Virgin Money was just launched today, re-branded from CircleLending, which Virgin Money purchased a majority stake in as the New York Times points out.
The article quotes Alenka Grealish that the segment is at a “smaller scale than Virgin usually enters into, but it’s an interesting one.” It’s also an opportunity that funded startups such as Prosper are attacking as well, clearly a sign that people see this as a huge growth opportunity.
Charismatic Virgin founder (and personal hero) Richard Branson will be giving away red dollar bills with him and his mother, a reminder of the help that his mother gave him by giving him exactly one of the loans that Virgin Money will be supporting.
What is slightly different is that Virgin Money (and CircleLending as its precedent) will focus on established relationships. Others like Prosper focus on peer-to-peer lending, something I find could prove more problematic but ambitious nonetheless. There is something to be said about the necessity of stability gained through transactions that involve established institutions, sometimes above the peer-to-peer ambitions. Virgin Money is going after banks to this end.
As an adjunct to talking about the future of web startups, it instantly hit me as the marriage of a great idea and one of my favorite brands. If there’s a big market here, then Virgin Money is now bound to be a giant part of that.
TechCrunch also points out that today that Google leads social bookmarking above geek favorites such as del.icio.us and bloglines. Google, above all, is a testament to the magic that can occur when a truly useful product and golden brand are married.
Mint: when I first heard it instantly thought it was a great idea and got the hint that it was a great management team. Sure enough, it was the winner of TechCrunch40. Apply the same idea, and I think if Mint is able to create a great brand (a.k.a. Quicken), this could be a huge business.
Brought back to the future of web startups, it only strengthens the idea that small “idea” companies that execute well at early stages will marry with established brands. It’s only every once in a while that a Google pops up. Under every great brand from Google to Amazon to Virgin to Facebook and so on, many more ideas can see the light of day to a truly large viewing audience.