He’s absolutely right. You shouldn’t just market and “get on people’s radar” after you fund and start operations, you should do that to get funded and to start operations. As a matter of fact you should market continuously and at all times.
December 15, 2014
Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.
Q.: G’day Richard. I am a young engineering student with little to no practical experience as an entrepreneur. I think I’ve got a great idea, a ready and capable team, but have little money to pursue commercializing my novel product. I fear that potential investors will not take me seriously because of my age (21) and inexperience. How can I convince seasoned investors to believe in my team and invest in my idea? — Jordan Gruber, Australia
My friends and I came up with the name “Virgin” one day when we were 15 years old, sitting around in a basement. I was keen on the name “Slipped Disc” for our new music venture, but then one of my friends pointed out that when it came to business, “we’re all virgins; why don’t we call it that?” In our case, inexperience proved to be a huge asset — if we’d gone with the safer option, I’m not sure that many people would be working out at Slipped Disc Health Clubs or banking at Slipped Disc Money!
Innovation and entrepreneurship thrive on the energy of people who are dipping their toes into the water for the first time. Budding entrepreneurs with fresh outlooks have the freedom to think quite differently, which is tremendously exciting to potential collaborators. However, as you’re finding out, Jordan, translating a new concept into a product can be very daunting.
While you might not yet have the right connections or an “in” with major investors, other people out there do — experienced businesspeople, in your sector or in others, who were once in your shoes and went on to be successful. These people are potential mentors who can help you on your way.
Mentoring is a subject that is very close to our hearts at Virgin; I myself have benefited from many mentors throughout my life. However, don’t consider mentoring as a quick way to gain useful contacts. A good mentoring relationship is based on more than that — it’s a way to learn valuable lessons from the mistakes someone else has made.
Additionally, I noticed in your message an emphasis on convincing “seasoned investors” to back your idea. While securing huge sums of money from major business figures might seem like the ideal way to propel a business forward, the reality is that very few ventures win this kind of funding. A better alternative might be an online crowdfunding platform. Websites such as Indiegogo not only have the potential to fund the creation of a prototype to get your business up and running, but they also can result in significant publicity.
Another option is taking out a small business loan. In the U.K. we launched Virgin StartUp, a program that provides loans of up to 25,000 pounds to companies trying to get their ideas off the ground. It is well worth your time to look into similar initiatives in your area, and decide whether a loan is the right step for you. As an added benefit, both crowdfunding and small business loans will mean that you can retain full ownership of your business — you won’t have to give any equity away to investors.
Here are three steps that can help you discover which approach is best for you:
1. EVALUATE AND RESEARCH.
Always be honest with yourself about your abilities, the work you’ll have to put in to get your company up and running, and the amount of money you’re hoping to raise. Research all the options that are available, and evaluate how they would affect your end goal.
Ask yourself: Is your crowdfunding target realistic? How much of a stake in your business are you willing to give to potential investors?
And if you want to find a mentor who can help give you direction and guidance, make sure you find a suitable one. Find out what they do, whether they’ve mentored others before and which sectors they are interested in.
2. GET ON PEOPLE’S RADAR.
Attend industry events such as seminars and conferences. Talk to as many people as possible, and do not immediately launch into a pitch of your product. Be sure to listen and learn from what people have to say.
Networking doesn’t stop at face-to-face contact, either; interact on social media, join LinkedIn groups and keep the relationships going online. When you do approach potential mentors or investors, or if you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you’ll have a degree of visibility.
In fact, the more proactive you are in building your profile, the more likely it is that potential investors will feel confident enough to put their faith in you — and their money in your company. Remember that the more relationships you build, the better the chances that your network will put you in touch with the people who can help your business.
3. KEEP AN OPEN MIND.
Remember to be flexible. While winning investment might look like the best option now, don’t discount any other opportunities that come your way. For example, crowdfunding might not have the prestige of an investment from a big-time entrepreneur, but it will connect you directly with future customers, and you will have more control over the process.
