Richard Branson, Twitter, And Taking Startup Risks
There’s this guy called Richard Branson, not sure if you’ve heard of him. He’s got his hand in a few projects, and a little money in the bank. He also, apparently, enjoys helping out budding entrepreneurs over (Virgin) cocktails in Miami.
This is a tale of two young sibling entrepreneurs, an unexpected tweet, and a billionaire encounter that made their startup $1 million richer.
The opportune tweet
Scott Ferreira, 21, had an all too familiar incident of computer crashing and data losing. Instead of crying about it, he turned it into an internet activity managing, password and username storing startup idea—MySocialCloud.com.
His sister Stacy, 19, moved to LA last summer to help work on the business with her big bro and CTO, Shiv Prakash. She was taking a break to check her Twitter account (something she admits she did infrequently), and noticed one little tweet that would change the business (and their lives) forever.
It was from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson who was offering a chance for people to meet him in Miami for cocktails if the donated $2,000 to his charity, Free the Children.
With a parental loan of $4,000, Stacy and Scott were on a plane two days later, headed to the Sunshine State and, as it turns out, destiny.
Virgin cocktails and billionaire best friends
Surrounded by the opulence of the Versace Mansion and 18 other Branson charity donators, the under 21 (at the time) duo sipped on booze-free drinks and chatted with Sir Richard, unnerved and enthused about discussing their new venture.
Contact info was exchanged and when Stacy and Scott returned to California, their new friend Rich was kept in the loop about MySocialCloud. After seeing prototype links, and an office visit from Insight Venture Partner co-founder Jerry Murdock, the announcement that both would invest in the company was made.
Throw in an undisclosed investment by Photobucket co-founder Alex Welch, and you’ve got yourself a nearly $1 million startup injection.
The Fortuitous Risk
Stacy has since taken a leave of absence from NYU to work on the business full-time. She’s still in shock over what she calls the amazing power of social media. If she hadn’t seen the tweet come through her feed, she modestly says the business wouldn’t be where it is today.
Scott, who also left the University of Southern California to work on the venture, says the investment has “propelled the business quite extensively”. He plans to use the investment to support the nine people on the team.
Stacy’s advice to other entrepreneurs–Take every opportunity you can. You never know where it will lead.
Our man Zuck agrees–In his speech to the 2011 y Combinator’s graduating class, he said he feels that many businesses act too slowly and are scared to take risks:
“In such a fast-paced world, the biggest risk is not to take any risk and ultimately watching technology and the industry pass you by.”
The bottom-line: Though a careful startup game plan is never a bad thing, acting on instinct, following your gut and taking scary risks and seizing opportunities can pay-off. Big time.
Now, it doesn’t take much to convince me to go to the Versace Mansion for cocktail hour. But throw in my man Branson and a possible million-dollar relationship? You’ve got yourself a $2,000 Free the Children donation from yours truly and a new little black dress. I’m in Miami… trick.