Entrepreneurs are helping firms of tomorrow

TEN years ago, at the time of the euphoric dot com boom and bust, we were a “Digital Island” of sorts. The dealmakers were a relatively tiny segment of society: those who saw that the internet was here to stay.

Huge management experience was compressed into a short period of time. People in their early 30’s came out of dot coms having grown up faster as business people.

Becoming a well-rounded manager early in your career is a huge gift, and learning fast through turbulent times separates the tourists from the farmers.

Don’t ask the gods for an uneventful time in life; ask them for one where you can pass milestones more quickly than your peers.

Today we are fast on our way to becoming an entrepreneur country; most of the entrepreneurs we engage at Ariadne have had two or three businesses under their belt by the time we see them. We rarely have to take a risk with a first time entrepreneur.

At Ariadne, I’ve always adopted a strategy that sees entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs. That’s why we attract shareholders like city financier Bob Morton; Ian Powell and Francis Goodwin, former directors of Maiden; Mark Blandford, founder of Sportingbet; Michael Jackson, ex-chairman of Sage; and Paul Barry-Walsh, ex-Netstore and SafetyNet.

It’s important that successful business people send the lift down to the next generation who are searching for the way up. They were helped so they want to help.

Now, some of my shareholders would say I’m ruining their reputations as tough guys. But I’ve seen their generosity repeatedly as they invest their time, contacts and capital in the businesses they invest in. They also tend to give to charity and be charitable in private ways that never make the papers.

There are some greedy folks walking the earth. Carlos Slim, Forbes’ wealthiest man, may not top the list of generous folk, but on the other hand, do we really know how he uses his wealth?
We may want to make distinctions around productive and unproductive entrepreneurs, but we don’t necessarily have accurate information to do so. Generosity is mostly done in private, in my experience. Meanwhile, the silent hand of “entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs” keeps creating a ripple effect.

The next time you hear someone sneeze at the achievements of dot com entrepreneurs, don’t let them get away with it.

There’s nothing wrong with playing an aggressive game of “Snakes and Ladders” faster than your parents ever did. All of society benefits from rounding out business people faster so that they can create their virtuous circle of wealth.

Julie Meyer is chief executive of Ariadne Capital and a dragon on the BBC’s Online Dragons’ Den.