Richard Branson: The Mind Behind Virgin’s Disruptive Empire

By: Rich DeMuro

5/10/2013

It’s the tongue in cheek brand that’s creating a lot of buzz in big business.

Virgin Group continues to expand worldwide, most recently with additions to Virgin America. The U.S. based airline made its inaugural flight from Los Angeles to San Jose on Wednesday and alongside highlighted recently added inflight features including one that lets passengers send drinks to other patrons onboard.

“[W]e like to push the boundaries a bit,” sad Virgin America CEO, David Cush. “But we think travel should be exciting and should be fun.”

Leading the charge for the chaste bunch was Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. We got to sit with the serial entrepreneur to chat about the group’s ventures and even his favorite gadget.

Rich DeMuro: When your airline expands to a new city like this, how does that make you feel?

Richard Branson: Proud.  Proud of the wonderful, wonderful people who work at Virgin America… every detail is right.

DeMuro: How can you get on these planes and not feel good? I mean even the lighting makes you look good.

Branson: …we can have an entertainment system that works.  We can have Wi-Fi on every single plane.  All these things add up to make for an exceptional service rather than a pretty average service.

DeMuro: That’s an interesting thought because we’ve seen this airline, it’s been around for a little bit now, and when you talk about this airline, there are so many features that people want, that people love when they get on here.  But yet, we haven’t seen other airlines follow suit.  Why do you think that is?

Branson: I think… the problem that America has is three airlines that completely dominate the skies, and they can just use their shared minds to get their way.  But they don’t have to worry about quality; they don’t have to worry about price.  So, what we’re trying to do is come in and be a lot smaller than them and not have the same clout as them, but attracts people to Virgin because of the extra bits and pieces we offer and the wonderful staff we’ve got.

DeMuro: You recently broke the sound barrier with Virgin Galactic.  Are you excited about space?

Branson: …we’ve spent eight and a half years trying to perfect a spaceship, a mother ship and a rocket ship to take people to space. We’ve finally cracked it and later this year I’ll be going to space.  And hopefully from there on, hopefully one day you’ll go to space, your children will go to space and why not? So from everyone I’ve talked to who’s been to space it’s an extraordinary experience.

DeMuro: Is there anything you use on a daily basis that you really enjoy; I mean everyone says their iPhone, but is there anything you rely on?

Branson: …the thing I have wherever I go is my notebook. I just love to capture everything, and I find it easier still to hand write it.

DeMuro: What would you like to disrupt next?

Branson: …so clean energy is something we’d love to disrupt, to have all Virgin planes throughout the world be the cleanest planes in the world.

Watch my full interview with Sir Richard Branson here.

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