Create Your Own Luck

You know how much I believe in serendipity & random collisions (a la Saul Kaplan!).  Meet Samir Rath (bio below).  I met Samir when he was in the 2nd cohort of the IE-Brown E-MBA while simultaneously investing and starting companies all over the world, including Chile, because, doesn't everyone? Read Samir's thoughts on serendipity, luck and entrepreneurship - and join in!


Innovation is serendipity, so you don't know what people will make.- Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web.

How often do we hear our friends and family say “Oh! She is so lucky. She moves in the right circles”. Or “He is so lucky. He is always at the right place at the right time”. Beyond the tinge of jealousy that such messages communicate, also hides a subtle ring of despair. May people feel that no matter how hard they work or how capable they are, their spate of bad luck just keeps messing things up.

Luck is nothing but an attitude. Richard Wiseman, the author of “The Luck Factor: The Scientific Study of the Lucky Mind”, defines luck as the outcome of how we deal with chance and that some people are just much better at it. ‘Unlucky’ people tend to be very apprehensive of the future, uncomfortable with change and want to control their circumstances. They tend to have set pre-defined expectations of how a situation should play out, often leading to disappointment. This is inevitable given how bad we are at predicting the future. ‘Lucky’ people, on the other hand, embrace the randomness of life with open arms and accept that change is the only constant in the equation of life. Serendipity becomes a way of life, with happenstance encounters evolving into friendships and business relationships. The ‘lucky’ ones make it much more likely that they will stumble on incredible events and be at the right place at the right time with the right people. Sometimes things work out.

Todd Kashdan, a psychologist at George Mason University, observes that getting lucky gets much harder as we get older and wiser, not because the game of life has changed but rather because how we play the game has. We get wiser with age and armed with experience, we form very strong convictions on how the world works. This applies to companies too. AT&T, which traces its origins to original Bell Telephone Company, could not anticipate a change in behavior, blinded in part by its domain expertise in telecom infrastructure. A young startup, Whatsapp, figured out that we have changed the way we communicate and want to share images, video and audio media over the internet across multiple platforms. At the start of the year, Whatsapp had more than 450 million users, all built and supported with a team of just 32 engineers.

We will be engineering some serendipity for the launch of our forthcoming book No Startup Hipsters. With the common thread of building technology companies that focus on real problems, we will be connecting tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, investors and enablers. Each person would login through a social network and a twitter style 140 characters description of what they are working on. Curated profiles from across the globe will quickly zip by in a “hot or not” style and when both sides choose to connect - Boom!. So, come create some luck by signing up at ThunderClap and get the book for free too.

SAMIR RATH is a financial technology entrepreneur and angel investor working with technology startups globally from over 20 countries. He helped build the Asian operations of GETCO LLC, one of the worlds largest trading technology firms, listed on New York Stock Exchange today as KCG. He began his career as a Macroeconomist for the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He is the co-author of a forthcoming book titled "No Startup Hipsters - Build Scalable Technology Companies”. []. Twitter: @Samir_Rath

The Anti-Recommender

You know how Amazon, Netflix, and everybody else have a ‘recommender’ service? Based on what you’ve bought, browsed, read, listened to, they suggest things you may like. 

But if I’m always being told about things that are “like” what I like, how will I discover new and different things?  It could constrain opportunities for serendipity and luck (which I’m pretty dependent on).

I’d like an Anti-Recommender Service

Do you remember playing the “which of these is not like the other” when you were a kid? That’s how we learned and developed preliminary pattern recognition skills.  Somewhere along the way, it switched! We were taught to look for “which of these is like the other” (the old “don’t compare apples & oranges” routine).  Having been raised in a home that thrived on cognitive dissonance, I find this incredibly frustrating.

My ideal anti-recommender service will tell me about ideas, concepts, books, music, art, sites, bloggers, periodicals, tweeters, etc. that don’t fit into the ‘nice neat stereotype’ that’s been created about me.   It will point me to:

  • Blogs that may disagree with my viewpoint making me think and question assumptions;
  • Music I wouldn’t necessarily listen to but end up liking (from Massenet to Kevin Chesney) opening new harmonies and stories in my mind;
  • Books that wouldn’t have picked up but am now a sucker for (e.g., Nordic/Swedish crime novels) making me use my brain differently; and
  • People I wouldn’t normally cross paths with who bring new experiences, viewpoints, tastes, flavors, cultures, and ideas that greatly enrich my life, and others.

There is nothing inherently wrong with recommender services – except for lack of a counterbalance.  We need both to learn and grow – ourselves, our people, and our organizations.  We need both to innovate.

So, who among you would like to build an anti-recommender service? I’ll sign up to be an alpha, beta, whatever customer and I’d be willing to pay for it!  Or, if you know of one, please please share it! Thanks!