I love history, especially business history. When looking at successful companies, I look to study the circumstances. Where did the company start? What did it bring to market? How did it define the category it introduced? Most importantly…Who was the catalyst that moved the pieces into place?
Over the years I have featured a brand wall in my office—a list of Category Creators…FIRST to markets…market definers. Companies like Coca Cola, Disney, Harley Davidson, Aston Martin, Tiffany’s, Google, Apple, Virgin, MTV and others (even the Beatles) have made it to my wall. Each has a hero…someone who loved the brand, who loved the company and who sought to reward those who would do the same.
Over the next several months I will share some thoughts on some of these companies…the stories, the leaders, the risks, the rewards, the triumphs and the heartache. Here’s the first. Enjoy.
Sir Richard Branson never seems to sleep. For him (and his empire), that’s a good thing. Whether he’s creating a new insurance company or launching the first business class spaceship, Branson is the consummate entrepreneur of our day. His latest initiative, PitchTV, levels an often impossible mountain for starting businesses down to an even playing field.
Running on full throttle is nothing new to Branson. Born on July 18th, 1950 Branson quickly learned to use his ability to connect with people to overcome his mild dyslexia. At the age of 16 he launched his first successful business, a magazine he published called Student. In the 70’s he opened up a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, which paved the way for him to open Virgin Atlantic Airways in the 80’s and continue to expand the Virgin Records music label into the 90’s.
In addition to his many entrepreneurial successes Branson is also well known for his humanitarian efforts. Heavily influenced by Nelson Mandela, Branson was able to help launch “The Elders,” a group of leaders who objectively solve global issues. Virgin Unite continues to lead the way in fundraising for charities and recently Branson began to seek innovate efforts to promote corporate environmental responsibility with former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and Google’s Larry Page.
World record holder, titan of industry, generous philanthropist and innovative genius, one would think that Richard Branson would desire a well deserved rest on Necker Island, his 74-acre private island in the British Virgin Islands. But with Virgin’s new foray into the healthcare sector with Assura Medical, Virgin Galactic’s soon to be launched spaceship the VSS Enterprise and the newly launched PitchTV, rest does not seem to be on Branson’s mind.
According to his recent blog, Richard Branson is ready to once more change the face of corporate business. PitchTV allows budding entrepreneurs to upload a 2-minute video in which they pitch their business idea. The best of these videos will then be shown on Virgin Atlantic’s in-flight entertainment systems. Hundreds of business professional that regularly frequent these flights will be able to view the pitches, obtain contact information for the ideas that stand out to them, and possibly help these ideas become reality.
Branson writes on his blog, “When I was starting out, I wish I could have had the chance to pitch my business ideas directly to people who could make my ambitions a reality. We can now make that happen for you.”
While the idea of allowing beginning entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to possible investors is not new, Branson takes this concept to a viral level allowing anyone with a great idea and a webcam to broadcast to hundreds of possible investors. Writes Branson on his blog, “who knows – among the viewers might be someone with the power to bring your idea to life.”
In our current corporate climate where downsizing and cut backs are the norm Branson has brilliantly expanded the potential for expansion and innovation in the marketplace. PitchTV just being one of many initiatives he is pursuing, not the least of which is trying to launch the aforementioned spaceship.
This tireless pursuit has served him well in the past and will continue to keep him as the industry leader in the future. While many visionaries try and fail, Branson has time and time again refused to quit and seemingly refused to rest. New idea upon new innovation has been a constant thread in Branson’s life stretching back to his early days in school connecting with people and publishing a magazine.
Sir Richard Branson never seems to sleep…and the global business landscape, emerging entrepreneurs and the world’s dreamers are all the better for it.
Richard Branson photo credit: David Shankbone