Public School Joker to Glasses Tycoon, is Prince William's Pal the New Branson?

07/21/07
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By Ewan Fletcher - Daily Mail

Three years ago, Jamie Murray Wells was a student who spent more time mucking about with his mates than getting his head into his books.

But the 24-year-old Old Harrovian and friend of Prince William has now agreed a £3million funding deal with a group of venture capitalists for his dotcom business, Glasses Direct.

 

He plans to raise his profile around the world and break into the lucrative American market. The company Jamie started with his student loan has already enraged his competitors - he sells spectacles over the internet at a tenth of High Street prices.

Now it will go head-to-head with giants such as Specsavers and Vision Express for dominance of Britain's multi-billion-pound market.

Mr Murray Wells, a member of Mahiki, the young Royals' favourite watering hole, says: 'We currently sell 300 to 400 pairs a day. This injection of cash means we could be selling thousands.'

 

The entrepreneur is already being compared to a young Richard Branson. Not only is he ambitious, confident and determined but he also shares the Virgin boss's rebellious streak. He recently bombarded Newcastle city centre with men in sheep costumes to suggest the High Street was 'fleecing' consumers.

 

He admits part of his business motivation stems directly from the fun he had playing pranks at school and university. 'I love the fact that this business is causing trouble,' he says. 'At school I used to behave terribly. Even at university I'd do things like make the campus Christmas tree disappear, watch the uproar and then mysteriously return it.'

 

Mr Murray Wells comes from an entrepreneurial family. His father, Simon, is an investment analyst and mother, Alison, buys up cottages for holiday rentals and imports goods from Morocco. His maternal grandfather, Wendall Clough, helped bring Ford and Chrysler to Britain.

 

Glasses Direct was born while Jamie was studying for his final exams at the University of the West of England in Bristol. He set up the website after he discovered the huge cost of spectacles on the High Street, although they cost as little as £7 to make.

 

He says: 'I would walk out of the examination room and go straight to the library to use the computers for my business.'

 

Jamie employs 30 staff in Wiltshire and is recruiting for a new London office. Turnover is predicted to rise to £10million by 2008.

 

Despite his love of pranks, Mr Murray Wells insists he is serious about creating a great company.

 

'What gives me kicks is bringing something new into the world. I'm not into starting up just another optician. I want a market-changing business.'

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