Richard Branson: Got a business idea? Do this with it

If you’ve got an idea that could change the world, what should you do with it? The Virgin Group founder has some simple advice for any budding entrepreneurs…

Finding funding to build a prototype of an idea often proves to be a big hurdle for start-ups trying to take the next step, however many now argue that the options are becoming increasingly stacked in favour of those with the brightest business plans.

"Building a prototype isn’t always an essential step, but it might help you to land investors by showing them how the product will work. It really can change attitudes. Try to keep costs as low as possible. Your prototype should demonstrate your product’s most important functions, look good and capture investor’s attention It must be easy to understand,” explains Richard Branson in a recent Daily Monitor blog.

Image from Virgin.com

"Finding a source of funding for a start-up used to be a bigger obstacle than it is now. In the past, entrepreneurs used to have to carry their business plans from one company to the next. This process could take years, and often ended in disappointment. But times have certainly changed. There are now throngs of investors, companies and organisations looking to invest, hoping that the next big thing will come their way. Crowdsourcing and government loans are two other options for aspiring entrepreneurs."

The thought of going public with an idea is a scary thought for some entrepreneurs though, with fears that a competitor might steal their lightbulb moment, or even worse, that they’ll be laughed at. This needn’t be a worry, Richard argues, as there are often better funding options closer to home.

Read: New research suggests that incubators are useless

"Potential investors like to know that you’re committed to your idea, and spending your own money on that idea will go a long way to convince them. If self-funding is not an option, try reaching out to family and friends. There are few people better suited to doing business with you than those who know you best. You already trust their judgment, and they more than likely already believe in you and your plan. You’re also involved in a community of smart and creative people who might be able to help you to realise your dream.

"You can also look into accelerator programmes. An accelerator is a group of people that provides a small amount of money in exchange for a stake in your company. They usually offer hands-on guidance and mentorship, and they can introduce you to investors and prepare you for a longer funding journey."

If you have an innovative idea, the New Things category for Pitch to Rich 2015 is one accelerator worth applying for.

It's a chance to win £50,000 cash, mentorship from the Virgin Investment Team and other prizes such as your face on the livery of Virgin Trains, along with free internet and travel from other companies within the Virgin Group.

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