We are on our way to an event organised by TED, a global platform for sharing ‘ideas worth spreading’. Richard Branson is tonight’s main guest and he will be talking to TED’s curator Chris Anderson.

For us as entrepreneurs, Richard has long been a source of inspiration – we are particularly interested in his vision for saving the planet. He believes in making a difference and is always looking for the next big thing. I wonder what the next big thing is going to be tonight.

The most exciting part is that we will get to speak to Richard after his talk and interview him for our storytelling project.

But first we’re spectators on the third row of the packed auditorium and we join in the enthusiastic applause as Richard emerges onto the stage: radiant smile, long hair, jeans and a shirt – his usual maverick look.

Meeting Richard Branson at TED - Around the World in 80 Brands
Meeting Richard Branson at TED – Around the World in 80 Brands

Chris launches straight into the interview and Richard talks about the beginnings of his business empire: how he started the Virgin record label in the 1970s, developed Virgin Airlines and how the business kept growing even with its ups and downs. Then it starts getting interesting.

“These days I devote 50 percent of my time to Virgin Unite, a charitable organisation that tackles some of the world’s most challenging issues,” Richard says. “I strongly believe that we cannot let ourselves become the generation that irreversibly damages the environment. We have the knowledge, the financial resources, and – most importantly – the willpower to prevent this.”

Anouk turns to me and whispers: “This is what we want to talk to him about!”

“We are dedicating the profits of our transportation business – around $3 billion – to developing renewable alternatives to carbon fuels,” Richard continues.

“Not only is he a visionary, this man also puts his money where his mouth is,” I whisper back.

“And then there’s the Virgin Earth Challenge, where we offer a $25 million prize to the first person to come up with an economically viable solution to the greenhouse gas problem.”

Roaring applause from the audience – talk about ideas worth spreading!

“We believe space is the solution,” Richard says. “Virgin Galactic is the solution. Researchers will be able to fly experiments into space more often and this will help resolve key questions about the earth’s climate. Virgin Galactic represents nothing less than the dawn of a new era.”

“This is what we should ask him about,” Anouk says. “How can space travel save the world from global warming?”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands


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