Keeping an open mind is especially important when it comes to mentoring. Don’t see mentorship as a quick fix for problems, and do not brush off advice. Consider your connection with a mentor as a long-lasting business relationship that can teach you lessons and reduce the potential for failure. But also remember that, as with anything else, you’ll get out of mentoring what you put in.
Making sure that your potential business is a success is not contingent upon gaining a large investment. Many successful companies — including Virgin — started with modest funds. Right now, investors might seem like they are the gatekeepers between you and your dream, but the one person who can make your business succeed is not an investor, or even a mentor. It is you.
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Isuama Kennedy from Facebook8 hours ago
the one person who will make your business to succeed is not an investor or your mentor but YOU
Meg Columbia Walsh
Meg Columbia Walsh from Facebook9 hours ago
Great Mr. Branson, then tell me a time to pitch my business that is doing well!!! Woman and gay owned…
Silvia Khouzame from Facebook12 hours ago
Samantha Binetter from Facebook17 hours ago
Chandé Dusina from Facebook20 hours ago
Maria Petromanolakis21 hours ago
Thank you very much Sir Branson!
Alexandra Ferrer from Facebook2 days ago
Ryan Poh from Facebook2 days ago
Duc Hoang from Facebook2 days ago
one story for strategy 😀
Peachy Keen from Facebook2 days ago
Wont work in the south. These old geezers aren’t giving up their money unless its for an oil well!
Kiều Công Bình
Kiều Công Bình from Facebook2 days ago
Duc Hoang Nguyễn Trung Kiên 😀
Jason Lobo Sedillo
Jason Lobo Sedillo from Facebook2 days ago
stephen hardacre 2 days ago
O.K. THE RICHSTER DID YOU EVER WATCH JERRY MCGUIRE WELL RUMOUR HAS IT THAT IT WAS FICTIONAL CERTAIN GUYS ARE SAYING THAT IT IS ABOUT THEM BUT WHAT I AM ABOUT TO ACHIEVE IS REAL TIME AND WHILE I AM AT IT THE PLAN IS TO BRING THE CRIME RATE DOWN IN MY ALREADY ROUGH AS TOAST AREA YOU SEE IT IS NOT BRAINS I NEED IT IS BRAWN AND A FIGHTING HEART BASICALLY I WONT THE KIDS WHO THE TEACHERS SAY HAVE NO HOPE AND I WAS AND LIVE IN THE COMMUNITY ALL MY LIFE I KNOW THE KIDS THAT ARE DESTINED FOR A LIFE OF CRIME AS I WAS BROUGHT UP WITH THEIR PARENTS THE ONLY REASON THEY GO TO CRIME IS BECAUSE THEY ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL JUST BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS ARE A WEE TAD ROTTEN BUT THAT COMES HAND IN HAND WITH BEING POOR IT DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE TO STEER CLEAR OF THESE FUTURE CRIMINALS AND THATS THE WAY IT IS I HAVE NOT “THROWN A BEVVY ON IT ” THAT IS HOW IT IS THE PLAN IS TO PAY THEM WHAT I CALL A ” WOW WAGE ” BEYOND THEIR WILDEST DREAMS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN LOOK AFTER THERE WAYWARD PARENTS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN CHANNEL THEIR KNOWLEDGE FOR ME THIS IS WHERE THE DIAMONDS ARE IN THE DIRT PEOPLE SAY I AM CRAZY BUT AS IT SO HAPPENS IT WOULD BE A SIN NOT TO PUSH FOR IT WITH THE FORWARD MOMENTUM I FEEL AROUND ME last but not least i must say it when i was a kid”I USED TO WANT TO BE YOU BUT I DON’T NO MORE I WANNA BE ME “IF YOU GET TO THIS WEE MESSAGE THINK OF US AND YOU WILL GET INTO HEAVEN THANKS
JDGO 2 days ago
Great advise sir,
RadoslavVujaklija 2 days ago
Yeah kick it sir Branson!!!
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