Entrepreneurship, Savings, Education, and Luck

Frankly, I don’t normally associate TechCrunch, probably the world’s best-known high-tech-new-stuff blog, with thoughtful reflections on entrepreneurship; much less so with “God is your co-pilot.” Still, there it is: there’s an excellent post called God is Your Co-Pilot, and Stuff that Piggy Bank, on TechCrunch, with good information and food for thought about entrepreneurship.

The post is by Vivek Wadhwa, “entrepreneur turned academic,” who teaches entrepreneurship at Duke (and elsewhere). Early on, he says:

I’ve never been religious myself and have always believed that with hard work and determination, you can surmount just about any obstacles. But I also learned the hard way that you can do everything right and fail. Sometimes you do just about everything wrong and make it big. My belief: success is 51% luck and 49% execution. You need to execute with precision, but a little luck goes a long way. It is always good to have God on your side.

Writing about new research titled Making of a Successful Entrepreneur, he says:

Nearly all (96%) said that prior work experience was an important factor in their success and 58% ranked this as extremely important. The vast majority (88%) said that previous success and failures were important. But lessons from failures were judged as extremely important by more respondents than lessons from success. That’s right, those that had experienced failure valued it more highly than their successes.

Like all such studies, this one too is flawed, but nonetheless interesting. Flawed because, if for no other reasons, it’s about successful entrepreneurs with surviving companies, not everybody who tried (survivor bias, again, as in some of my recent posts on this blog). But it’s still interesting. Among some high points (quoting from the TechCrunch post):

  • Most of the businesses involved (70%) were financed with personal savings, not investment, and not bank loans.
  • Hardly any of the company founders ranked state or local government assistance as important.
  • 70 percent said their university education was important and Ivy-League graduates valued this more, with 86 percent indicating this was important. But only 20 percent of all entrepreneurs and 18 percent of Ivy-League graduates ranked university education as extremely important
  • The alum networks which are supposed to be really valuable for business contacts, weren’t ranked that highly. Only 19% of the entrepreneurs believed that university or alumni networks were important for their business.

So where does luck come in, you ask? Read the post. For my part, I’m superstitious, so I’m not going to deny luck for a second; that would be tempting fate.

(Photo Credit: Gary Yim/Shutterstock)


  • Interesting Points, But Winning a Business Plan Competition is Still Better Than Losing One says:

    […] good post by Vivek Wadwha about entrepreneurship on TechCrunch in barely a week or so. I posted here on the first one. Good stuff. His work is a nice addition to […]

  • Paul says:

    In a follow up to my last comment. I’m also put out by people who don’t have a plan for life and business and think it just all happens and someone will provide. These are most often the people who tell me how lucky I am.

  • Paul says:

    I’m always taken back by the people who sit on their duffs while you bust the hump and latter say how lucky you were. Like the others you make your own luck. The old saying of success is 90% showing up. Thanks for the post and the highlights. Have a great week

  • John Sternal says:

    I’m a big believer that often times you make your own luck through hard work, karma and just being persistent. To me, persistence breeds more “good breaks”. Thanks for bringing us the highlights.

    John Sternal

  • Richard says:

    Luck is opportunity for the prepared mind. The harder you work the more opportunity you see.

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