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HOW I DID IT

How I Met Richard Branson and Didn't Die

Alexa von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest, is a huge fan of Richard Branson. So here's what happened when she met him for the first time.

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This is the story of entrepreneur Alexa von Tobel, as told to Inc.'s Alexandra Starr.

Most people who know me know that Richard Branson is one of my idols. In 2011, one of our investors wrote me an email asking, "Are you sitting down?"

He had helped get me invited to a four-day gathering on social entrepreneurship with Branson on Necker Island. I felt the way a little boy would if he were meeting a baseball star.

There were about a dozen of us who went down there. I was 27 at the time and the youngest one there. I didn't know how active Richard was going to be. It turned out he was present for all of it.

One day, a group of us went hiking on Mosquito Island, which is next to Necker. Branson had heard I was on the varsity diving team at Harvard.

He pointed to a rock and said, "You can be the first to jump off of it." I've dived off of a 10-meter platform before. This was probably 15 or 20 meters. And there were rocks underneath. 

For a split second, I stood there wondering how I would tell my hero that he was out of his mind. Then I saw the smile spread over his face. I said, "This is crazy." And he said, "Yeah, I agree." Then we both started cracking up. 

Something cool about meeting him was how playful he is. As a young entrepreneur, I'm always learning what kind of leader I want to be. Here was someone who had accomplished so much. And he wasn't intimidating. He was hilarious. 

IMAGE: Noah Kalina
From the July/August 2013 issue of Inc. magazine




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