Founder and CEO, Ariadne Capital Ltd
Julie Meyer is one of the leading supporters of entrepreneurship in Europe and is widely credited with inspiring the internet generation in Europe.
Born in the US, Julie was an English Literature major and began her career in high-tech marketing and spent the early days of her career working in both Boston and Paris.
It was during this time that Julie was introduced to one of her uncle’s parishioners while he was doing his PhD at Stanford, Pekka Hietala, a Professor of Finance at INSEAD. “Pekka invited me to an INSEAD Open Day, and I came down and met some of the students. I thought - 'if these are business school students, count me in' - they seemed much more interesting people than I had thought they would be."
Having met Pekka, and the fact that she had studied French as well at Valparaiso University near Chicago in the US, and had some early professional experience in Paris, Julie decided that it if she was going to business school, then it was INSEAD or nothing.
Julie studied hard for her GMAT and was accepted into INSEAD for the 1997 promotion. “I called my mom and told her that I had been accepted into INSEAD and she replied, ‘Is that good?’ It's like getting into Harvard, only better, I told her.”
INSEAD was a big awakening for Julie and it was here that she started to understand where her strengths lay, what she was good at and what she was less good at.
With the professional experience she already had, Julie was different from most of her peer group at INSEAD. “I had much more people management and marketing and sales experience than most of my classmates and knew how to create order out of chaos, as well as having set up my own business at a very young age.”
Julie was confronted by the cross-cultural differences early on at INSEAD. Whereas she had worked to build the profile that INSEAD would want, and had taken the application process seriously, she encountered Brits who would claim to have spent no time whatsoever preparing, studying or working on their application. She only realised later that actually they had, but it is "not British" to show a gung ho attitude; "effortless success" is what British people portray.
Julie left INSEAD and went straight to London. “London was and still is, in my opinion, the centre of the world, and it was where all of the Euro Internet businesses were establishing themselves, a sector where I saw my future.”
Julie wanted to be the "feet on the street" of a Silicon Valley VC firm in London, but they weren't buying it. So she turned to the London-based VC community, and received several job offers. She went on a networking extravaganza meeting some of the leading London entrepreneurs by chance through her networking, and this became the seed from which First Tuesday grew and grew and grew.
She decided to take the job at New Media Investors (latterly early stage investment firm SPARK Ventures), and from that vantage point, Julie worked on three of the most important deals of the 1999 year - lastminute.com now Travelocity, WGSN now EMAP and Argonaut/ArcCores. All her deals made money for the first round investors.
Not long after this, Julie took her first steps into the entrepreneurial arena founding First Tuesday, which expanded to 500,000 entrepreneurs meeting on the first Tuesday of the month throughout late 1999 and early 2000. It was sold in 2000 and Julie went on to found Ariadne Capital, an investment firm that has pioneered a new model for the financing of entrepreneurship - "entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs". Julie is also the founder of Entrepreneur Country - www.entrepreneurcountry.net - a dedicated community for leading and emerging entrepreneurs, investors, the media and corporate partners who service the start-up industry across the UK and Europe. She also appears on the BBC's Online Dragon’s Den and is a weekly columnist in London's City A.M.
“I channel all of my energy into my businesses and I am passionate about helping all of society to understand the central role in society of entrepreneurs in Europe. I suppose that I am a bit of an evangelist on this subject as I believe that entrepreneurs should be seen as the engineers for economic growth.” Intertwining roles of entrepreneur, advisor, investor and industry commentator, Julie has set herself the mission to build a growth story for the UK and Europe.
“I look back on my decision to go to INSEAD back in 1988, and see how it started this long journey of being comfortable in the white spaces, building order into chaos, working with imperfect information and building relationships wherever I go. I was brought up to not be a quitter. I have always been a real fighter and have always lived by the mantra, ‘Never give up; never accept no and never go away.”
Julie’s passion and entrepreneurial flair has earned her awards as Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Leader of Tomorrow and a place in the Wall Street Journal's Top 30 Most Influential Women in Europe.
As a personal project, Julie is also currently setting up an association for teenage girls to help them discover how they can make a unique contribution to the world and create a virtuous circle of investment in women.