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Funds to fuel search engine.

A Birmingham search engine firm which is second only to Google in the number of webpages it has indexed has secured substantial funding from a Dutch internet entrepreneur.

Majestic-12 said it had attracted an undisclosed sum from investor Rene van Mullem, the founder of leading Dutch classified website which was bought by eBay for pounds 200 million.

Aston Science Park-headquartered Majestic-12 is a technology company based on a unique concept which has produced an independent map of the way pages link to each other on the web.

Its search engine project was founded five years ago with the aim of creating a community-driven site based on a distributed computing model.

Instead of one centralised computing centre trawling the net, internet users around the world can devote their machines to the project when they are not using them.

Majestic-12 has used distributed crawlers run by a team of volunteers on hundreds of PCs to produce this database of links, known as a web graph. This web graph has a number of commercial applications, notably in part understanding how modern day search algorithms interpret and prioritise web pages.

Majestic-SEO has earmarked the investment to further develop its infrastructure in 2010.

This investment will see Majestic significantly step up its crawl and indexing rates and bring down its datacrawl update time.

Mr Chudnovsky said: "Even though we have already been reindexing monthly for the several months, we can improve this further.

"In addition, this funding will allow Majestic to accelerate its timeline, bringing more exciting products to market throughout 2010 and beyond."

Corporate insolvencies fall The number of corporate insolvencies in the West Midlands continued to fall during the fourth quarter of 2009, but restructuring experts are warning that the economic recovery could bring more business failures.

According to analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers, across the UK 4,380 companies became insolvent in the three months to the end of December 2009 - a fall of 4.8 per cent compared with the previous quarter.

In the West Midlands, the number of corporate insolvencies fell to 505 in the fourth quarter of the year, compared with 569 in the previous quarter - an 11.2 per cent reduction.

Rob Hunt, partner in the business recovery services practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Midlands, said: "There is no question that businesses in the Midlands have been hit hard by the recession and it is good to see the number of insolvencies in the region starting to tail off.

"These figures may appear to support the view that the bottom has been reached and this may be the case for the economy, but traditionally we see more businesses failing coming out of the recession than on entering.

"Cash management should and will remain top of most business agendas."

In 2009, the number of corporate insolvencies in the West Midlands was 2,298, compared with 1,734 in 2008 - an increase of 32.6 per cent.

Mr Hunt added: "The year-on-year comparison shows just how deeply the region has been affected by the recession over the past year and businesses in the region should continue to expect challenging trading conditions in 2010."

Forensic service launched Begbies Traynor Group has launched a specialist forensic service in the Midlands headed by Martin Long, a former RSM Robson Rhodes and Grant Thornton partner in Birmingham. Begbies Traynor regional managing partner John Kelly said it was a logical step for the firm to take.

He said: "We frequently find ourselves asked to provide expert witness and litigation specialist support to our clients and intermediary contacts.

"Coupled with the growth in regulatory compliance, the increase in fraud activity and the fact that forensic accounting skills are very much integral to our recovery teams, it was inevitable that we would bring forensic accounting within our service offering in the Midlands.

"We are delighted to have Martin on board as a partner launching this vital new service for us.

"I am sure he will be a great asset to the team and his arrival makes available further expertise to our client base."

BTG Forensic also has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester and Plymouth.

Apart from a three-year spell in Italy, Mr Long, a Birmingham University graduate, has spent all his 25-year career working in the accounting profession in the city.

For a number of years Mr Long has participated in the training of individuals from developing countries, particularly India and Africa, in fraud prevention and investigation.

Participants on these courses typically include corporate accountants, bank officials, lawyers and judges, civil servants and even government ministers.

He said: "Invariably, only a handful of the course attendees will have heard of the term 'forensic accountant'; this was the situation in the UK 20 years ago.

"I usually have one day to provide them with an understanding of how the forensic accountant can help them in their respective corporate or public administration roles."

New firm for mortgage advisor A local mortgage and protection advisor has launched a new firm - Lavender Financial Management.

Sue Read, who has lived and worked in Henley-in-Arden and the south Solihull area for more than 20 years, started the new firm offering advice on residential and commercial mortgages as well as life and business protection.

Ms Read said: "It's taken me a long time to take the plunge but I'm now incredibly excited by the prospect of running my own practice.

"Everything I've learned in over 25 years in financial services will enable me to bring the best of the best to this new venture".

Ms Read said she was is keen to establish Lavender Financial Management as the regional specialist in the area of equity release mortgages.

"What makes Lavender Financial Management special is that we have the highest possible service and technical standards, enjoy an excellent reputation with lenders but still maintain a very personal, approach," she said.

Finance firm sees growth in city Asset-based lender Venture Finance reported growth above the national average among its customers in the Birmingham area last year.

The firm showed a 27 per cent increase in new clients being supported from the final quarter of 2008 to the same quarter in 2009 in the region, compared with Venture's national figure of 15 per cent.

Venture said on a national scale the number of new clients taking out bad debt protection to shield against unforeseen unpaid invoices rose from 33 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 56 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Debbie Bell, regional director, Venture Finance said: "Whilst there have been some rays of hope in the form of Government stimulus packages and the local manufacturing sector celebrating its best commercial month for the past two years, subdued lending is set to continue and credit opportunities remain scarce.

"Services like Invoice and Asset Based Lending are the funding options of choice. They will be fundamental in helping Birmingham businesses meet the recovery with strength."


John Kelly Steve Pitchford, development manager and Alex Chudnovsky, managing director and founder of Majestic-12 in Birmingham
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 4, 2010
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