Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 12th 2015 Contents Q: I have started up six companies (five
profitable, one in startup mode) in six
years. I m 26 now, and I am currently
looking for funding for an industry-dis-
rupting project. Would you recommend
going public or getting venture capital?
First of all, I think congrat-
ulations are in order. Run-
ning one business is hard
enough, but you seemed
to have mastered the art
of keeping a number going
at once. Well done!
The great thing about being an entrepreneur
today is the vast array of funding options
available, in comparison to previous years.
There s no one-size-fits-all solution - the
route you choose should depend on a number
The different approaches people take to this
problem are fascinating. Right now, a two-
pronged approach is becoming more common.
Venture capital firms are increasingly being
approached by entrepreneurs who have used
crowdfunding platforms to raise their first
round of funding.
When your idea has been backed by a few
thousand small investors, it puts you in a
stronger position when you seek venture capital
investment or a bank loan.
You describe your idea as an "industry-
disrupting project" that s a reason to celebrate!
It does present a difficulty: Many people
worry that if they put a unique idea into the
public domain, such as on a crowdfunding
platform, it will be copied. And getting a
patent for an idea is not a cheap process.
While some entrepreneurs have been opening
their patents to public use in the name of
the open-source movement---perhaps most
famously Elon Musk---this might not be the
best approach for your company.
But in your case, you may have the option
of avoiding this problem altogether by funding
the idea yourself; which could mean selling
one of your other enterprises. This is what
my colleagues and I at the Virgin Group
decided to do in the early 90s when we sold
Virgin Records in order to raise the money
required to secure a future for our disruptive
idea: Virgin Atlantic, an airline that provided
great service at a time when our competitors
had forgotten what service was.
It was not an easy decision, but it was the
best one. We had reached a crossroads: Our
Virgin Atlantic airline needed funds to fight
the dirty tricks campaign that British Airways
was waging against us, but we weren t in a
position to keep asking third parties or our
bank for extra cash injections. It just wouldn t
have been sustainable.
The Virgin Group, however, was running
another seriously profitable company, Virgin
Records, and we could see that selling that
business was the safest way to raise funds.
If we continued running both companies,
then we risked them both: At that point, it
seemed possible that Virgin Atlantic would
have had to close, leaving 2,500 people with-
out jobs and our brand s reputation in tatters.
By selling Virgin Records, we left both com-
panies in stronger positions.
This decision was very painful for me, but
it wasn t made alone; I went over it with col-
leagues, friends and family. And whichever
route you choose to take, your chances of
succeeding are that much better if you ensure
that you have the right team in place before
committing yourself to anything.
I was reminded of this recently at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Dur-
ing the trip, I joined the American rapper
and entrepreneur Will.i.am in answering a
few questions from the public, one of which
was from someone wanting to know what
kept us going when we were struggling to
get ideas off the ground and times were hard.
Both Will and I replied: "The team around
It s telling that we both had the same
answer. But think: You can t control what a
venture capitalist will do when you pitch to
them; you don t know whether a bank will
give you the loan you ve asked for; and you
can t be certain what will happen when you
take your company public.
However, if you have surrounded yourself
with the right people---honest, hardworking,
reliable, talented friends and colleagues who
will tell it to you straight---then you can be
sure that you ll come up with the best possible
Best of luck!
(Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin
Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and
Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at
can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered
in future columns. Please send them to
RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include
your name, country, e-mail address and the
name of the Web site or publication where
you read the column.)
FEBRUARY 2015 • WEEK TWO www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
Finding the right source of funding
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