Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 4th 2014 Contents DECEMBER 2014 • WEEK ONE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
and I came
up with the
we were 15 years old, sitting around
in a basement. I was keen on the
name "Slipped Disc" for our new
music venture, but then one of my
friends pointed out that when it
came to business, "we re all virgins;
why don t we call it that?" In our
case, inexperience proved to be a
huge asset; if we d gone with the
safer option, I m not sure that
many people would be working
out at Slipped Disc Health Clubs
or banking at Slipped Disc Money!
Innovation and entrepreneurship
thrive on the energy of people who
are dipping their toes into the water
for the first time.
Budding entrepreneurs with
fresh outlooks have the freedom
to think quite differently, which is
tremendously exciting to potential
collaborators. However, as you re
finding out, Jordan, translating a
new concept into a product can
be very daunting.
While you might not yet have
the right connections or an "in"
with major investors, other people
out there do; experienced busi-
nesspeople, in your sector or in
others, who were once in your
shoes and went on to be successful.
These people are potential mentors
who can help you on your way.
Mentoring is a subject that is
very close to our hearts at Virgin;
I myself have benefited from many
mentors throughout my life. How-
ever, don t consider mentoring as
a quick way to gain useful contacts.
A good mentoring relationship
is based on more than that; it s a
way to learn valuable lessons from the
mistakes someone else has made.
Additionally, I noticed in your mes-
sage an emphasis on convincing "sea-
soned investors" to back your idea.
While securing huge sums of money
from major business figures might seem
like the ideal way to propel a business
forward, the reality is that very few
ventures win this kind of funding. A
better alternative might be an online
crowdfunding platform. Web sites such
as Indiegogo not only have the potential
to fund the creation of a prototype to
get your business up and running, but
they also can result in significant pub-
Another option is taking out a small
business loan. In the UK we launched
Virgin StartUp, a programme that pro-
vides loans of up to 25,000 pounds to
companies trying to get their ideas off
the ground. It is well worth your time
to look into similar initiatives in your
area, and decide whether a loan is the
right step for you.
As an added benefit, both crowd-
funding and small business loans will
mean that you can retain full ownership
of your business; you won t have to
give any equity away to investors.
Here are three steps that can help
you discover which approach is best
1. Evaluate and research
Always be honest with yourself about
your abilities, the work you ll have to
put in to get your company up and
running, and the amount of money
you re hoping to raise. Research all the
options that are available, and evaluate
how they would affect your end goal.
Ask yourself: Is your crowdfunding
target realistic? How much of a stake
in your business are you willing to give
to potential investors?
And if you want to find a mentor
who can help give you direction and
guidance, make sure you find a suitable
one. Find out what they do, whether
they ve mentored others before and
which sectors they are interested in.
2. Get on people's radar
Attend industry events such as sem-
inars and conferences. Talk to as many
people as possible, and do not imme-
diately launch into a pitch of your prod-
uct. Be sure to listen and learn from
what people have to say.
Networking doesn t stop at face-to-
face contact, either; interact on social
media, join LinkedIn groups and keep
the relationships going online. When
you do approach potential mentors or
investors, or if you launch a crowd-
funding campaign, you ll have a degree
In fact, the more proactive you are
in building your profile, the more likely
it is that potential investors will feel
confident enough to put their faith in
you - and their money in your company.
Remember that the more relationships
you build, the better the chances that
your network will put you in touch with
the people who can help your busi-
3. Keep an open mind
Remember to be flexible. While win-
ning investment might look like the
best option now, don t discount any
other opportunities that come your
way. For example, crowdfunding might
not have the prestige of an investment
from a big-time entrepreneur, but it
will connect you directly with future
customers, and you will have more con-
trol over the process.
Keeping an open mind is especially
important when it comes to mentoring.
Don t see mentorship as a quick fix for
problems, and do not brush off advice.
Consider your connection with a men-
tor as a long-lasting business relation-
ship that can teach you lessons and
reduce the potential for failure. But also
remember that, as with anything else,
you ll get out of mentoring what you
Making sure that your potential busi-
ness is a success is not contingent upon
gaining a large investment. Many suc-
cessful companies---including Virgin---
started with modest funds. Right now,
investors might seem like they are the
gatekeepers between you and your
dream, but the one person who can
make your business succeed is not an
investor, or even a mentor. It is you.
(Richard Branson is the founder
of the Virgin Group and companies
such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Amer-
ica, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active.
He maintains a blog at
You can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn
more about the Virgin Group:
(Questions from readers will be
answered in future columns. Please
include your name, country, email
address and the name of the Web
site or publication where you read
Investment isn't everything
I am a young engineering student with little to no practical experience as an
entrepreneur. I think I've got a great idea, a ready and capable team, but have little
money to pursue commercialising my novel product. I fear that potential investors will
not take me seriously because of my age (21) and inexperience. How can I convince
seasoned investors to believe in my team and invest in my idea?
Consider your connection with a
mentor as a long-lasting business
relationship that can teach you lessons
and reduce the potential for failure.
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