How To Create Your Own Luck

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by James Altucher: How
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This was
a guest post I did for TechCrunch this weekend

I’m
in even worse trouble now.
A few weeks ago I had to speak at
Barry
Ritholz’s conference
but that turned out to be “only”
a panel. It was a great panel but I knew I would only have ten minutes
of time so not need to prepare much although even then I was worried.
[Click
above link
for video, including my panel].

Now I’m
speaking for ONE HOUR at Defrag in Boulder, Colorado next week on
November 9 and I’m terrified. For one thing, all of the other
speakers are smarter than me. Right before me is Roger Ehrenberg
speaking about “big data”. I’m not even sure what
“big data” is so right off he’s smarter than me.
Then Paul Kedrosky is speaking later in the afternoon about god
knows what. Paul has an excellent blog obsessed with everyone from
economics to weather data. So despite my
expertise in speaking I’m finding I’m a bit nervous.

I could open
up with the same line I used on Barry’s panel, “When I
was walking over here I had an erection. Not so easy for a 43 year
old without any stimulation whatsoever.” This might not be
the exact crowd for it.

Technically,
the title of my talk is “Success is a Sexually Contagious Disease”
but I only gave them that title because it sounded neat and it
was the title of a blog post I then published
. But I have no
idea if that’s what I’m going to talk about or if that’s
something people will be interested in.

The conference
itself is about entrepreneurship. But I always am plagued that I’ve
gotten somewhat lucky on this issue. My
first company happened during the internet boom
and I happened
to be one of the few people around (at the time) who knew how to
make a website. The second company I had, where
Yasser Arafat was an investor
, went down in flames in the Bust.
The third company I sold was a venture firm. We were only sold because
our top investor was so disgusted with us he wanted to buy out our
ten year contract. And the third company I sold was Stockpickr.com,
which
I sold to thestreet.com
that I already had a great relationship
with. Another company that I made a decent living off was trading
for hedge funds and then starting a fund of hedge funds. Everything
else I did (about 16 other attempts at businesses) failed.

So I guess
right now I can see if it was luck or if I learned some lessons.

1) Luck
is similar to “being at the right place at the right time”.

So you can easily position yourself there. We know that the right
place for right now is somewhere in social media. There are still
many niches (plumbers, diamond wholesalers, etc) that aren’t
properly using social media correctly. The big agencies are ignoring
them and they are too small and focused to understand how to use
direct marketing via social media. If I were starting a business
right now I’d either do lead generation via social media for
a small but focused niche (diamond wholesalers, small restaurants,
etc) or I’d provide financing/lending for companies that are
doing this and have established records of turning profits on money
spent. I know several companies doing the above but it’s an
incredibly wide open, gaping hole in the industry.

If I were a
banker I’d look to buying companies all over the country in
this space and then bringing the combined entity public in the IPO
boom that’s about to start happening.

2) My venture
firm being sold I learned one thing: have at least one partner who
is a great negotiatior.
“Be bad” and someone will
be willing to buy you usually doesn’t work. I was lucky there.
Although, I will say, I had good, professional partners that knew
how to negotiate very well. The one guy’s main technique was
to act like we always had alternatives when we never did. And he
would ignore the other party for a day or so while they got desperate.
It’s a gutsy way to negotiate but it worked. Here’s
part of the reason
it didn’t work out for me as a big VC.

3) The mental
health facility I sold I learned some very important things. Quantity,
persistence, and story-telling.
You need to hit everyone and
then call everyone back twice. We must’ve made 30 calls and
then 30 follow-ups to make sure we spoke with the right person.
And then with each person we pushed to have a phone call with the
company. Then once we had a potential buyer on the phone we had
to make sure we told at least three different stories: how the company
doing (and was going to do ), the reasons why growth was a LOCK,
and the reasons why management was incredible. Then we got the deal
done.Which was a story unto itself. (Here’s my prior post on
TechCrunch on how to best sell a company).

4) Stockpickr,
as I mentioned before was a matter of being both proactive, and
having friends in the right places.
But it also was a matter
of vigilance. I had a particular passion about how a financial community
could develop with NO NEWS. I hate the news. It also was a matter
of nourishing relationships built up over a five year period of
non-stop work in the financial media space.

Read
the rest of the article

November
12, 2011

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