“Can you tell us ideas you dropped because you thought they were not good enough?” I received this question as part of my Challenge Richard quest.
I’m fortunate to have had thousands of business ideas come across my lap. And as someone that loves to say yes, yes, yes, you can imagine just how hard it is for me to turn down anything that shows promise. But business is a game of opportunity and sometimes opportunity simply strikes at the wrong time.
As I revealed during my Reddit AMA, when asked if I regretted failing to invest in any businesses, there have been plenty of opportunities that Virgin has turned down or missed – and not always because we thought they weren’t good enough.
Trivial Pursuit is perhaps the biggest business idea that got away from me. I got a call one day in the early 80s from a friend in Canada, who had become obsessed by the new board game and told me it was going to be the next big thing. The developers invited us to travel to Quebec and seal a deal to distribute the game globally. However, we were incredibly busy with Virgin Records at the time, and due to work commitments I ended up having to postpone the trip. By the time I was ready, they had sold the game to another company, who went on to sell hundreds of millions of copies.
Similarly we also had the opportunity to bring the businesses now known as JetBlue and Ryanair under the Virgin brand. But at the respective times, the deals just weren’t right. Business is funny like that – sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time; other days you’re feeling brave and more willing to seize the day; then there are times when you’ve got to protect your existing business interests.
On the other hand there have been plenty of times when our ideas have been turned down by others. About nine years ago I sent good friend of mine, Oleg Tinkov, to Virgin Money on the suggestion that we start a credit card company with him in Russia. Four years ago I was sitting in his delightful offices in Moscow, on the largest sofa ever, contemplating what might have been – that day his company had been valued at a billion and he was taking Russia by storm.
But you can't be greedy, and I have absolutely no regrets about any of these missed opportunities. After all, opportunities are like buses – there's always another one coming!