Personal insights from Justin Nguyen, one of our Operating Advisors.
I often say that success is half luck and half what you make of it. But the thing is, you can make your own luck.
Not that long ago when I was the CEO of a young gaming company, an opportunity was literally standing in front of me, but if I hadn’t been paying attention, I might have missed it.
I was in line at the Macau airport (economy class, of course), heading home from the Global Gaming Expo, when I happened to look up at the business class line. That’s when I saw him: the CEO of one of the biggest players in our space.
I prefer not to identify him by name, but let’s just say he was a big fish. Seeing him there would be like a software startup CEO spotting Larry Page, just standing there with his wife.
He had no idea who I was, but of course, I knew exactly who he was. Me? I was running a small company, competing against giants: their R&D spending in a single year was 20 to 30 times the size of our entire budget. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.
We weren’t even a blip on his radar.
I decided to change that.
I didn’t even know what I wanted from him. I just knew in my gut that making contact would help me down the line.
I gave myself a quick pep talk. And then I did it: I jumped into the business class line, waited a couple of minutes so it would seem natural, and then went for it.
It may sound a little cliché, but it’s true. Luck really is what you make of it. I’m not saying you’ll always get what you want. You can be the hardest worker in the world, have the most brilliant idea and still fail. Maybe the market timing is wrong. Maybe the market crashes. Maybe the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression ripples through as you’re seeking funding. (That happened to me, so I know.)
And frankly, you can have only an okay idea that hits the market at the right time and place and become very successful. Luck has a lot to do with success.
But you can hedge your bets, and that’s what I was doing.
Once I was in line, I turned to him and casually mentioned that, coincidentally, we had been at the same conference and now we were in the same line. It broke the ice.
I introduced myself. We traded cards. I kept it brief. He was cordial. I was embarrassed (hopefully, it didn’t show).
I had what I needed.
We both went our separate ways.
Most of us collect piles of cards at conferences and then forget them. But this card was different. So when I got home, I took the next step.
I started sending him periodic newsletters. These weren’t just any newsletters. While they looked like a standard friends-and-associates-newsletter, I specifically crafted these for him and people like him. He just didn’t know it.
That’s what I mean when I say you can make your own luck.
When three years later, my company was looking for a strategic round, I reached out to him and reminded him of our “chance” meeting.
Because of those newsletters, he knew exactly who I was and who my company was. He sent out his head of corporate development to take a look at our company.
While we didn’t agree on terms, I'm positive their interest whetted the appetite in the market, spurring other companies to look at us.
In the end, we ended up selling to one of those lookers.
This story isn’t exactly a thriller, but that’s the whole point. Sometimes — maybe most of the time — opportunities are hidden inside the doldrums of your daily life. So, keep your eyes open. And, when you spot a possibility, jump in and make your own luck.