A COLLEAGUE of mine, who is a first-born child, once admitted that all of life is the playing out of what was done to you as a child by your elder siblings. Apparently, he once said to his younger brother pointing at a suitcase, “why don’t you get in and see if you fit?” Things got complicated when he forgot the combination to the suitcase lock.
In his book Born to Rebel, Frank Sulloway suggests that that firstborns are more conscientious, more socially dominant, less agreeable, and less open to new ideas compared to those born later. I fit all of the latter born child qualities – from wanting to overthrow any established order to bending the rules.
I couldn’t work with entrepreneurs as I do if I were a first born. Every day I have to put on my optimism, don the cloak of “early believer”, and work hard to accelerate the businesses of small, nimble private companies who want to advance the future against all odds. Many of them will create the step changes in how industries operate. Others will crash and burn brightly. There is a suspension of disbelief in every act that I undertake because none of it should work. But what I love about the internet world is that David does win some battles with Goliath.
To get beyond the current economic downturn, we must be interested in creating a new order – not empire, but frameworks for new business creation – be more latter born child than first born. Britain is good at structuring new paradigms whether it is Tim Berners Lee’s world wide web, Jonathan Ive’s Apple iPod, Dr Stephen Wolfram’s new search engine Wolfgram Alpha – hailed as a breakthrough in searc – or Jalal Bagherli’s Dialog Semiconductors. Marlow’s SpinVox is a leader of voice-to-text; Monitise has created an ecosystem for mobile banking.
Zopa, another British firm, pioneered P2P lending and borrowing outside of the banking environment.
There is power in thinking about a new order instead of reflecting on past glory. We have a generation of young and “young in spirit” British business leaders and entrepreneurs who are creating a new British influence in the world; part of why they think big is that they know that Britain can handle it. Let’s offer them a collective suspension of disbelief, don our early believer cloak and find our optimism daily. It’s a much better place to be.
Julie Meyer is CEO of Ariadne Capital. SpinVox, Monitise and Zopa are portfolio companies of Ariadne Capital. Jalal Bagherli is an Ariadne Investor.