Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, has said his space venture will succeed despite the sceptics.
‘We have nearly 250 engineers beavering away on our spaceship company. They will succeed despite the sceptics, and that will be sooner rather than later,’ he told MT.
‘We’ll have satellites in space in 18 months. That will mean the three billion people around the world without mobile phone or internet access will be able to get it for a tiny price. And once they’ve done that, we’ll build a spaceship to look like an aeroplane with the idea of orbital point-to-point travel, which means it will fly at 18,500 miles an hour.’
Branson has previously spoken of his plan to fly with his children on the inaugural flight of his long-planned commercial space operation, Virgin Galactic, an American-based spaceflight company within the Virgin Group.
Branson also suggested he won’t just stop at space travel and has visions of building a Virgin empire outside planet earth.
‘Why not have a hotel in space? How fantastic would it be to go and spend a week in a space hotel. I’m not sure how many of these things we’ll pull off in lifetime, or my kids', but we’ll see. We’ve got lots of people hungry to try it. You’ve got to dream big. By talking ahead of yourself you pull everybody along.’
Branson was speaking at the final of Pitch to Rich, a competition aiming to find Britain’s next business leader.
Igor Rubets, founder of storage start-up Boxhug, took the overall prize and won £5,000 alongside legal, branding and marketing advice from Branson’s online community Virgin Media Pioneers.
MiPic, an app enabling people to sell their smartphone photos, took the innovation award and its founder Carl Thomas won free enrolment to the Accelerator Academy – a 12-week, high-growth training and mentoring programme for digital entrepreneur.
The judging panel consisted of Nick Jenkins, founder of Moonpig, Holly Tucker, co-founder of Not on the High Street, Peter Williams, co-founder of Jack Wills and fashion blogger Dina Toki-O.
‘A tiny amount of money can build an empire,’ Branson said. ‘My mum gave me £300. I used that money to pay for the paper costs and the printing of making my magazine and to get my dad’s permission to leave school at 15. I suspect a few thousand pounds is roughly the equivalent of that today. You can start a business without funding. I’ve managed to keep my independence all these years by owning 100% of the shares. I had to come up with imaginative ways with each of my businesses in getting the money upfront. It’s something entrepreneurs should think hard about.’