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A message to entrepreneurs: do not give up


TWITTER, which has raised more than $100m (£65.3m) in funding, recently unveiled a series of business models at its first investor conference, Chirp.

Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter, was the first to realise that a certain segment of internet users would want to shout about what they were doing and thinking in short bursts. Investors could see the phenomenon emerging online, and wanted to back the emerging platform.

The UK has built several “platform” companies. Sage is much more than an accounting software package; it is one of the dominant platforms for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to run their business on, and it could do so much more with their inroads into the SMEs.

BetFair is a technology provider and exchange which now dominates the majority of all betting. Sadly, Bebo, which looked to be a major hit when it was acquired by AOL for circa $800m, has now been shut down.

One of the companies set to capitalise on the next wave of web development is Monitise, here in our own backyard. It is the global leader in mobile banking and payments, with backing from Visa, and has achieved more than 2m registered users for its services in the UK and the US, driven by increased uptake of its smartphone applications.

Monitise, a company that has had backing from Ariadne, is valued at close to £100m on the Aim market today. But it’s important to remember that for four years it didn’t have a single customer.

When the dotcom bubble burst, many people – whether out of Schadenfraude or otherwise – approached me to say “well, I guess that whole internet thing is over now isn’t it?”.

But that is the thing about technology; its exponential growth continues to embed itself into our lives regardless of what the markets do.

Skype, one of Ariadne’s early clients, grew out of the depths of the downturn in 2001-2002 and was carried by the wave of broadband penetration.

Espotting, another one of Ariadne’s early clients, pioneered globally the advertising 2.0 business model that Google later adopted.

The smartphone explosion is able to lift Monitise to the next level, but wouldn’t if Alastair Lukies, the chief executive and founder, had not had the vision and had not been dogged about pursuing that vision when everyone told him it wouldn’t work.

It is often said that pathfinders attract snipers. And the founders of Skype, Espotting, Monitise, and Twitter would have many stories to tell about all of the folks who told them that they would never be able to do what they have done.

As Candace Johnson, the founder of SES Astra always says, “Never give up, never accept ‘no’, and never ever go away – even when they want you to.”

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