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An economics teacher for a San Jose high school had invited a local businessman to speak to his class. The ensuing discussion delves into several financial topics-creation of wealth, the stock market, competition, entrepreneurship. Strangely, one student, who happens to excel in math, is feverishly taking notes as if he is completely unfamiliar with the concepts. By the end of the class, that particular student, Davor Hebel, has nearly filled a notebook.
"The whole idea of a meritocratic society amazed me," he says. "The ability for somebody, anybody, to strike out and take a stab at something that had never been done before."
As a foreign exchange student who grew up under Communism in the European country of Croatia, he is captivated by the concept, which the other students practically take for granted. When he walks out of class, he vows, "That's something I wanted to be a part of."
He chooses to continue his education in the United States so that he can explore the full range of opportunities the businessman in that economics class had brought to his attention. The path eventually leads him to Carnegie Mellon, where he studies information management and earns his master's degree in 1999. Not unexpectedly, he then begins working for McKinsey & Company in New York City consulting Fortune 500 companies on topics of strategy and technology. His career path almost seems preordained, as if it will eventually transport him to somewhere on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley, where he will be among the multitude of wildly successful consultants.
But there is something tugging at him to take another direction with his career. It's what he heard for the first time during that lecture in high school. Although entrepreneurial pursuits are almost old school in the United States, they are a relatively new concept in much of Europe-especially his homeland, the formerly Communist Croatia. Remembering his own awakening to the enormous prospects within the new global economy, he decides he wants to take that perspective across the ocean. So, after nearly a decade living in the United States, he forgoes the inevitability of a future in Menlo Park, Calif., and instead returns to Europe, determined to enlighten and assist technology developers there much in the way the businessman in his high-school class had opened his eyes to the world of possibilities.
Based out of London, but operating across Europe, Hebel today is a principal partner with Fidelity Growth Partners Europe, a major investor in European technology companies. He has had a hand in a number of flourishing European startups, including Asset Control, a data-management software provider; Seatwave, a fan-to-fan ticket exchange for concerts and sporting events; and InnoGames, a developer and publisher of online games.
Hebel's role in supporting startups was recently recognized by WiredUK magazine, where he was listed in its second annual "Wired 100," the top 100 designers, innovators, investors, entrepreneurs, or creatives "with the power to touch the rest of us."
-Bradley A. Porter (DC'08)