This year’s Travolution Summit will hear about how digital firms can find investment to build their businesses from an entrepreneur credited with pioneering the digital age in Europe.
Julie Meyer was the founder of First Tuesday, the technology networking forum which brought investors and entrepreneurs together to generate financial backing for firms, including the likes of Lastminute.com, during the first internet bubble.
With company valuations in the digital space once again soaring, the Travolution Summit will hear from Meyer – who sold First Tuesday before going on to found Ariadne Capital – about what makes a good prospect for investors.
“Everyone talks about how all businesses have gone social but I don’t think that entrepreneurs focus hard enough on great products. Everyone’s talking about the Groupon model, but there is not enough understanding about what’s creating value.
“Where do businesses end up going? What’s happening to the millions of pounds investors put in? Is this just the new ‘kool-aid’ everyone’s now drinking but everyone’s running headlong towards the cliff?”
Meyer said she does not see the period which we are going through as one of disruptive technology, but rather one characterised by digital ‘Davids’ validating their business models by forging inter-reliances with corporate ‘Goliaths’.
Among those Goliaths she numbers Facebook and LinkedIn, both of whom will be taking to the Travolution Summit stage in a session on social media. And Meyer said it was this that formed the backdrop to the sale of BeatMyQuote to Google for 120 times Ebitda.
However, start-ups looking for investment today are just as likely to have to validate their worth to corporate Goliaths in more established sectors such as banking, sports and finance or, in travel, hotels or aviation.
“Look back at the points in time marked by disruptive technology like the early 90s or 70s and you can see that’s not where we are today.
“Now we are in a time when entrepreneurs instead of trying to alienate established firms need to work with them. You are going to have to do a deal with Facebook or Apple, but more likely a sports group, British Gas or a bank or some large consumer business that has audience reach and scale.”
Meyer said it was essential for chief executives today to understand the role that the architects of the modern business world, like Google and Apple, are playing. “They are organising the economics of the world’s information. The winners today are playing the industry architects role.”
Although Groupon has achieved scale and has played the role of industry architect in the daily deals space, Meyer questions whether it has proved itself sustainable.
“Will they go down in history as the silly folks who turned down $6 billion from Google?”
Meyer described the travel sector as one that will always attract interest from investors and entrepreneurs.
“It’s hugely important because it touches all our waking hours. There are so many ways to exploit it,” she said.
The next travel enterprise to make it big will be the one that works out how to utilise a key asset that many already have or could easily obtain – customer data. This, Meyer said, could see travel companies using that information to provide valued repeat customers with a range of benefits in travel and beyond.
“People are not thinking hard enough about the assets they have, who their natural allies are and the business model for the ecosystem. As a customer I’m willing to give my data to firms that they currently do not have but the person who owns the economic value of that data should be me.”