My Favourite 5 Gutsiest Entrepreneur Launches of All Time

Richard Branson

In support of the launch of http://www.simplyaccounting.com/BusinessResources, a new website created by SAGE Simply Accounting (one of my recommended tools for running your business) I’ve created a list of my favourite 5 Gutsiest Entrepreneur Launches Moves of All Time. These are from entrepreneurs who knew how to make a splash and get people talking about their products as soon as it came out! Enjoy!

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Gutsiest Entrepreneur Launch #5: Dana White Saves the UFC

Dana White is the current President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  White began managing MMA fighters Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell before taking over the UFC. His current net worth is $150 million.

After purchasing the UFC, Dana White and his partners accumulated over $30 million in losses trying to make the business viable. In a last ditch effort to save the business White launched a reality television show, The Ultimate Fighter, to feature up and coming fighters. He was unable to convince any network to air the show until Spike TV agreed with one major condition: the UFC would have to pay the entire $10 million production cost to create the show.

White agreed and put his business on the line. The show became a huge success which ended with  Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar fighting for a six-figure contract. White credits the show for saving the UFC and continued airing new seasons of The Ultimate Fighter to expand the awareness and popularity of his company.

Gutsiest Entrepreneur Launch #4: Philip Knight Signs Michael Jordan

Philip Knight is the co-founder and Chairman of Nike. As of 2010, Knight’s stake in Nike gives him an estimated net worth of US$12.7 billion, making him the 58th richest person in the world.

In 1985, Knight launched a new shoe called “Air Jordan” after signing a young up and coming basketball player named Michael Jordan to a sponsorship deal.  The initial deal was for $2.5 million over five years, an expensive deal at the time that changed the face of sports marketing. The Air Jordan was then banned by the NBA because its black and red colours didn’t fit within NBA guidelines. Jordan continued wearing them and was fined $5,000 per game which Nike paid.

The Air Jordan became the most valuable footwear franchise in Nike’s history. It was so popular that launch dates had to be postponed to weekends so kids wouldn’t be tempted to skip school to get their hands on the latest Air Jordan. The move took Nike from being a running shoe company with no exposure to the basketball market to now  owning as much as 85% of the basketball shoe market.

Gutsiest Entrepreneur Launch #3: Bill Gates Pitches a Product that Doesn’t Exist

Bill Gates is the chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. He is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2009, excluding 2008, when he was ranked third. His current net worth is $56 billion.

Bill Gates and long time friend Paul Allen turned their passion for programming into a business when they saw a picture of the Altair 8080 on the cover of Popular Electronics. Gates called Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the company that was manufacturing the Altair, and told them that he and Allen had developed a programming language for the computer that was ready to launch.

With not a single line of code written and no Altair to work on, Gates and Allen worked around the clock on Harvard computers to do what they said they had already done. Eight weeks later, Allen flew to MITS headquarters in New Mexico to present their code. Without even a test-run, their program was a success and MITS bought the rights, making it an industry standard. Within one year, Gates had dropped out of Harvard and the two high school friends established Microsoft Corporation.

Gutsiest Entrepreneur Launch #2: Richard Branson Drives a Tank into Times Square

Sir Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur, best known for his Virgin Group of over 400 companies. Richard Branson is the 212th richest person in the world according to Forbes’ 2010 list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of approximately £2.97 billion (US$4.0billion).

To launch Virgin Cola he rode into Times Square in New York City on top of a tank, promising to battle with Coke and Pepsi. To launch Virgin Mobile in Canada he repelled into the heart of Yonge-Dundas square. Branson has also made several world record-breaking attempts. With “Virgin Atlantic Challenger” and “Virgin Atlantic Challenger II” he raced to have the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing. In “Virgin Atlantic Flyer” he created the world’s largest hot air balloon and was the first to cross the Atlantic in a balloon. He then tried to become the first person to go around the world in a hot air balloon.

Branson is always thinking of new ways to launch and promote his businesses – the more high profile, the better. Even when his stunts don’t work out they garner so much attention for his businesses that it’s all worth it for him.

Gutsiest Entrepreneur Launch #1: P.T. Barnum Puts on a Show

P. T. Barnum was an American showman, businessman, and entertainer. He was the founder of the circus that became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. His show was called “The Greatest Show on Earth” and he’s my top pick for this list of the gutsiest entrepreneur launches of all time.

Even if you didn’t have a ticket to his show, when Barnum’s circus was in town, you would know it. He would sweep into the city with gusto; elephants would be paraded through the streets, clowns would be sent to local hospitals to visit with sick children. Barnum provided a pre-show to his circus that he hoped would get people talking and raise excitement about his show. He would give tours of his circus to anyone who wanted to see inside the Big Top, and also put on multiple free contests in order to attract crowds to his show.

Barnum was always thinking of ways to promote both himself and his circus. From making splashy entrances to using cross-promotion, Barnum did what it took to make sure people knew who he was.

