I have thought long and hard about luck and following all this hype around the concept Sarah Lacy is promoting ‘Once Your Lucky, Twice You’re Good’. Well, I disagree with her assertion!
Back in my ‘naive days’ I would have argued vigorously that one doesn’t need luck at all, instead innovation, logic, elegance, brutal hard work and a twist of magic were the ingredients essential for success. This would have been while I was building my first empire. During that experience I didn’t get very rich (financially) but I did learn more about life / business / creation / ideas / people / magic and luck than I could have ever imagined. My little baby organically grew from a 20K overdraft to a turnover of 2 million GBP annually (6 years after launch) and garnered a cult following.
Its been a long time now since riding those early waves and I have had long enough to analyze the experience and realize the arrogance of belittling lady luck. She sure as hell taught me a few hard lessons as a result. Needless to say I have rather more respect for her charm now and in an effort to make peace I am dedicating this article to her.
One of my favorite online destinations is Hacker News, a forum where hackers / startups discuss the issues of the day. A theme that has been popping up there recently is controversy over the value of ideas, with many arguing that ideas are worthless and execution is everything. Again I totally disagree. Ideas and luck are two of the most rare but essential and non quantitative elements necessary for success, followed sometime later by the usual host of other elements that ultimately determine the fate of such a journey.
To illustrate my points, first I need narrow down the criteria of what is considered to be ‘a win’. With Internet startups I’m going to classify ‘a win’ as ultimately financial success, followed secondly by user participation and adoption. Yet I want to strongly stress these are not my personal criteria as to what constitutes as ‘a win’, but only what appears to be the de-facto standard by which many are currently judging.
Given that financial success is the ultimate milestone I will use the Google as the standard by which I make my case. Google is without doubt the current online financial super star, they are making more money than anyone else and they have available to them every single advantage that money can buy. And while they have leveraged their resources in every way imaginable, they essentially still only have Adwords / Adsense as their core cash cow, while every other arm is either loosing money or financially insignificant. Why is this? Luck!
You cannot make a compelling argument that they are not good, why that is their company manifestation after all. No it is not because Google are bad, but good luck is like lightening, it rarely strikes in the same place twice and if it does you will be bloody lucky, evidently so.
Coupled with the power of ideas, really good ideas share the same traits as luck, in as much as they are just as rare but ultimately make all the difference in the direction you choose, where you will then need lady luck to give you the kiss of life in order to achieve ‘success’.