As promised, I’ll share with you how I got kicked off Necker Island.
But first to get you up to speed on my adventures – we’ll talk about Las Vegas first. That was for our last Maverick Business Adventures™ experience – what we called “Airborne Action” since everything took place in the air. It was a whirlwind of experiences from the quintessential Vegas nightlife to real work getting done to a ton of fun and celebrity guests.
After the first day’s work sessions we hung out for dinner & drinks with Peter Diamandis, founder of the X-Prize foundation and Rick Searfoss, former NASA astronaut. Rick gave us a little glimpse into what we’d be experiencing the next day during our Zero-Gravity flight.
It didn’t quite turn out that way and I’ll tell you about that in a second. But first, the next morning was jumpstarted by a guest presentation by Peter Diamandis on innovation. Peter’s X-Prize Foundation was the $10M prize established for a ship that could go into space successfully 2 times in 2 weeks. Burt Rutan’s SpaceShip One did that in 2004 and then Virgin licensed their technology. No doubt, Peter is truly a visionary and largely responsible as the driving force for the private space industry coming into play today. (As you guys know already, I’m #144 on Virgin Galactic and that’s a direct result of the X Prize.)
The X-Prize has now grown to have prizes in all sorts of competitions from the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics to the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE and beyond.
He even gave us insights into how he’s getting an entire new sport started with his Rocket Racing League. (Look it up – it’s very cool!) Most of the comments Maverick members had were around thinking bigger and Peter gave us permission to do so.
After Peter’s session we all headed out to the Zero-G training facilities to meet Tony Hawk. (Yep, the skateboarding and sports business icon.) Tony shared with us his secrets to success and how he’s built a $500M brand around skateboarding starting from scratch. We also auctioned off 4 autographed decks to support his Tony Hawk Foundation and raised over $10,000.00 in 5 minutes from members, Tim Storm, Mike Filsaime, Jason Abernathy and Buck Rizvi.
After that we all boarded up the bus to head over to our airplane for Zero-G. We literally pulled up to the plane and I heard some of the Zero-G staff cell phones going off. Not good. They pulled me aside to tell me there was a part on the emergency slide that was broken and we weren’t allowed to take off. They weren’t even sure if the part would be here tomorrow or if we could get up in the air the next day. Yikes!
Dejected we got out of our flight suits and made a quick detour to private cabanas at MGM’s newest pool-side party ‘Wet Republic’. (Now as a side note – this is a great marketing example of increasing the transaction value from customers. Vegas was already known for its nightlife and now they are adding consumption during the day with it’s ‘daylife’. It started with “Rehab” at the Hard Rock’s pool on Sunday but now a whole lot of other resorts have got into it from Venetian’s TAO Beach to Mandalay to this newest one, Wet Republic. It’s a total dance club party atmosphere just with a whole lot more sunshine instead of dim lights.
Customers are stepping up for bottle service and private cabanas during the day which translates into new revenues from a previously down time. It’s just like the popular Orange Juice campaign trying to increase consumption by saying Orange Juice wasn’t just for breakfast anymore. Good marketing lesson to consider how you can increase the consumption of your customers.)
Okay back to our plight…
The Zero-G crew worked tirelessly to find us that part and were able to reschedule for the next afternoon. So we headed to dinner that night and then to our private poker party. You can see me at the final table doing my best impression of Phil Laak, poker’s ‘unabomber’.
Trust me, I don’t play poker but I actually did pretty well and got 6th place. Sitting to my left was Kascper Postawski looking amused at my antics. Kacper was the guy who knocked me out with a total bluff and won on the River. I guess I shouldn’t feel that bad since he ended up winning the tourney and later told us he used to play cards semi-professionally.
The next morning we hit Air Combat where each person got to take the controls of their plane and become a jetfighter for a day. Here’s Maverick Member and Elite MasterMind member, Craig Ballantyne on the wing of his plane.
I was up against Mike Geary and he ended up taking me 3-2 because I hit the hard deck and self destructed. Flying was very cool since these planes had such maneuverability and you could pull about 4Gs if you were really pushing it hard. I guess I can feel a little better about being knocked out of the tournament because Kacper ended up hurling inside the plane from the G-forces. Not that I thought that was funny or anything. 😉
Straight from AirCombat we gathered back at Zero-G for Zero Gravity flight. This time we took off without a hitch. Here’s a cool shot of me with my Voodoo PC laptop. (Maybe this will one of my new PR shots.)
Here’s Eben Pagan without his trademark pink shirt – having a good time in Zero-G. (There’s something about this activity that really turns people into little kids again!)
Speaking of little kids – there were 3 of us, Chris Zavadowski, Mike Filsaime and myself, who had already done the Zero-G flight. You’ve probably seen astronauts do the tricks in zero-gravity with water as they float around and gulp it down. Well Zero-G provides you with little water bottles to try that yourself. As you might have guessed it got out of control pretty quickly.
Chris took his entire bottle and simply flung it on me. It was one long stream of water suspended in mid-air until we returned to normal gravity. Of course, I had to get revenge and told our in-air coach, Loretta, I needed several bottles of water. It turned into an all-out water fight with us sitting in huge puddles. Loretta told us she’d never seen the plane this wet except for one other time. And that was for a 7-UP commercial where they planned on getting that wet.
