Richard Branson Talks Motivation and the Beginning of Virgin Airlines

There are few people in the world that are as cool as they are successful, but serial entrepreneur and businessman Richard Branson is definitely one of them.

The Hip Pocket attended the 2016 World Business Forum in Sydney recently and we were lucky enough to catch a talk by the man himself. Starting Virgin in 1970, the conglomerate now has a finger in almost every pie imaginable, even space travel.

When asked about what motivated him when he was starting out versus what motivates him now, he says the two have been much the same.

“It’s been very much the same thing. I mean, my first venture – I was fifteen years old, I was at school, I was interested in the world, the Vietnamese war was going on and it was an unjust war,” said Sir Branson.

In 1968, he started Student magazine as an alternative to the often boring publications that were available at the time.

“A lot of us young people wanted to campaign against [the Vietnam war]. We also wanted a voice about the education system, which we felt was flawed and was just there to waste our time rather than to properly educate us,” he said.

“So I had a passion to do something and I left school and started this magazine, and I suppose ever since then I’ve come across situations where, out of frustration, I thought dammit, let’s see if we can put this right.”

When explaining how Virgin Airlines came to be, the story starts out very similar – he was frustrated with the service and believed he could do it better.

“I was 28 years old and I’d been away from home for 3 weeks and I had this gorgeous lady waiting for me, and American Airlines announced that they’re not going to fly the flight till the next morning, they didn’t have enough passengers. I was damned if I was going to wait until the next morning,” he said.

He then found a blackboard at the back of the airport and scribbled “Virgin Airlines, $39 one-way to the British Virgin Islands” and managed to gain enough passengers to fill up the flight.

The next day he called Boeing and casually asked if they had any second-hand 747’s for sale. After a quick chat, the Boeing representative said “well look, we’ll send a salesman to see you, but with a name like Virgin, I hope your airline goes the whole way.”

Many lel’s were had by all. You can check out this part of the interview below.