Taking on giants

Richard Branson

What does an upstart need to take on a giant and win? Nothing but bravery, good people and a great idea. If you have a brilliant team around you, are determined to make it work and develop a concept that will genuinely have a positive impact upon peoples lives, then nothing can stop you.

I loved Luke Johnsons recent FT article about cutting titans down to size. He contested a Wall Street Journal piece suggesting that new entrepreneurs dont have the animal spirit to succeed: Ingenuity and ambition are all that the pioneer needs to take on established businesses. He also questioned the assumption that large corporations make it tough for new companies to get a foothold.

Big, stale industries that are set in their ways are ripe for disruption. The well-known players will have got used to succeeding without reinventing or innovation. A superb new idea with superior customer service, marketed in a refreshing way, will be able to cut through the competition. As Luke puts it: The tendency towards consolidation creates opportunities for innovative newcomers.

Established companies may not take notice of you at first, but that can be an advantage for the newcomer. When we started Virgin Records nobody had any idea who we were. Soon the major labels were wondering where this indie had come from and why the coolest bands were signing for us rather than them.

Banking is a good example of this, with Virgin Money among those challenging the established giants by offering better products and services. Innovations such as our Lounges are also convincing people to change their banking habits and try something new. In aviation, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia and now Virgin America have been taking on the big boys for years.

New entrepreneurs do need a lot of support though. We offer assistance through schemes such as the Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship, Virgin Media Pioneers, Start-Up Loans and Virgin Academy. Finding the right support structure, mentors and training can be a huge help. Though of course, nothing beats just getting out there and giving it a go.

Whatever the sector, there are opportunities just waiting to be seized. The established giants cant stop you in fact, the only one who can hold you back is yourself.

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