Working out her unfair advantage

SHE claims she is tired after a long overdue catch-up with a friend the night before, but Julie Meyer looks glamorous and speaks sharper and faster during our interview than most people do on their best day.

With this sort of energy, it is little surprise that Meyer is simultaneously an entrepreneur, investor, business adviser and broadcaster.

Meyer is clearly a workaholic with a firm understanding of how money works; demonstrated in no small part by the fact her last business sold for $50m in 2000.

Most people know Meyer from her appearances on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den. But she says she saw the show as a “diversion” and she was initially horrified by the prospect of taking 20 days off work for filming.

Meyer’s day job demands exactly the same super-scrutiny of small businesses that she gave the contestants on the show. She founded and runs the venture capital investment firm Ariadne Capital which specialises in financing start-ups and small businesses. By May this year it had secured £2.9m of funding for five UK based start-ups.

She says she is motivated by a love and empathy for entrepreneurs: “The reason we enjoy the living conditions we do in this country is because we have great entrepreneurs.”

But where did this start for Meyer? “I think I became an entrepreneur because I was
socialised as an entrepreneur, my father was an entrepreneur. I didn’t realise he was an entrepreneur because he was a doctor. He set up his own medical practice.”

“I understand that journey from near death experiences to the breakthrough moments in business.”

When asked what led her to her current role, she explains that it was a process of collecting experiences during her 20s: “I think my journey over the past 25 years has been understanding what my unfair advantage is and what my unique contribution can be.”

“For the first time at age 29-30 I?thought: play to your strengths... That was a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me, if you will. I didn’t get that in my 20s.”

So what is Meyer’s unfair advantage? Perhaps she should have always known. When asked what her first ambition was she said: “When I was a kid I used to draw houses on a piece of paper. I guess I?thought I was going to be an architect. I?was always drawing out blueprints.” She is a woman who does not only deliver for entrepreneurs, but knows how to design herself a better future.


Age: 44
Born: Dearborn, Michigan but moved to Sacramento, California when she was one month old
Lives: South Kensington, London
Works:? Founder and Chief Executive, Ariadne Capital
Studied: MBA, INSEAD, France; BA, Humanities, English, Valparaiso University, Indiana, US
Drinking: Campari and soda
Reading The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich
Idol: Margaret Thatcher
Talents: French speaker
Motto: “Think big, start small, move fast.”
Favourite business book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Awards: Ernst & Young, Entrepreneur of the Year 2000; INSEAD, 50 Alumni who changed the world