The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Will Be
A few years back, I had pleasure of working on a transaction with Stan Shuman, then a managing director at Allen & Co, the investment bank at the center of the tech ecosystem.
On this transaction that Stan and I worked together, there was an analyst from Allen & Co who was straight out of school and absolutely brilliant. His speed, clarity and certainty in dealing with things was unlike any other grad I've encountered. He appeared to be super human.
After one of the meetings, I complimented the associate to Stan and said that Allen & Co is lucky to have him. Stan turned to me and said: "Alex, we didn't get lucky, we picked him."
That moment really stuck with me.
There was no luck. There was deliberate process. It was methodical. From hundreds of candidates, one was selected, and he was truly exceptional. He was the best.
Fast forward to now, I am the managing director at Techstars in New York City. Every day I am surrounded by all these incredibly talented founders.
I often hear founders say how lucky they are to be in Techstars. It is true, they are lucky, but it was anything but luck that got them into the program. The founders in Techstars worked incredibly hard, started businesses with high potential, and passed five rounds of interviews to become part of 0.8 percent that got offers.
These founders didn't get lucky. We picked them.
Without a doubt, luck has its place in the universe. It is fun and magical. But it is also crazy and unpredictable.
Luck isn't a characteristic of great founders. Great founders are defined by incredibly hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Great founders don't rely on chance. They think through every single aspect of the business, from the product, user acquisition, marketing automation to fundraising.
Great founders do not rely on luck. They rely on their abilities to compute and create the future.
As Louis Pasteur put it: "Chance favors the prepared mind."
Alex Iskold is the managing director of Techstars in New York City. Previously Iskold was founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by i.tv), founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM) and chief architect at DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO). An engineer by training, Iskold has deep passion and appreciation for startups, digital products and elegant code. He likes running, yoga, complex systems, Murakami books and red wine -- not necessarily in that order and not necessarily all together. He actively blogs about startups and venture capital at http://alexiskold.net.