I was sat up on a very high platform in the grand surroundings of Faneuil Hall in Boston. As I was asked a question, I looked down at my feet and saw my bright green socks. When I left the house this morning my wife Joan said: "Richard, you've got the ugliest pair of socks on I’ve ever seen. Go and change them.” And I said to her: "Nobody is going to see them!" Now thousands of entrepreneurs were staring right at them. “Oh well. Anyway, yes! Now, what was the question?”
We were with Virgin Atlantic in Boston for the third of our Business is an adventure series, celebrating entrepreneurs disrupting the status quo, embracing global opportunities and doing business differently. After events in LA and DC, this time we thought it was fitting to team up with the Forbes Under 30 Summit to share with and learn from the most influential game changers under 30.
As Forbes’ editor Randall Lane fired questions about our history, it made me realise that 33 years and 30 Virgin Atlantic routes later, it hasn’t all been smooth flying for us. But surrounding myself with great people coming up with new ideas has helped us keep innovating and ahead of the competition. With that in mind, I was joined by three pioneering young entrepreneurs onstage: Tyler Haney, Founder of activewear brand Outdoor Voices; Payal Kadakia, Co-Founder & CEO of fitness business ClassPass; and James Proud, Founder & CEO of hardware start-up Hello.
One of the first topics we discussed was building brands. It is enormous effort to build a brand at the start. In the case of Virgin Atlantic, I literally had to put my life on the line in order to get our name out there. We’ve been cheeky, irreverent, and encouraged people to have fun. Speaking of which, I wore a blindfold onstage so we could impartially learn if my answers differed from the young entrepreneurs.
There was plenty of agreement but some healthy debate too, not least on whether you learn more from failure or success. I think you learn more from the former. Think of all the people who have tried and failed - you can learn so much from them - even more than from instant successes.
Hopefully the young people and entrepreneurs in the audience, watching online, and reading this now, are able to learn from our mistakes – I know I certainly do every day. Watch out video of the event below, and keep an eye out for all the highlights on virgin.com soon, head over to Virgin Atlantic to find out more, and follow Forbes’ gathering at #under30summit.