By Julie Meyer
Entrepreneur and member of the Online Dragons' Den
Julie puts her know-how to good use on the online version of Dragons' Den
I blame my father.
Why such a traditional and conservative gentleman born in 1935 decided to confide in me at age 11 that men could be somewhat selfish I'll never know.
But more positively, he also told me that I could "be" or become whatever I set out to. I would test this from time to time by announcing that I would become an astronaut or I would become the President of the United States, and lo, he never laughed at me.
His encouragement and my mother's guidance led me to be quite addicted to achievement throughout my growing up years. I believe I stayed out of trouble mostly because I wanted them to be proud of me.
But still I needed to figure out what I could do as a person away from this wonderful family I had, and so at age 21, I ran off to Paris to make my fortune. I needed to know what my unfair advantage was, not just my psychological and intellectual inheritance from my parents.
Find a path
I quickly realised that the world was not waiting for my arrival as a professional but that it would require me to figure out what I could do to stand out.
Throughout my 20s, I felt that there was a discount applied to much of what I did.
I worked in small and unstructured organisations with no strong brands. This worked out to my benefit as I realised that Julie Meyer was the brand, even when I had a long way to go to become one.
I also understood that I was the architect of my career trajectory when most of my peer group were just focused on learning skills.
That coupled with the thought that each one of us has a unique contribution to make to the world led me to keep wanting to drive myself to new horizons. Achievement became a habit, and once a goal was won, I immediately set another.
But I couldn't work out why there was this discount associated with my work until I went to Business School at INSEAD in 1997 at the age of 30.
Only through a year of comparing myself honestly, if privately, against my fellow students was I able to see my genuine strengths and weaknesses.
And then it hit me - obvious now, but not then - that I should focus on what I was good at rather than try to be a renaissance woman.
I was killing myself feeling bad that I wasn't good at everything.
At INSEAD, I found myself in amphitheatres where I would state an opinion on a case study and no one would respond, only to have one of the men issue a similar point of view, sometimes even restating the point in my words exactly, and there would be a chorus of approval for them.
At first I was perplexed. Then, frankly, I grew angry.
My father's words kept haunting me. What if men were fundamentally selfish? What if society was set up to penalise me as a woman? What if, what if? I drove myself mad.
Through First Tuesday - a network of entrepreneurs I set up in 1998 and sold in June 2000 for a multi-million pound sum - I made my first big win, but also the first major mistake of my career.
I had invested the seed capital and landed myself with inactive male shareholders who controlled the equity and board. I ended up making them wealthy with money which should have been mine. It was a very hard lesson, but one that woke me up.
If I had the right ideas, was able to attract capital and talent, and was doing the hard work, then I had to be in control and running the show.
I set up Ariadne Capital to ensure that I could enable its success by being in the driver's seat.
At some point in the 21st century - and I can't put a single date on it - that discount I felt I was subjected to in my formative business years finally became a premium.
I believe there are more positives to being a woman in business today than negatives, but only because I have followed my own path rather than trying to play by other people's rules of engagement.
The experience of building First Tuesday, working for an investment firm where I knew that they would never make me a partner, setting myself up in two foreign countries with no capital, and benchmarking myself against my peer group has enabled me to see the business I could become.