Sir Richard Branson: The importance of digital skills for SMEs
Technology Technology must be embraced by all small business owners and put at the heart of everything they do, regardless of the industry they operate in.
When I look at the success of Virgin Atlantic, I remember it’s because we invested in technology right from the start and used it to dramatically improve the experience of air travel. We were the first airline to give each passenger their own mini TV and fast-forward to today and we’re still focusing on tech to improve air travel.
Technology promotes entrepreneurial endeavors
Our space project Virgin Galactic is using new technology to create an entirely new sector – space tourism – and help increase our planet’s satellite network through the LauncherOne programme. We also allow people to pay using the brand new digital currency – Bitcoin.
The internet has made it easier and less risky to start a business. I remember how a postal strike in the 1970s threatened to end Virgin Mail Order because we were unable to sell or receive orders for the records we had in stock. We were forced to take a huge risk and open a shop on Oxford Street to sell them. Thankfully it worked and led to bigger and better things, but if we were launching the same business today, we could easily create a website and massively reduce our reliance on the Royal Mail to receive orders. In addition, we could better target the customers we know are searching for the records we sell through social media likes and shares.
Businesses successfully implementing technology
Technology is constantly advancing, if you make sure your business is nimble and smart enough to adopt new ideas early, then it gives your startup a weapon that will allow you to compete with the market leaders.
Here in London, three Black cab drivers and three Internet entrepreneurs put their heads together to create Hailo in 2011. By 2013, the app, which allows users to book taxi’s from their smartphone, was operational in 30 cities across the world and had raised over $50 million in funding. Jump to today and Hailo is facing serious competition as the industry is being disrupted all over again by Uber and its private car hire.
There are many useful sources of information out there helping improve the less tech-saavy business owner’s digital literacy
The key to the success for both of these startups is they used technology to create a better customer experience for people who needed a taxi. By taking advantage of technology, they’ve blossomed from an idea into global brands and all within the last five years.
Confidence comes with skill
It’s having confidence like that to embrace technology which will help build the Virgin businesses of the future. This confidence comes through having the skills to make use of the technology at our fingertips and requires a whole new education in business.
There are many useful sources of information out there helping improve the less tech-saavy business owner’s digital literacy - our own Virgin Media Business has created a Digital Skills Hub to help people with digital literacy through video tutorials, downloadable tool kits and quizzes.
The planet is bursting at the seams with technology that’s more intelligent and more accessible than ever before. Of course, nothing will ever beat making a face to face connection, but thanks to the technology that’s swirling all around us, building startups now is an awful lot easier compared to the when we were getting Virgin started. I’m excited to see what sector get’s disrupted next.