Business Resource Centre Launch

SAGE Simply Accounting’s launch of its Business Resource Centre has some very useful tools to help you with your accounting basics as well as up to date business news. My favourite features are the checklists – examples are how to improve your cashflow or set up a payroll system. Check them out and let me know what you think! More content will be coming in the following months.

How did you launch you product or service? Which famous entrepreneur launch would you add to your list? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts if you leave a comment below!

About the Author

I #Believe in entrepreneurs.

77 Responses to “My Favourite 5 Gutsiest Entrepreneur Launches of All Time”

  1. Zac says:

    All phonomenal launches.

    Microsoft obviously is legendary now.

    I like the tactics of Barnum with his greatest show on earth, particularly when media outlets were not what they are today.

    Great inspiration Evan.

    1. Thanks Zac – glad you enjoyed!

  2. Zac Hawkins says:

    Very inspirational examples of extraordinary success.

  3. Hey, great list and a good reminder to make sure we remember that often the key to success is to back yourself and your judgement.
    I like all the stories but Phil Knight and Nike was a real ‘back yourself’ moment that changed Nike forever – master stroke.
    Thanks

    1. Thanks for the feedback Glenn – I’m glad you enjoyed!

  4. Roberto Mazzoni says:

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  5. deepak says:

    really gutsy they are. real source of inspiration.

    1. Thanks Deepak – I appreciate the comment!

  6. deepu says:

    Hello Evan………
    I really love this lessons thanks for this kind of lessons for us……..

    1. Great to hear you found it valuable! Thanks for commenting.

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  9. Stephen says:

    Hey Evan – thanks for the inspiring newsletter – I have not forgotten the P.T. Barnum quote I read on your site about the terrible thing that happens without promotion.
    Yeah – we have to go out and give it a go

    1. Hey Stephen – I’m glad the information is sticking with you. Thanks for commenting!

  10. sokkimsan says:

    Thank for sent me good idea. Just do it today! now

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  18. Chantoni says:

    Definitely Barnum! I think that word of mouth and hands on exposure is an absolute winner through out all industry’s – building relationships with clients – making them a part of / feel a part who the company is … They are what measures the success of your company.

    1. Great to hear – he’s my #1 pick too.

  19. Angie says:

    I’d go for Philip Knight…I love the passion his company puts in the products…I feel they r real humans, not just money making machines…same with Steve Jobs

    1. Thanks Angie – Jobs is another great example and has had some fantastic launches in his career!

  20. Peter Engel says:

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  23. As always, I appreciate your ideas and thankful. However, I have
    the following to say:

    There is time when things get very tough and everything dim and cloudy. No matter what never ever put self down. I happen to grew in a family where I was encouraged and appreciated at young age. Especially my loving mother always put me above everybody. According to her judgment I was the best person in the whole world and that helped me throughout my life.
    In my adult life I encountered many tragedies and mid-life crises. Yes, that holds me back from success. My view point of life was changed completely; despite all never blamed myself. As much as I could, I encourage myself. It is unfortunate that friends or relatives are also wavering with time; to me that is the saddest part.
    Now I am in my senior years and success would be a dream, though I see failure as success and enjoy the rest of my life with gratitude.

  24. zabron says:

    Thank you Evan giving me the way i can be an entrepreneur. The problem to me is am still a student and still dependat. So please i request you if posible help either in term of geting a job within your company or siponsser me accademicaly.Am doing agriculture 2nd year student at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania.I much iteresting to do agribusiness after my study.Thank you.

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  27. Mohammed says:

    Informative and short, very good

    1. Great to hear you enjoyed Mohammed!

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  32. Yakime Akela Brown says:

    Excellent examples of not taking no for an answer. These stories of professional triumph further underscore the importance of forging ahead even when others say it simply cannot be done.

    1. Thanks Yakime – great feedback!

  33. BobH says:

    You have to be careful to not attribute brilliance to sheer luck or happenstance. Sure, all the above are great examples of entrepreneurship, but, for every one of those there are thousands, or hundreds of thousands more examples of where people took risks and failed. Just because someone flips heads ten times in a row doesn’t mean we should applaud his skill. This is the reason venture capitalists take a portfolio approach, because even though it’s a great idea and has great founders there is no assurance that it will be a success.

    That being said, I am a HUGE fan of learning more from success than failure. Most people want to study their faults and try to improve them. The greats know that you can’t learn excellence from studying failure. If you want to improve your golf swing you don’t hang around the range looking at the lousy golfers and figuring out what they did wrong. You can only learn excellence from studying excellence.

    Excellence is what this list shows. These people did it right and we can learn from them. Just don’t think that if you emulate them you will have similar success. Just think how hokey the Gates/Allen example is in today’s world. No one could get away with that today.

    Bob

    1. Thanks for sharing Bob – I appreciate your insights.

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  35. Vanessa says:

    I love your writings! congratulations of every information you post in your website. In Mexico, we also work very hard to make entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship one of the most important things to change economic and social problems. Love your phrase: “on to the content”.
    Thanks!

