Even with all the best intentions and passion in the world, entrepreneurs face many obstacles trying to get a new idea off the ground.This was certainly our experience when we started Student Magazine almost 50 years ago to give voice to a generation who were against the Vietnam War – pretty soon we found ourselves running a business and having to survive. The belief that we were creating something important kept us going against all the odds and over time we realized that business can be a force for good.
Sometimes simply having passion and a good idea is not enough. The difference between merely a good idea and a good idea that becomes a sustainable business comes down to mentorship and learning from others, from the sharing of information and best practices, and from coordination between public and private sectors. Having learned this throughout Virgin’s hits and misses, we are now actively encouraging and supporting the next generation of bright minds – with a focus on education, public policy and leveraging the influence of the business sector.
What is brilliant about the connected world we live in today is that we can have these important conversations virtually anywhere, at any time. Thanks to advancements in technology, we no longer need to wait for a conference that comes around every few years to talk about the future of entrepreneurship and how new business ideas could help tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.
There is no better example of this than the Virgin America flight that I will take tomorrow. We will be launching our new service from San Francisco to Denver with a live and global discussion on this very topic from 35,000ft - thanks to the airline’s new high-speed satellite ViaSat WiFi. It makes perfect sense to hold the conversation en route to Denver as it is now considered the ‘next Silicon Valley’, a growing hub for technology companies and start-ups.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who has done a superb job bringing in thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses to the ‘Mile High’ City, will join the conversation – along with Ryan Roslansky, VP of Global Consumer Products at LinkedIn. We will also have entrepreneurs and startup founders on board from the Virgin Media Accelerator, powered by Techstars program, a mentorship-driven accelerator that we launched recently to support the most innovative and disruptive new businesses from across the globe.
I am especially thrilled to have a number of high school students from the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) partake in the conversation. I have always believed that entrepreneurship should be nurtured from a young age and that the education system should encourage teenagers to embrace their creativity and willingness to take risks – all traits of a successful entrepreneur. In fact, a ‘KIPPster’ from the Newark program posed one of my all-time favourite interview questions – is it true you slay dragons? They were referring to my Knighthood (no need to call me Sir, plain old Richard is just fine with me). But it was the perfect invitation for me to tell the students about Virgin Atlantic’s David vs. Goliath-style battle against British Airways!
Originally published on Linkedin Pulse
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