Richard Branson's Biggest Mistake: Inventing the iPod… as a Prank The entrepreneur ultimately only pranked himself when he failed to follow through on his fictional 'Music Box' concept.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Richard Branson is a prankster-extraordinaire. But some of his most memorable April Fools' Days have been the ones where he ends up being the butt of the joke.
Branson recently published a LinkedIn post on his "best mistakes" – two April Fool's Day jokes gone awry. One landed him in jail for a night, while the other may have inadvertently inspired the iPod.
In the early 1990s, Branson tried to prank his friend and Virgin Records partner Ken Berry by faking a robbery of his home. Unfortunately for Branson, Berry returned home to discover all his belongings missing before Branson intended and called the police. In a masterful counter-prank, when Berry realized what had happened, he convinced the police to lock Branson up for a night in jail.
Another one of Branson's memorable pranks that didn't go exactly as planned was a 1986 exclusive published in Music Week magazine. Branson claimed that he had secretly invented a "Music Box" that could store every song you wanted to listen to on a tiny device, something that sounds familiar to anyone who has listened to music on an iPod in the last decade. In fact, years later, Steve Jobs told Branson that the Music Week article helped inspire him in developing iTunes and the iPod.
"ITunes went on to change the music industry forever and resulted in the closure of Virgin Megastores," writes Branson. "Perhaps not acting upon my joke and creating the Music Box for real was my biggest mistake!"
However, the entrepreneur doesn't seem too upset about the unexpected repercussions of April Fools' Days past. He closes out the post writing: "Thankfully, as I have said before, the best thing about ideas is that they are like buses – there is always another one coming."