‘We are yet to con­quer the great­est ex­pe­ri­ence of all, and that’s go­ing to space’

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Dis­rup­tive busi­ness meth­ods are syn­ony­mous with en­tre­pre­neur and phi­lan­thropist Sir Richard Bran­son, who in the 1980s took on the might of es­tab­lished play­ers in the air­line busi­ness to set up Vir­gin At­lantic, and now de­scribes his space­flight com­pany, Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic, as “an ex­pe­ri­ence of see­ing the world with dif­fer­ent eyes”. Speak­ing at the Adobe Sum­mit, Sir Richard said, “From my very first steps as an en­tre­pre­neur, my pri­mary goal has al­ways been to fig­ure out ways of mak­ing peo­ple’s lives bet­ter, understanding peo­ple’s ex­pe­ri­ences, the good and the bad. That guides ev­ery­thing we do - of­fer­ing ex­pe­ri­ences to en­joy or ex­pe­ri­ences to re­late to, or ex­pe­ri­ences you can as­pire to. With that in mind, we quickly be­came quite good at dis­rupt­ing es­tab­lished busi­nesses and par­tic­u­larly the en­trenched ones. If the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is full of frus­tra­tion, cre­at­ing a newer and bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence is the way to go. And the air­line in­dus­try is a good case in point. In the early 1980s, the big flag car­ri­ers that dom­i­nated the air­line busi­ness had no in­cen­tive to im­prove, let alone in­no­vate. So, when we launched Vir­gin At­lantic, we had one long jumbo jet, and that was com­pet­ing with the fleet of 400 Bri­tish Air­ways and 300 TWA and 250 PAN planes. No one re­ally gave our cu­ri­ous lit­tle air­line a fight­ing chance. Lord King, then chair­man of Bri­tish Air­ways, said we were ‘too old to rock and roll, too young to fly’. And yet we sur­vived and we thrived, be­cause we changed the ex­pe­ri­ence of fly­ing, from bore­dom into ex­cite­ment and fun. We re-imag­ined check-in, we re-imag­ined en­ter­tain­ment, food and com­fort and en­sured all these ex­pe­ri­ences made your flight mem­o­rable.” Ac­cord­ing to Sir Richard, “The great­est ex­pe­ri­ence of all is one we are yet to con­quer, and that’s go­ing to space. Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic is a dream that we have been work­ing on for 14 years. Its sig­nif­i­cance res­onates far be­yond the ex­pe­ri­ence of flights on the space­ship. Send­ing peo­ple to space is a jour­ney that car­ries with it the hopes and the dreams of all those who worked with us over the years. And it has not only ex­panded understanding of science, but taught us amaz­ing things about hu­man in­ge­nu­ity, psy­chol­ogy and phys­i­ol­ogy. It’s also a jour­ney that only be­gins to an­swer the many chal­lenges we face in sus­tain­ing life on our beau­ti­ful frag­ile planet. From space, it is clear that there is much more that unites and di­vides us. Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic’s ex­pe­ri­ence is all about see­ing the world with dif­fer­ent eyes.”

En­tre­pre­neur Sir Richard Bran­son at the Adobe Sum­mit in Las Ve­gas

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