Here’s Chris before he decided to turn into a 6-year old.
And here’s after (a bit drenched):
Then here’s us being scolded by Loretta:
To put on a full Vegas experience, I bought everyone Elvis wigs and sunglasses so here are a few of the members rocking their new look (we had nearly everyone ready with their wigs and glasses until our Zero-G flight got canceled the first day so these are the hard-core flying elvises):
We had a pretty jam-packed schedule since we had to move Zero-G to the afternoon and we headed out to a surprise Scotch tasting dinner with Steve Beal, one of only 7 ‘Masters of Scotch’ in the world.
Mavericks were treated to a full flight of Scotch starting from Johnny Walker Black to one of their rarest, Johnny Walker Blue label. I’ve never had an entire dinner consisting of Scotch so it was a real eye-opening experience. And then to cap off the dinner – every member was given a personally engraved bottle of Johnny Walker Blue in a silk-lined presentation box.
But we weren’t done after dinner since it was Vegas after all…I gathered up a group of about a dozen of us and headed to TAO in the Venetian for our private VIP table. It turned into a real crazy night with me getting home about 6 AM and just in time for 15 minutes of sleep before getting onto the helicopters into the Grand Canyon.
In all the times I’ve been to Vegas – I’ve never made it out into the Grand Canyon so this was very cool. We took Maverick Helicopters (no relation yet) and they are the only helicopter company authorized to fly deeper and further into the Grand Canyon than any other company. And just like in one of the best scenes from “Apocalypse Now” – there was a song track of “The Ride Of The Valkyries playing in the helicopter. (Just no attack formation.)
I took the red-eye home and flew on Virgin America for the first time. They rocked! First Class was pretty cheap – something like $500 and really a lot nicer than our domestic airlines. They just do smart things like actually asking customers what they don’t like about air travel. VA has plugs in the seats so you can plus in your electrical crap like laptops the whole trip. I mean this isn’t rocket science but it makes a big difference. They also will bring out your food whenever you want – not when it’s convenient for them. The whole atmosphere is cool like any Virgin Atlantic, which I’ve flown before. And the reason I bring Virgin up (aside from the marketing lesson of actually listening to customers) is because it leads into my next trip…Necker Island.
Okay now the part about Necker for those of you waiting…
After returning home for about 36 hours I was off to the British Virgin Islands. One of the big things I wanted to try on Necker was kiteboarding. It takes about 3-4 lessons before you can get out of the water. I skipped a few meetings to make sure I could get some good time in to learn.
I can see why people would get hooked on it. Charlie, my instructor, told me he taught Larry Page, from Google how to kiteboard on Necker. And now he’s big time into it. Unfortunately, my kiteboarding expedition was slightly a bust. By the time I moved into the water for my lesson on getting up – the wind pretty much died down. And then for the next 2 days we didn’t have enough wind to go out. Oh well, now I have a big reason to return.
The place is absolutely gorgeous and I can understand why Branson lives there year-round now. The story of how he bought the place for £180,000 is a great lesson in negotiation and tenacity. It’s in his “Losing My Virginity” book and worth checking out. Plus, once he bought it – he had to develop it within 5 years or else ownership went back to the government. So this become a reason for him to work hard on Virgin Records to make more money. And as the Rolling Stones or Janet Jackson had a hit – he’d build a new piece of the island.
Here are a few pictures showing some of the different looks to the island (click to enlarge):
Here’s some video from the island showing how we got served sushi in the pool. That was awesome! You literally jumped into the pool to have sushi with this huge boat of fish floating around. Very cool!
I was excited that Richard hung out with us for many lunches and dinners. In fact, one day at lunch he told me to get a 4-hand massage at the spa and I wasn’t disappointed. The 4-hand massage is a massage with both the masseuses at the same time.
Getting Kicked Off Necker…
One of the stand-out moments of the trip had to be getting a letter handed to me at dinner my final night by the staff. I asked, “Is this my bill?”
“No,” she replied, “You get those in the morning”. Hmmmm….
Here’s the note I got:
I thought it was a joke. The night before we had found the guest room roster and room list and called Joe, Dean and a bunch of other people at 1 or 2 AM to tell them to come back to the bar and drink. Then we sorta ‘updated’ their food preferences inside the kitchen but otherwise we didn’t do anything *that* crazy.
Joe grabbed the letter and then gave it to Branson. Richard said, “Well…the manager is a bit serious sometimes but I’ll see what I can do to sort it out. Don’t you worry. Just enjoy your dinner.”
And just for that moment I gulped and thought it might be true until Richard blurted out it was a joke 30 seconds later. Here’s a photo we took as I was kicked off the island.
I don’t think I can quite express how awesome the entire experience was. On my final day we had a chance to brainstorm with the head of Virgin Unite about how to get more entrepreneurs involved in their charitable efforts. I have a call with them this week so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this. Plus, I’m looking into how we can get involved with the Branson School of Entrepreneurship in Africa. It’s really exciting stuff but I’m glad to be home for a few weeks to chill out with the family.
[[Update: I’ve now been privileged to bring a group of high level, impactful entrepreneurs to Necker each year for the last 8+ years. If you would like to be considered for this experience of a lifetime details click here for details.]]