Richard Branson: ‘Entrepreneurs will get UK out of potential Brexit mess’

24 May 2018

From left: Voom 2018 Scale & Grow winner Rebecca Bright from Therapy Box, Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Tropic Skincare founder Susie Ma. Image: John Kennedy

Business acumen and the commercial nous of entrepreneurs will be the key to survival post-Brexit.

It will depend on the enterprising spirit of entrepreneurs to steer the UK away from the calamities and pitfalls that await the economy in the wake of its departure from the EU.

That was the view of Virgin founder Richard Branson after he and his judges decided the winners of the Virgin Media Business Voom 2018 pitching competition in London with a total prize fund of £1m (about €1.1m).

‘Entrepreneurs see opportunities. But, if you tie an entrepreneur’s hand behind its back, he or she is still going to go out and fight’

Yesterday, Dublin start-up Junior Einsteins, led by Tracey-Jane Cassidy, won the Spark & Start category at Voom 2018. Junior Einsteins encourages children to get into STEM subjects through hands-on interactive experiments and amazing science events.

The winner of the Scale & Grow category was UK-based Therapy Box, led by Rebecca Bright. The company creates apps to help diagnose, treat and support people with communication disabilities.

Never underestimate an entrepreneur

Richard Branson with Voom winners

From left: Rebecca Bright from Therapy Box, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Tracey-Jane Cassidy from Junior Einsteins. Image: John Kennedy

One of the richest people in the UK, with a net worth estimated at more than £3bn, Branson is an entrepreneurial icon in Britain and is known for his adventurous exploits, from ballooning around the world to establishing airlines, space companies, record labels and more.

He recalled to the Voom audience how a publisher that was about to buy his first business, a student magazine, walked away from the deal because they thought he was mad after he enthused over lunch about his plans for global businesses and even space travel. “They sent me a letter of apology 10 years later,” he laughed.

In a press conference following the event, asked Branson if he believed entrepreneurship would be enough to support Britain post-Brexit.

“Britain is going to need everything to carry itself through Brexit, and I think Britain is going to need all the help it can get.

“I think they [entrepreneurs] will play a part in getting us out of the potential mess that Britain will get itself into.”

Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed, Branson’s colleague on the Voom judging panel, said that Brexit will put UK entrepreneurs on the back foot when it comes to competition.

“Entrepreneurs see opportunities. But, if you tie an entrepreneur’s hand behind its back, he or she is still going to go out and fight.

“Leaving the EU is definitely tying one behind our back. So, we’ll make the most of it but I would always say, just imagine what more we can do if we had both hands free.”

Reed said that if the UK government does manage to come up with a deal with the EU, it should go before the people of the UK to decide.

“There was a referendum; the results are to be respected. That 52pc majority means that the government deserves our full support, so we will need to get the best deal possible.

“What the country deserves is the opportunity to vote when and if that deal is revealed, to make sure it is what the country wants.

“I have very strong Vote Leave friends who want a vote on the deal,” Reed said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years