Our History

busybird  logo

Since Nick started his first business in 1992 the world, and his business models, have undergone an amazing transformation. Evolving from a small computer shop based in the front room of a converted terraced house, to building the first multi-vendor electronic commerce system in the UK, to consultancy with some of the biggest names in the FTSE 100, to emigration and founding an ISP in Spain, to becoming a leading developer of .NET solutions and web sites to small businesses in the North East of England, it has been an incredible journey. In 2012 we began our programme of national expansion and in 2013 we are building more partnerships and extending our services to new platforms; the adventure has just begun...

We have an incredible future ahead of us and we would like to share the steps that got us here.

The World Wide Web allows any business to reach customers around the world. We believe that establishing a presence online should be easy and have a low cost of entry for our clients.

Our technology powered the first multi-vendor electronic commerce system launched in the UK (back in 1997) and we have continued to provide low cost services to a mass market whilst maintaining our personal touch ever since. Whether you need a web site, a blog, an online shop, search engine optimisation, a more supportive hosting provider or business email we can help.

Bulletin Boards and Dial Up

1989 - Nick begins playing with bulletin board systems (BBS). These were (by today's standards) very primitive dial in forums and file downloading services for Shareware and Freeware. Nick immersed himself in the world of FIDONet and Zmodem protocols and also discovered something called the Internet but, like many SysOps (System Operators) saw it as a backbone to link BBS systems together. He founded "The Nest BBS" which attracted a small but dedicated band of users who could only dial in one at a time as he only had one phone line and a slow analogue modem. Even at this early stage he knows that the future will be digital...

Demon Internet Arrives

1992- In June 1992, Demon Internet explodes onto the scene by offering UK customers a dial up connection to the Internet for a tenner a month. Nick is one of the first to sign up and the world of Gopher, Veronica, SLIP and PPP connectivity opens up. At this stage he uses USENET more than anything else to educate himself about technology but doesn't realise at this stage how important it will become to him and the rest of the world. Potential and ideas bubble around in his brain but the technology just isn't ready for some of the bigger ideas just yet.

Excalibur and P & L

1994 - Nick meets Ian and Sue and a partnership between them is started that lasted until 2012 when Ian sadly passed away. They develop a graphical BBS using a platform called Excalibur with eight high speed modems (28.8k!) and deliver adult <ahem> content on a subscription basis. The World Wide Web is just about to explode but we didn't know it and we, like everyone else (including Bill Gates!), was caught by surprise. We bought a high powered server, installed Windows NT 4 and shipped it off to a hosting provider in Gran Canaria in order to ensure that we served our content from somewhere it was legal to do so and Nick used the version of FrontPage supplied with Windows NT Server to build his first web page. Ironically, the content we were serving would be considered "soft" by the standards of today (more The Sun than Hustler!) - we can now host any content on our UK based network.

Computer Networks Online

1995 - Nick enters into a partnership with a local businessman and Online Computers is incorporated as Computer Networks Online in April 1995. The business opens new premises in the town centre (290 Nottingham Road, Mansfield) and hires five young employees - our mission is to have fun and make a lot of money. It is chaotic but fun and we start taking great delight in embarrasing PC World who have a store almost exactly opposite our front door. We start building computers and selling Intel 486SX based machines for just £599 including a copy of the amazing Windows 95 and keep both of our stores open until midnight on launch day in order to be the first in Nottinghamshire to sell a copy; we still don't know if we were first!

The End of Online

1996 - Nick sees the future and attempts to steer Computer Networks Online in the direction of web site development and provision of Internet Services. The Board disagree and they part company after one of the Directors changes the locks on the shops and attempts to remove Nick from the Board. Nick established that one of the Directors was redirecting the stock in trade into the service of his own business, paying staff members cash in hand to do jobs "off the books", and carrying out business in a way Nick decided was unethical and not in line with his values. The battle between the Directors is very bitter but, to Nick's eternal and lasting satisfaction, within a month the stores are closed, the staff have moved on, and Nick is working on his next project. Nick decides that he will never again lose control of a Board of Directors without receiving adequate compensation.

The Advanced Commerce Engine

1996 - The Adult Services Industry becomes the new Wild West as thousands of companies scramble to make money on the fledgling World Wide Web. P & L Investments launches a wide range of adult portals with very targetted niche content using our servers hosted in Gran Canaria. Competition, hazy legislation, the demands of constantly producing fresh content in a market becoming ever more crowded with competitors offering ever more extreme content led us to reasses the business in line with the Core Values. We got out and looked for the next big thing.

