Five business lessons from 35,000ft

Last week saw Richard Branson put Virgin America’s new high-speed satellite WiFi to test on the airline’s inaugural flight to Denver, as he engaged in a livestreamed debate on the future of entrepreneurship…

LinkedIn editor Dan Roth hosted the discussion, which saw Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, LinkedIn VP of Global Consumer Products Ryan Roslansky and Richard Branson field questions from students in KIPP Colorado’s Tech Entrepreneurship Program and company founders from the Virgin Media Accelerator, which is being powered by Colorado’s very own Techstars.

Here are five key takeaways from the discussion.

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1. You can run a business from anywhere you like

"I think that starting a business in a city is probably a good idea, but once it’s up and running you can pretty well work from anywhere," pointed out Richard Branson, from his seat on the flight. "That’s the wonderful thing about new technology, we encourage our people to work from home if that’s what they want and make sure people have the flexibility that they need."

This point couldn’t have been better demonstrated than through the activity which took place on the flight itself. While half of the cabin seemed happy to enjoy the complimentary cocktails and Rocky Mountain views, the rest of those on board worked away on their laptops.

2. Entrepreneurship hubs offer real value

While Richard is a keen advocate of remote working, he was also quick to point out the value of physically spending time in the same place as others who can help you achieve your goals.

"It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in what you are doing and will give you 100 per cent in order to make it happen.

"I love these new entrepreneurial hubs, such as WeWork, they can be very helpful and create a great environment. It’s useful to be able to spend time with other entrepreneurs, but the key is to start with a small team of people around you who can make the business a success. And let’s not forget it can be pretty lonely being an entrepreneur at times, so having the right company is great."

Entrepreneurism: A live in-inflight discussion with Richard Branson and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock

3. Denver is the number one destination for US millennials

"Denver has become the epicentre, the main attraction, for both the millennial and baby boomer population across the country – that’s something very unique," pointed out Mayor Michael Hancock. "Entrepreneurialism and innovation are really driving that level of excitement around Denver at the moment."

Over 20 per cent of Denver’s 2.6 million metro area population are millennials, with the tech start-up boom being thought of as a key factor in this shift. The city also recently been voted the best place to live in the whole of the US.

4. Entrepreneurs, don't make boring choices

Quick to follow up on this point was Richard Branson, who lamented the poor choice of location of some businesses.

"I just don’t understand why some people set up their companies in the most boring cities in the world. If you set up your business in Denver then you can go skiing, have a great time with your children and enjoy a really good quality of life.

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"I might not be the Mayor of Denver but I would encourage entrepreneurs to find a great place to run their business and their life from, life’s too short not to."

5. Perseverance is the key to success

"Perseverance is a very important quality for an entrepreneur to have, it’s something which I believe can be taught. However you need to make sure that it’s something you really believe in, as then you’re going to commit to it," noted Richard.

"If you’re doing it half-hearted or are just in it to make money then you probably won’t put your heart and soul into it. We’re currently sat on a Virgin America flight, which is the result of an incredible amount of hard work from the team. They have persevered to make sure it’s the best airline in the US, you need to try and make sure that whatever ever field you’re in you are the leader."

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