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I have started six companies (five profitable, one in start-up mode) in six years. I’m 26 now, and I am currently looking for funding for an industry-disrupting project. Would you recommend going public or getting venture capital?

—Jordan Banda

First of all, I think congratulations are in order. Running one business is hard enough, but you seemed to have mastered the art of keeping a number going at once. Well done!

The great thing about being an entrepreneur today is the vast array of funding options available, in comparison with previous years. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution—the route you choose should depend on a number of variables.

The different approaches people take to this problem are fascinating. Right now, a two-pronged approach is becoming more common. Venture capital firms are increasingly being approached by entrepreneurs who have used crowdfunding platforms to raise their first round of funding. When your idea has been backed by a few thousand small investors, it puts you in a stronger position when you seek venture capital investment or a bank loan.

You describe your idea as an “industry-disrupting project"—that’s a reason to celebrate! It does present a difficulty: Many people worry that if they put a unique idea into the public domain, such as on a crowdfunding platform, it will be copied. And getting a patent for an idea is not a cheap process. While some entrepreneurs have been opening their patents to public use in the name of the open-source movement—perhaps most famously Elon Musk—this might not be the best approach for your company. But in your case, you may have the option of avoiding this problem altogether by funding the idea yourself—which could mean selling one of your other enterprises. This is what my colleagues and I at the Virgin Group decided to do in the early 1990s when we sold Virgin Records in order to raise the money required to secure a future for our disruptive idea: Virgin Atlantic, an airline that provided great service at a time when our competitors had forgotten what service was.

It was not an easy decision, but it was the best one. We had reached a crossroads: Our Virgin Atlantic airline needed funds to fight the dirty tricks campaign that British Airways was waging against us, but we weren’t in a position to keep asking third parties or our bank for extra cash injections. It just wouldn’t have been sustainable.

The Virgin Group, however, was running another seriously profitable company, Virgin Records, and we could see that selling that business was the safest way to raise funds. If we continued running both companies, then we risked them both: At that point, it seemed possible that Virgin Atlantic would have had to close, leaving 2,500 people without jobs and our brand’s reputation in tatters. By selling Virgin Records, we left both companies in stronger positions.

This decision was very painful for me, but it wasn’t made alone— I went over it with colleagues, friends and family. And whichever route you choose to take, your chances of succeeding are that much better if you ensure that you have the right team in place before committing yourself to anything.

I was reminded of this recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During the trip, I joined American rapper and entrepreneur Will.i.am in answering a few questions from the public, one of which was from someone wanting to know what kept us going when we were struggling to get ideas off the ground and times were hard. Both Will and I replied: “The team around us."

It’s telling that we both had the same answer. But think: You can’t control what a venture capitalist will do when you pitch to them; you don’t know whether a bank will give you the loan you’ve asked for; and you can’t be certain what will happen when you take your company public.

However, if you have surrounded yourself with the right people— honest, hard-working, reliable, talented friends and colleagues who will tell it to you straight—then you can be sure that you’ll come up with the best possible response together. Best of luck!

By NYT Syndicate

©2015/Richard Branson

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog

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