Philipp Triebel and Beri Meric met at Harvard Business School while pursuing their MBA. The social and academic experience they gained at Harvard changed their lives and inspired them to create Ivy, which turns the idea of a social university into a thriving business. An inside look on how they did it.
Philipp Triebel grew up in Germany and then moved to England to pursue his higher education there. He spent four years at Goldman Sachs bank in London and while this was a good stepping stone for his career, he decided he wanted to get a taste of the Ivy League school experience and moved on to get his MBA at Harvard Business School. He mentions that what drove this decision was the need to be in a place where he can learn from and engage with people who come from different places and have different backgrounds: “I wanted to be part of a community that is a lot more entrepreneurial where everyone brings a lot more to the table”, he states. But for Triebel, it was equally important to create deeper friendships that last beyond business school: “During this 2-year experience you build deep and strong friendships with your peers. That was a big part in what inspired Ivy for me. You constantly learn new things every day, you get inspired and connected. This doesn’t need to end after business school”, he concludes. At Harvard, Triebel teamed up with Beri Meric who like Triebel has a unique international background and saw Harvard as a place for not just academic excellence, but individual growth.
As we all know, getting into an Ivy League school is rare as it’s extremely competitive to get accepted to the likes of Harvard or Columbia Business School. Once you get in, this experience also has quite a hefty price tag–in the range of $200,000 for the duration of the degree. Many who went to Ivy League schools out of my social circle mention that beyond the academic degree, it’s the high-level networking and the long-lasting friendships that made them pursue it in the first place. But isn’t the cost too high for something like that?
The founders of Ivy see the platform as one that fills the void between their business school experience and the one provided by typical social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which are more focused on instant experiences rather than deep, meaningful ones. That led Beri and Triebel to develop a business model that works for all and enables sustained growth. After an initial joining fee, the platform charges a monthly membership fee in the range of $80 per month ($1,000 per year), which includes access to an online directory of connections, social events across arts, entrepreneurship, policy, science, and social impact, as well as perks ranging from fitness classes and insider access to global gatherings.
Knowing the power of technology in bringing people together, the company recently launched it’s own mobile app to enable members to be even more connected and inspired. Meric mentions that “the usage of technology is in everything we do. From profiling our members, their aspirations, what they like to do, what they like to do more of, to providing digital content and our Ivy podcast and magazine. We’re driven by providing our members with highly valuable content and unique experiences”.
I first encountered Ivy a few years ago when I was invited to dinner with like-minded entrepreneurs in NYC. It was a great dinner with high-caliber people across many industries and I was able to make some great connections, though it did feel like more of a one-off networking event rather than a real company behind it. Three years later, things are different. Meric and Triebel share that IVY’s growth is across the board with revenue doubling each year over the past 3 years. This year the company is projected to make over $10 million in revenue, an impressive number for a company that started around the idea of bringing people together around shared passion and interests via social events.
The growth in revenue is fueled by an extensive demand for membership. Ivy currently has over 20,000 members and hold about 50 events per month across 7 cities in the US. They plan to expand to over 50 cities worldwide including the likes of Tel-Aviv, London, Paris, Cape Town, Sao Paolo and Tokyo. To manage this growth, the company employs over 100 people, most of them are based in their NYC office. The exponential growth of the platform has also impacted the founders as they needed to decide how to divide and conquer. Triebel mentions that “both of our roles have evolved over time. Managing a 100 employee company is different than when we first started and it was just the two of us working from an apartment. Today Beri is truly running the day-to-day business and I’m on the external side”.