You'd be surprised how often luck, adventitious or felicitous events and/or circumstances account for great success! Here you'll find how a number of entrepreneurs benefitted from random events.
Bill Gates and IBM - The Deal that Led to Gates Becoming the World’s Richest Man
IBM was just about the most admired company in the Western hemisphere and beyond, referred to affectionately by all as ‘Big Blue’. Thomas Watson Jr., head of IBM, led the leviathan of the electronics and computing industry. IBM was so huge that if they had a bad day at the stock exchange, so too did the stock exchange. When they came calling you dropped everything you were doing, cleared your diary and called home to tell the family you’d hit the jackpot.
IBM rang Digital Research Inc (based in Seattle, as was Microsoft at this time) and said they were flying in to do a deal on the software Digital were developing. They spoke with Dorothy McEwen, Digital’s attorney, secretary and the wife of Gary Kildall their developer and founder (they later divorced). She asked when they wanted to meet. They were already on their way.
Gary Kildall was the software industry’s leading man. He developed a clever piece of software for the next generation of computers featuring floppy disks and an operating system called CP/M. His software allowed stuff to be written to and from the floppy disk and the hard disk. Rather than follow through, he started dithering about the meeting, saying he was focused on other projects. IBM wanted to get their hands on the operating system he was creating. It was 1979 and IBM was desperate, needing to remedy a disastrous attempt to steam into the PC market. They needed a decent operating system, yesterday. Microsoft was developing software with the upcoming IBM PC in mind. They now had a turnover of $80 million ($162 million) and 80 employees, but Bill Gates couldn’t deliver all IBM wanted in time. It was then that Gates turned them on to Kildall to take care of the operating system.
When IBM arrived they found that Gary Kildall couldn’t be bothered to turn up and Dorothy McEwen who ran the business refused to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) so meaningful discussions were going to be difficult besides Kildall harboured issues surrounding the potential royalty payments on offer, he had alternative ideas of rolling out his technology. IBM was not happy. Gates, who accompanied the IBM team to the meeting, decided to take the IBM guys back to his place. He assured IBM they need not worry; he could hook them up. IBM was confused about who actually owned Digital and thought Microsoft had a stake in the business.
Gates, a true entrepreneur, told IBM he would provide them with what they needed though he actually didn’t have it to give at the time (he didn’t let IBM know that at the time). He called in a twenty-two-year-old guy called Tim Paterson, of Seattle Computer Products, who was working on a competing operating system for a client who was fed up waiting for Kildall. Gates’ offices were close by. Paterson’s stuff was needed refinement but Gates bought the rights of the programme for $50,000 ($100,000), never letting on about the IBM hook-up. Between Microsoft and IBM the turkey was plucked and cleaned. Now they had exactly what they needed an it was christened the ‘Quick and Dirty Operating System’ or ‘QDOS’ for short. Gates then convinced IBM to let him retain sole rights of the programme, threw in a modified version of their ‘Basic’, tied the whole thing together with a bit of cunning and entrepreneurship and was laughing all the way to the bank.
No Ship Wreck No Million$
Keiller Marmalade went from a local corner shop founded by the wife of James Keiller, Janet, to one of the world’s greatest most successful confectioners.
Random Events: James Keiller bought a ship load of oranges from a ship seeking harbour from a winter storm. The ship was on its way from Seville and due to a storm the oranges were already less fresh than they ought to have been (random event). This gave Janet an idea to manufacture a large quantity of marmalade. Janet adapted an existing recipe by adding the now characteristic rind suspended in the preserve. It sold like hot cakes (excuse the pun).
Power of Context: The brand and business became the world’s most successful due to two other factors (power of context): 1. The massive transportation (railroads) expansion during the aftermath of the industrial revolution (that began in the British Midlands) 2. The expansion of the British Empire. The transport infrastructure provided an opportunity to distribute nationally (from their base and hometown in Dundee) 2. The empire provided an opportunity to gain access to and supply a ‘readymade and protected’ market.
