Our Who Luck problem

Athens, and maybe the entire Southeast, has a “who luck” problem.

I had the pleasure this morning of listening to a great interview between Jim Collins and Brad Feld about building big companies and building startup communities. It was filled with great information, but the most powerful to me, and the one that is a recurring theme in my life, is what Collins called “who luck”.

All startups are successful because of luck. Yet, that luck is created. People that appear lucky go to tons of events, meet countless people, do, act and create thousands of times before they get lucky. Collins, in the interview above, stated that there is “who luck” and “what luck” and that “who luck” is significantly more important. Who you surround yourself with defines what you become. This is a central tenet of Four Athens and our mission behind building a startup community in Athens.

Our “who luck” problem is twofold. The first is easy to identify and, I believe, solves our second.

First, I meet countless of people that tell me they want to start something, they need to raise money, they need to find a co-founder, etc. And they come to Four Athens to find it. That’s great, but it’s only the start. To find money, talent, mentors, a job you need to work. Hard. You need to show up at events. You need to talk to people. You need to be uncomfortable. You need to engage – genuinely, repeatedly and without expectation. You need to form true relationships. You won’t find any of the above by showing up at one event or asking for one introduction or meeting one person at a party. Random spontaneous interactions create “who luck”. And random spontaneous interactions come from repeated, frequent and consistent engagement.

The second part of our “who luck” problem are the people that I meet that claim there is no talent, money or mentors in the region. Therefore, they don’t engage. By taking themselves out of the pool, they have immediately weakened the pool. Added to the fact that the first group of people aren’t engaging either and you definitely have a weakened pool of talent. It’s a chicken and egg problem. These type of people are looking to get without giving first. Give without expectation and you will be surprised at the number of doors that open for you, the number of high quality people you will encounter and the ability for them to propel you to success.

Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of untalented people, pretenders and genuinely useless people that you’ll meet along the journey. But that’s not an excuse to disengage or be lazy. Building a company, starting a good career, or creating something meaningful is hard. And it only happens through your ability to network and have others help you. No one builds something great alone. People bump into “who luck” all the time. It is what you do with that luck that determines your return on investment.

Are you out to form true relationships with those you meet or are you simply looking out for your own interests?

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