TORCHES flare on a disco ball, sending prisms across the London street, writes Amanda Castleman. Inside the club, the crowd surges around the bar, which supports a bank of computers.

This is New Media: young, insistent and flash. Unsurprisingly, the champagne flutes are lifted to teenagers. The boys in the techno bubble are Nick Rose and Jordan Mayo, both 19 and students at Oxford University. Their study guide website,, launched this week, amid speculations of an e-commerce slump.

Their elder counterpart, 27-year-old Oxford alumna Martha Lane Fox watched her paper fortune halve in the past fortnight. Share prices in her travel website,, fell faster than a nose-diving 747. But Nick and Jordan are not perturbed. They are giddy with the City and unstoppable, full of confidence.

"This is what I always wanted to do," Nick confesses. "I have no memory of wanting to be anything other than an entrepreneur, well, that and chairman of Man City." He has dressed the part of young tycoon a la Quentin Tarantino: three-piece suit (black on black), moss-green tie, sideburns and incessant smile. As the mini-hamburgers and chips circulate the room, he explains the heady rush of e-pioneering.

"It's a world where two 19-year-olds can live on par with businessmen in the City. No-one is patronising and the highs, the lows, winning, losing, start-up contracts..." he trails off, eyes agleam. "I've always wanted to do this." Nick and Jordan work 20-hour days and draw no salaries. Forget the usual delights of Oxford undergraduates: lazy afternoons punting on the Cherwell, pub crawls and girlfriends are not a priority. "There's always those four extra hours in the day," he suggests. "We've had to sacrifice, but it's more than worth it. That's just something Jordan and I - and those who help us - accept."

They soldier on, hoping to avoid the "all work and no play" principle of dullness. Yet even their rare leisure hours are profitably employed: "At the moment we're just taking in London, being wined and dined by various people." These champagne days of wheeling and dealing may soon come to an end. already has ten investors and is planning a spring flotation on the stock market. The would-be tycoons plan to return to neglected textbooks.

Jordan explains, speaking shyly underneath a Hugh Grant fringe: "In four or five months time, we won't manage this company. We're head-hunting a good management team to move the company forward. We'll always be involved though." Indeed, the boy wonders have good reason - they will control the majority of stock. But the time will come to vacate the borrowed penthouse office near the Bank of London, to release the reins, to let stand alone.

They've walked away before, selling their first business venture to Oxford University Press. As schoolboys, the intrepid Mayo and Rose began publishing GCSE guides. Now takes the concept further, making revision interactive via the Internet. Nick stresses that the service is wholly on-line and free, unlike big-brand competitors such as Granada (owner of Letts), AngliaCampus, GCSE Answers, The Learning Shop - even the BBC's BiteSize and new revision clubs. Jordan explains: "We're personalising what people are reading. The content can be refreshed and dynamic tests can direct a student towards their weakness. There's even a virtual highlighter to mark off important bits."

Even Tony Blair applauds such a venture and the pair admit to using the PM's letter of endorsement on every occasion possible. Cynical? Somewhat, but this is the big-business frontier of education.'s money man, Mike Freeman, is pragmatic about this strange blend of scholars and stockbrokers. Once a post-graduate at Oxford's Teddy Hall, he is now an Executive Vice President of Kepner Tregoe Inc, a world-wide training and consulting firm. "Nations used to compete by producing low-cost goods, exploiting national resources, exporting. Now they compete on knowledge. The greatest repositories of knowledge are in Universities, in education, schools."

He makes academia and finance sound like inevitable bedfellows, but never forget - this is a marriage of convenience. Mike's frank assessment of is proof positive: "This is not only a very good idea in education, but it needs to make money. We're not a charity."

Nick and Jordan agree, naturally, with the demands of pounds and pence. And the students are not adverse to capitalising on personal charisma, much like the overly-photographed blue-eyed girl, Martha Lane Fox.

"We're a novelty. Everyone wants to hear about schoolboy entrepreneurs," Nick says. "We're very fortunate to have this little PR spin. At the end of the day we will succeed or fail depending on if people hear about us. Anyway, it's only sensible to promote the 19-year-old angle, as we're that much closer to the students."

Yet the tycoon ambitions will persist, they say, even when the hype withers, the champagne is drained dry and the drab 20s approach. "I couldn't ever really give it up. As we sat down to write our speech, we stared at a blank page labelled 'the Future'.

There was no way to predict what the next few years will hold. Maybe we'll still be at Uni or maybe we'll be on a beautiful island off Africa. But we'll always be in business. It's in our blood."