    1. I’m glad you approve Vanessa! :)

  36. Adam says:

    What I love about Richard Branson is that he is never afraid of trying out something that no one else would do. Take for example flying people into space. It had been talked about for years but he had the cajones to do it. Brilliant.

    1. Thanks for sharing Adam – I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  37. Rick says:

    Philip knight essentially put not only Nike and Michael Jordan on the map but made the NBA more popular than it had ever been. Without his amazing decision the nba would not be the powerhouse it is today.

  38. Kyle says:

    For as much crap Bill Gates gets from the Tech world especially Mac people (I am one) his contributions to the computer world are unfathomable, he made computers the norm and essentially put a computer in everyones home.

  39. Greg says:

    I love your choice for #1 I mean I know the circus is maybe not a big as it use to be but Barnum was amazing. I mean who doesn’t think of Barnum and Bailey’s when someone mentions the circus. Brilliant.

  40. Matt says:

    Hey I want to call your list gutsie, there are some very amazing people on here who have in all reality changed the ways we view and even live our lives. Well done.

  41. Heidi says:

    Bill Gates is brilliant I like Steve Jobs a little better but I also realize that both of them revolutionized the computer world.

  42. Kade says:

    When I first heard about UFC I thought this won’t last long, but now it is amazing how popular it is and it seems that everyone is into it. Dana White made really something out of nothing.

  43. Jacob says:

    Thanks to Philip Knight I have only bought Air Jordans for the past 20 years. I have tried other shoes but always come back to Nike. Thanks Mr. Knight.

  44. Lexi says:

    I first saw Richard Branson MTV cribs(I’m Young)but after watching him at his amazing island I looked up all the information I could on him and he is just awesome and motivated. He is also brilliant!

  45. Mary says:

    I am a PC guy and I still marvel at what Bill Gates did. I don’t know if we will ever see someone with such influence on the computer industry in a long time.

  46. Adam says:

    Is there any other circus out there that’s not Barnum and Baily’s. He is the king of Circus’s and a pioneer in the entertainment world.

  47. Manny says:

    Richard Branson is amazing who would have thought the owner of record company would eventually put everyday people in space. Dude is amazing.

  48. Barry says:

    What i love about Bill Gates is he is retired now and basically shows up in public to guest speak. When your that smart and rich you can do anything you want.

  49. Vince says:

    I had no idea Philip Knight is the reason why Nike is even on the map. He took an already good shoe empire and made it an empire.

  50. Carter says:

    How cool is Richard Branson? So cool he drove a tank onto Times Square, that is one amazing Brit.

  51. Katie says:

    I have really enjoyed reading your post I had no idea how influential these men are. They have really made their mark on I know my life I wear nikes, use a PC and watch UFC with my boyfriend.

  52. Aiden says:

    Dana White is a complete stud I am the biggest UFC fan in the world and can’t thank Dana White enough for making this sport relevant.

  53. Dennise says:

    I love the Circus and can’t think of another Circus out there that is not Barnum’s. He is amazing and will always be the king of the Circus.

  54. Steven says:

    What makes Richard Branson so cool is he fails a lot and every time picks himself up and makes himself better and does something crazy that makes millions.

  55. Vance says:

    I love my Nikes so I guess I have to thank Philip Knight for that. I had no idea he was the reason why my Jordan’s are on my feet.

  56. Max says:

    I can’t believe how young Bill Gate is in that add wow he looks like a little kid. Turns out that little kid made a butt load of money. I have really enjoyed reading about these great men. Thanks.

  57. Jason says:

    Philip Knight took a chance on a kid from North Carolina and built Nike into the Super Power it is now. I don’t anyone who took a chance like Mr. knight did and had it pay off.

  58. Taylor says:

    Look I’m not a UFC fan at all in fact I just don’t get it. But what I do get is that Dana White is a pretty amazing guy to do what he has done with a sport that started out so small. I give that guy a whole lot of credit.

  59. Rich says:

    I just went to the circus about a month ago and I can tell you there is nothing like a PT Barnum circus, that man made his circus the best show on earth, but for real. Amazing.

  60. Rhyan says:

    From all your comments I can tell this post was hit and how could it not be the info non these 5 guys is incredible all of them made an influence on society through their gutsy move, love your website too.

  61. Shauna Davis says:

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  62. Brian Hyde says:

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  63. Hey, Evan:

    An inspirational list of impressive start-ups! Thanks for posting.

    Philip Knight worth $12.7 billion? I’ll be happy with my first billion, lol!

    And Branson driving a tank into NYC’s Times Square and rappelling into the heart of Yonge-Dundas square in Canada? Gutsy … but you also have to have a solid marketing plan to back up the big splash or you will get a different sort of reputation. Thanks again for posting this info.

    :) GT Bulmer
    Affiliate Power Central

    1. Thanks GT – I’m glad you enjoyed!

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