The Harder I Work, The Luckier I Get


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A few years back I had pleasure of working on a transaction with Stan Shuman, then a Managing Director at Allen & Co.

Allen & Co is the investment bank at the center of the tech ecosystem, and Stan joined in 1970, and was at the helm for many years.

On this transaction that Stan and I worked together there was an analyst from Allen & Co. He was straight out of school, and he was 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 walked to Stan, complimented the associate, and said that Allen & Co are 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. From hundreds of candidates.

Methodically and patiently one was selected, and he was truly exceptional. He was the best.

Fast forward to now, I am the Managing Director at Techstars in NYC. 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 5 rounds of interviews to become part of 0.8% that got the 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 doesn’t define, and 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 product, to user acquisition, from marketing automation to fundraising.

Great founders do not rely on luck. They rely on their ability to compute and create future.

As Louis Pasteur put it: “Chance favors the prepared mind.”



Reprinted by permission

Image credit: CC by Can Stock Photo


About the author: Alex Iskold

Alex Iskold is the Managing Director of Techstars in New York City.

Previously Alex was Founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by i.tv),  founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM), and Chief Architect DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO).

Alex routinely writes about entrepreneurship and startups at Alex Iskold.

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