Fortunes can be made in times of austerity

PEOPLE who come from poorer backgrounds with little money have a huge advantage in creating something of value: the only way is up. That was the assessment of John O’Connell, the founder of Britain’s Staffware and one of Ariadne Capital's founding shareholders, when he spoke at a Fredericks Foundation conference recently.

He said, half jokingly, that he pitied people who came from better-off backgrounds.

Coming from nowhere
I’m constantly amazed and impressed with people who “come from nowhere” and amass large fortunes. They have no financial security, and this drives them to succeed. Contrast that with all this whining about how the belt-tightening exercise in the UK is going to destroy the country.

On Wednesday 16 June, Entrepreneur Country will come to town again. The forum, which is held biannually at the Institution of Engineering and Technology at Savoy Place, will explore the all-important question of how to operate in “A World With No Money”.

When I was 23, I was living in Paris, working for myself ­– doing some consulting for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 3Com, and other technology firms – and wondering how I would break through.

At the same time I felt a kind of freedom from being an outsider. I also felt how high the mountain that I would have to climb to be successful was

My boyfriend at the time said to me: “Money is not the point, Julie. Don’t ever do or not do anything because you don’t have the money to do it. Do what you are meant to do because you are excellent at it. If you are excellent at it, the money will find you.”

Capital follows ideas
Capital follows ideas and the people who execute them. If you have a vision of how the world will or should be, and if you can execute that vision, or organise the people who can, the money will find you.

It’s been incredibly liberating to have known that over the past 20 years. You don’t need to start with money. In fact, the more you focus on the money, the more obsessed you become with it and the less likely you are to take the risks necessary for success.

Not focusing on the money, but focusing on the market opportunity has driven me ever since.

While we mightn’t be happy about the forthcoming era of austerity, a world with no money can be a world where fortunes are made, where opportunity is seized, and where smart, hard-working people win.

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