The first commercial brand of marmalade along with the world's first marmalade plant was founded in 1797.
By the late 19th century the marmalade was shipping as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and China.
The firm was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell in 1919. It was subsequently sold on multiple times before ending up with Robertson's
One of Janet Keiller's great-great-great grandsons was Alexander Keiller and one of her great-great-great-great grandsons is the British television presenter Monty Don
Young, Gifted and White in the Caribbean
Bill Gates was quoted earlier as saying “My friend Warren Buffett, who’s often called the world’s greatest investor, talks about how grateful he is to live at a time when his particular talents are valuable.” In Outliers Gladwell touches upon the same thing when he pointed out, “Their success [outliers] was not just of their own making. It was a product of the world in which they grew up”. This feature of timing is noticeable throughout the history of great entrepreneurs. Henry Medillo for example was certainly born at the right time to be White, young and gifted in the Caribbean. He had the nature of a cavalier warrior but it was accompanied by the shrewd engaging of a Dutch man born during the height Dutch commerce and trade. Medillo’s financial adviser and broker Moishe Feinbind, was a Jewish banker stationed in Jamaica. If his share of the booty was not satisfactory he could get Moishe to grow it on the Dutch stock market. During 15th Century Amsterdam and London developed a secondary market in financial stocks. Initially Amsterdam was the stronger of the two markets. Jewish brokers in Amsterdam were able to take advantage of London’s Jews role as liaisons between the Dutch and the London market. Jewish matters became central to Oliver Cromwell’s regime in England. The key issue was a pragmatic one: the growth of international trade and in particular the role of the link to Amsterdam’s Jewish community. A strong presence in London was seen as having many advantages. Links between the Jewish traders in throughout the East and West Indies as well as to the New World were flourishing during the period the mid 17th century. Having Jews readmitted (the Jewish community was expelled from England in 1290) could promote London as a rival to the financial powerhouse – Amsterdam. Medillo’s financial planner had sugar and coffee plantations and rum distilleries in play on the advanced Amsterdam bourse. They were aptly placed to be abreast of how well or badly the sugar or coffee harvest were on the various islands throughout the Caribbean.
Stumbling into the 21st Century
A world famous art collector began experiencing some problems opening a gallery to satisfy his passion for art. The collector was maniacally driven and completely consumed with his gallery project. Needless to say, the delays in the opening, were a great source of frustration. Those surrounding him suggested he create a website featuring the art he owned.
This now became his central focus. The site was produced but often crashed when overloaded (didn’t have enough servers). A ‘techy’ was brought in on a week’s long contract to sort out the problem. It took him a couple of days. The ‘techy’ had no idea who this world famous art collector was (he had not lived in the UK for very long) so when the collector asked him to come back and look at some other issues it was just another job.
The technical person was responsible for a revolution that took place in the property market. He created the platform that allows property to be searched for on the internet and branches all over the country could share data. He now applied the same thinking to the art gallery website. The art collector’s site became Google’s top 500 searched sites worldwide.
Excited with the news from Google he called from his basement office to notify the boss who was at the top of the building to break the news. After receiving the news the art collector says, "thanks" and immediately hangs up.
Later that day, when most other employees had left the building, he came down to the basement (where our techy is located) and asked the techy to sit with him, and set about bestowing his knowledge. He explained; he was one of the world’s richest men and a world famous art collector (he didn’t make his money from art). He reassured the ‘techy’ that getting to 500th was an achievement but being 500th was not a reason for him to celebrate. He would when the site was number one.
With that this technical chap gathered himself and realised that the new goal to be number one was his fuel to the next level.
The business became so popular Google tried to buy it. It was eventually sold for several tens of millions. The art collector could not foresee the development of searching on the internet. Had the brick and mortar gallery been ready, he would have been tens of millions worst off. But passion and hard work simply helps with the 'probability' of getting lucky.