Richard Branson’s 4 Tips on Building a Thriving Tech Startup

Learning from one of the best

Richard Branson is arguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the last century. He is responsible for developing the brand “Virgin”, which is one of the most popular brands in the world. Although he is now the owner of companies such as Virgin Airlines and Virgin Galactic, he did not start his entrepreneurial career firing rockets into space. He started in a small basement in London.

Over the course of his life, he has learned a lot concerning how to create a successful startup. The following list shows just a few examples of how the strategies and efforts these companies made to achieve their growth and success, reflect Richard Branson’s ideas on how to start and grow a successful business.


Be brave

It is no surprise that Richard Branson would consider being brave as an important factor when creating your own startup. Anyone who began a startup that later became successful must have had some degree of courage. A contemporary startup that proves how Richard Branson’s advice on bravery is a key factor when beginning a startup is the company AvidXchange, inc.

The company was founded in 2000 by Michael Praeger, David Miller, and a few of their buddies in a garage/warehouse-like space in Charlotte, NC. It started out with 5 team members sitting at 5 desks. The function of the business was to automate bill payments and invoices for mid-sized companies. Although the talent and basic idea for the business were there, starting from such humble beginnings does present a little bit of a risk, to say the least.

Little did this group of entrepreneurs know what this company would become 17 years later down-the-road. Now, AvidXchange is a leading fintech provider of accounts payable and payment automation for mid-sized companies. The company now serves over 5000 clients in North America. Its annual revenue is now over $30 million dollars and has over 900 employees. That doesn’t seem too shabby for a company that 17 years prior had only 5 employees. But none of this success would have been possible if they didn’t have the courage to take that initial first step to start their own business.


Value your employees

This one seems like a no-brainer. But it does happen that companies will underestimate the value of their employees. Richard Branson makes it abundantly clear that employees (and the way you treat them) are crucial to the success of any startup. A good example of how properly valuing your employees can lead to success can be seen in the company Red Ventures.

Red Ventures is a marketing and sales firm that specializes in online marketing, telephone sales, home services, and insurance markets. This startup was founded by Ric Elias and Dan Feldstein in Charlotte, NC. They founded this tech startup days before the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, but that didn’t stop them from moving forward. The company now has over 2,500 employees and brings in an annual revenue of $234 million. It is now valued at $1 billion dollars.

When asked about the reason behind the success of the company, the senior leadership attributes it directly to its employee base. Co-founder Ric Elias is quoted as saying  “our greatest asset is our people. At work, we believe people should feel free to say what they think, not what the leadership wants to hear. The result is a culture of collaborative employees that do whatever it takes to make sure the team succeeds. We are constantly evolving and finding ways to empower employees to author our story.”


Financial backing

Although Richard Branson doesn’t think to have vast amounts of money is crucial when creating a startup, it is important to have access to some capital either from yourself or from investors if you want to get your business up and running. The startup SmartSky Networks, also based in Charlotte, NC,  has been able to do just that to make their game-changing company a reality.

The co-founders of this startup are Stan Eskridge and Ryan Stone. What they set out to accomplish in 2011 was to make WiFi on passenger jets as fast as it is at your home or office. Currently, no airline offers this kind of internet speed simply because the costs were deemed too high. SmartSky, however, has discovered a way to provide high-speed 4G LTE internet, at thousands of feet in the air, for an affordable price. This was only made possible by spending years convincing investors to give them hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their idea off the ground. Finally, in 2018, the company accumulated the multi-million dollars of investment to begin service. This game-changing startup will eventually make it possible for average airline passengers to FaceTime, watch Netflix, and upload large files during air travel. None of this would have been possible if they were not able to get the financial backing.


Build a startup that will make people’s lives better

Richard Branson believes that your startup should make the lives of others better in some way, shape, or form. Not only does this attract more customers, but it also ignites inside you a passion to constantly improve your business, knowing that you are truly affecting others in a positive way. One can see a good example of his point in the tech startup SignUpGenius inc.

SignUpGenius is a startup that was founded in 2008 by Dan Rutledge and his wife in Charlotte, NC. It is an online sign-up service for event and volunteer management. Since then, the startup has seen great success. In 2016, 66 million people visited the site to plan a total of 2.3 million events. However, this startup was not founded with the goal of making millions, but simply to help other people. When asked how Dan and his wife founded the company, their answer may surprise you.

“We were having a party for our small church group one time and told people with last names starting with A-M to bring drinks and those with N-Z to bring snacks. We all showed up and were shocked to find that every snack family brought chips and salsa, and every drink family brought diet coke! It was the most disgusting party ever.” He later thought to himself “I’ve got too many important things on my plate to stress about stuff like this. I kept thinking to myself…there has to be a better way to do this. So I set out to create one.”

And that’s exactly what he and his wife did. He created a website for nonprofits to organize events. This ranges from helping volunteers register for a nonprofit event to helping with the scheduling of community events. The organizations that have benefited from his work help house the homeless, give gifts to orphans on Christmas, fundraise for donating cures to diseases, etc.

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