unbelievably huge amounts of it in 'real time', solving the electronic bottlenecks that are already beginning to beset us.

But just to make it a bit more accessible to the man with a mobile in his pocket, Apama has turned its algorithmic breakthrough into a dating service.

Just tell your phone all about yourself and then all about the kind of person you would like to meet, and next time you are in Tesco it will spot your ideal date ambling down the biscuits aisle.

Feeling unloved? Pick up your phone.

It's a stab at humanising what should be a real boon to all of us, narrowing choices to what we really need and want at any given moment.

Dr Bates says it is going to be a 'killer' application, but more to the point, so do all the big mobile telephone companies, who, apparently are 'gagging' for it.

More technically speaking, Apama has developed software that can power a new generation of event-intensive real time applications and networked services, not technically possible until now, including 'the dating service which will give new meaning to the phrase 'cell mates''.

That's the marketing bit, and Apama is now going full throttle to let the world know what it is up to.

Dr Bates, who got his PhD at Cambridge when he was 23, was working in the university's computer lab with Prof Andy Hopper when he decided to start his own company.

He says it's boring to describe it as 'middleware', but that's what Apama does, the bit in the middle most of us will never understand, but which makes a whole new way of life possible.

Those who have grasped the concept include Hermann Hauser, Prof Hopper, Carl Dellar of Broadvision, and Philip Anschutz, the 'most liquid man in the world' and sixth richest in America, all of whom have put money into Apama, which has raised close on 10 million since last year.

The company already has 40 staff and is working on the ARM model, whereby it will licence its technology to other companies.

Apama's technology will really come into its own with the next generation of mobile phones which will be always on, and in the process prey to those huge amounts of data floating about in the ether.

Apama will be able to sort out the wheat from the chaff and without needing any kind of storage. Everything, Dr Bates says, will be in real time.

'We're addressing a bigger problem than Autonomy,' he says. 'Things are already seizing up through overload.'

Apama will be looking for further funds shortly and is likely to float at the end of this year, creating another raft of millionaires in town -- all the staff have share options.

The big mobile phone companies have already tried to buy Apama, but Dr Bates has that 'hold on a bit' glint in his eye. He says he doesn't care what his software is used for 'I just know we've got this really cool engine.

'We've got this big marketing programme now and are going to put the fear of God into anyone who thinks they are near our space.'