Sir Richard Branson President & CEO, Virgin Atlantic
Sir Richard Branson is the founder and president of Virgin Group. Virgin is one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands and has expanded into aviation, hospitality and leisure, telecommunications, financial services, health and wellness, and clean energy through more than 200 companies worldwide, employing approximately 50,000 people in 29 countries.
Companies like Virgin Atlantic, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this June, and the newest airlines, Virgin America and VAustralia, are shaking up the airline industry while Virgin companies in financial services, health and wellness, leisure, mobile telephony continue to offer exceptional customer service and value for money.
In December 1999, Richard was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Millennium New Year’s honours list for “services to entrepreneurship.”
Richard keeps his adrenaline level high, setting personal and world record challenges. He continues to break records, crossing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in epic hot air balloon missions and participating in other around-the-world-attempts. Recently he, along with his two children Holly and Sam, attempted to break the world’s record in transatlantic crossing with the Virgin Money Speedboat, a 99 ft super-maxi yacht.
In the summer of 2004, Richard launched Virgin Unite as a vehicle to pull together all the resources of the Virgin Group internationally and, most importantly, Virgin’s best asset – its people – to tackle some of the tougher challenges facing the world today. He and on-the-ground partners participate in a number of efforts, including the creation of sustainable health clinics in Africa and the fostering of new entrepreneurs through the Branson School of Entrepreneurship in South Africa.
In 2007, Richard joined Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, and Desmond Tutu to form The Elders, a group of independent leaders that will seek sustainable solutions to global humanitarian issues. In December 2007, Richard was recognized by UNCA as Citizen of the Year.
Richard is the author of “Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way,” (Crown Business, 1998) “Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life” (Virgin Books, 2006), and “Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur” (Virgin Books, 2008).
Tony Hsieh CEO, Zappos.com
Tony originally got involved with Zappos as an advisor and investor in 1999, and joined Zappos full time in 2000. Under his leadership, Zappos has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to over $1 billion in 2008 by focusing relentlessly on customer service. Before joining Zappos, Tony co-founded LinkExchange, which was sold to Microsoft for $265 million in 1998.
Tony focuses on continuing to grow the business at a rapid pace while maintaining the culture and feel of a small company. Prior to joining Zappos, Tony co-founded Venture Frogs with Alfred Lin. Venture Frogs is an incubator and investment firm that invested in Internet startups, including Ask Jeeves, Tellme Networks, and of course, Zappos.com. Prior to Venture Frogs, Tony co-founded LinkExchange, an advertising network that was successfully sold to Microsoft for $265M in 1998.
Tony met Alfred Lin (COO/CFO) in college, when Tony was running a pizza business and Alfred was his #1 customer.