We decided that electronic commerce would be a huge growth area and used the first version of Microsoft ASP to build a multi-vendor electronic commerce solution for small businesses. Nick visits Lanzarote for the first time, flies to Gran Canaria and brings the web server back to the UK in a suitcase. We put a leased line into our office and begin offering a web site with 5 pages and an online shop for £199 + £40 a month, the system went live in a year and we had a team of telephone canvassers working in a front bedroom. We franchised areas of the country and successfully sold the service through our franchisees to thousands of businesses around the UK before the business was sold off in 1999. By the end of the decade we were employing hundreds of staff around the country and leasing thousands of feet of office space in a commercial park.

Whitestar Is Born

2000 - Nick takes almost a year off and incorporates Whitestar in October 2000. The business offers consultancy services and web development to small businesses but rapidly scales up in operation to provide services to companies including Consignia (Royal Mail Group) and Severn Trent Water.

Whitestar enters into a partnership with UK Matrix to develop the most interactive jobs site available and counts itself in a very small group including Monster and Total Jobs as one of the first to pioneer online recruitment targetting I.T Professionals. UK Matrix expands into electronic commerce (through Capture View) and a new version of The Advanced Commerce Engine is developed to market digital cameras, telescopes and inflatable speakers!

Nick becomes a Microsoft Partner and also sets up Incubate-Online with his UK Matrix partners to develop online businesses by taking a stake - dragons without a den! Sports Web Technologies was another partnership venture setup in 2000 designed to promote local sport organisations using the World Wide Web. At the end of 2002, Nick is a founding Director of 6 companies, and (it must be said) enjoying the rewards in terms of fast cars and money, but becoming increasingly stressed and worried about maintaining the high performance he is associated with.

Emigration and NISCO

2003 - After the amazing results acheived between 2000 and 2003 with not only Internet companies but also jewellery distribution and marketing, Nick and his family decided to emigrate to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands with Ian and Sue (his previous business partners) and take life a bit easier. Nick makes the decision to wind up all of his companies but makes one very important decision - he will buy the network infrastructure from Whitestar. Although "taking it easier" was the reason for moving to the land of sun and sea it didn't take long for Nick and Ian to establish the only English speaking Internet Services Provider (NISCO HOLDINGS S.L - named for Nick Ian and Sue Company Holdings) in the Canary Islands and they go on to open a computer shop in Costa Teguise selling computers under the brand UK Computer Services (which is still one of the domain names we own).

Still driven by the need to succeed, in 2004, Nick's marriage ended in seperation (mostly due to the pressure of constant work) and he remained on the island building the business and (by his own admission) being too miserable by far. Carving a niche by offering low cost services to local businesses in the tourism related industries and to estate agents who quickly realised that our .NET platforms offered far more functionality than competing off the shelf systems, NISCO continued to grow rapidly and we switched our focus from static HTML sites and ASP to the new Microsoft .NET platform. Ten years later we still have a presence on the island and continue to attract new clients.

Moving Back

2005 - He continued to build NISCO into one of the most respected and trusted companies on the island. He decided to move back to the UK in late 2007 due to his partner falling pregnant and the continuing worsening economic conditions on the island. Between 2003 and 2005, Nick becomes a Microsoft Hosting Partner and Microsoft Small Business Specialist.

Busybird Group

2007 - The Busy Bird Group is launched and includes Busybird Products, Busybird Computers, Busybird Distribution, Busybird Internet. Nick takes over the server network and continues to provide hosting services to NISCOWEB in Lanzarote whilst Ian and Sue continue to provide local sales and marketing activities and face to face support. Due to ill health, UK Computer Services in Lanzarote is closed and NISCOWEB is now operated from a home office - a common way of working in Spain. The Busy Bird Group makes an impact in South Shields and the North East of England by offering low cost portal services and supporting them with excellent customer service.

A New Company...

2009 - All of our business activities received new branding. Our brands were consolidated and we pulled together our Lanzarote services into a new brand called the Lanzarote Business Network. We deliberately set out to make the new Company a different kind of business with a fresh and forward thinking approach aimed at getting to grips with client needs and working out good solutions to meet their needs. We decided early on that personal relationships matter very much so as to maintain a balanced quality of life for our clients, our staff, and indeed ourselves, to look after the business and not miss a moment of a child’s development. Our business will deliver the work/life balance that should be possible in the 21st century.

Busybird

2012 - In 2011 we decided that we could no longer be just a "programmer run Company" and we have created a much larger business with a wider skill set, providing a focussed range of services through our sales people. The core team has recruited marketing and financial expertise to guide the business through a period of planned rapid growth. A new platform (“Foundation”) has been built to deliver the most cutting edge of web-based sites for even the smallest businesses through to large ones operating in many languages and cultures.

In February Ian dies bringing to an end a partnership and friendship spanning almost 20 years. We welcome new investors and a couple of new Directors to our Board. With additional outside investment to strengthen our balance sheet and a range of new products and services planned the adventure continues...

To keep up with the latest news please visit our blog at www.busybirdblog.co.uk and for recent completed projects visit www.busybirdportfolio.co.uk.