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Richard Branson waves a model of a LauncherOne cargo spacecraft from a window of an actual size model of SpaceShipTwo on display, after Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne announcement and news conference, at the Farnborough Airshow 2012 in southern England July 11, 2012. (LUKE MACGREGOR/REUTERS)
Richard Branson waves a model of a LauncherOne cargo spacecraft from a window of an actual size model of SpaceShipTwo on display, after Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne announcement and news conference, at the Farnborough Airshow 2012 in southern England July 11, 2012. (LUKE MACGREGOR/REUTERS)

Guest Column

Startup benefits from Richard Branson support Add to ...

They say no man is an island, and that holds true for entrepreneurs.

While driven by a sense of independence and self-sufficiency, their success often hinges on the support and cooperation of external partners.

At our company, we’ve been fortunate enough to receive the support of Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. His support has done more for us in a few short days than we could have done in months.

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We never expected someone of such high calibre to become a supporter at this early stage, but we’ve always valued partnerships, and it’s certainly paid dividends.

Our business is an online fundraising marketplace, where users donate a service to raise money for their favourite charities. It’s a for-profit social enterprise operating on the triple bottom line: profits, people, and planet.

We believe it’s possible to create wealth and success in a socially constructive manner. While some cynics find the approach idealistic and unrealistic, we’ve found the message inspirational in a way that motivates people to take action and support our vision.

It’s difficult to establish early partnerships when a business model relies entirely on the profit motive.

On the other hand, people are much more willing to help prop up a company that is looking to gain its wealth through socially constructive means.

Our success is theoretically tied to our ability to create an online platform where people can donate or purchase services. In practice, our success is more closely tied to our ability to establish partnerships despite limited resources.

Our partnership with Virgin Unite – Mr. Branson’s personal foundation – has helped bolster our credibility and public presence.

In terms of developing the marketplace, being featured on a mid-sized tech blog has proven to be more effective. We’ve come to see that some partnerships help provide the business with credibility while others actively improve direct performance. Our continuing partnerships with small and medium-sized charity organizations have helped us find more participants for the marketplace than our coverage on national news, for instance.

Aside from financial support, early-stage entrepreneurial ventures need to establish credibility to advance to the next level.

However, as is the case at many stages of a startup, it takes credibility to secure financial support. This puts the entrepreneur in an awkward position and one of the best ways to try to overcome the issue is by developing working relationships early on with well-known organizations and media outlets.

Our team can attest to the power of this approach to help accelerate the growth of a small business.

The intelligence of entrepreneurs contributes to growth. But intelligence is an elusive concept. We believe in an entrepreneurial setting – that intelligence should not only be defined by the capacity of the entrepreneurs but also their capacity to reach out and make use of the expertise of those around them.

This is important in early-stage ventures, where few people are required to play a lot of roles, many of which they have never taken on before. Finding the right support team – whether internal members or external partners – for a business is crucial to its development.

Even brilliant entrepreneurs can only possess so many fields of expertise and, no matter how exceptionally talented they may be, there will always be those who are more knowledgeable in certain respects. So while the drive for independence and self-sufficiency is at the root of the entrepreneurial spirit, it is only with the help and support of good partners that the business may grow and thrive.

Shayan Nahrvar is a co-founder ofRaise5, a Toronto-based fundraising platform that gives everyone a creative way to raise money for their favourite charities and non-profit organizations with their free time and talents.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeSmallBiz

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