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Do start-ups have “lucky girl syndrome”?

OPINION: If you’re anything like me and an avid TikTok user, you may have noticed the “lucky girl syndrome” phenomenon currently trending. In this piece I look at this concept of manifesting luck from a business perspective and ask if the most successful start-up CEOs had the original “lucky girl syndrome” long before it took off on TikTok?

My favourite movie in the entire world is ‘The Social Network’, a biopic on the story behind Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

One thing that stands out to me in the movie is that Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, possibly just got lucky when creating ‘The Facebook’, at the time.

He was able to get a record amount of people on his platform all just by hacking into Harvard’s network to get student information to create a platform to allow students to determine whether a student was “hot or not”. His journey making the world’s most popular social media from there is a story most people know.

But when recently rewatching this film, my life as a journalist flashed before my eyes.

Every successful start-up I have ever interviewed say they “just got lucky”. It is a common saying for start-up CEO’s, and at this point, you’re not a real CEO unless you have said it.

When interviewing Letterboxd earlier this year, cinema’s most influential platform, the founder Matthew Buchanan wasn’t even into films but has since grown the platform organically to a record 1.8 million users before the pandemic.

Delivery-service Delivereasy is another Kiwi start-up that “got lucky”, especially in an industry competing against global giants like Uber Eats and just recently DoorDash.

Of course, the team behind Delivereasy worked hard to build up the business, working for less than minimum wage in that first year, but say they found themselves at the ‘right place at the right time’ which led them to the success they are currently seeing.

Tim Robinson & Nick Foster of Delivereasy.

So, what is this start-up luck that we’re witnessing?

This start-up luck, or maybe “lucky start-up CEO syndrome” is not a new phenomenon. A simple Google search shows that a lot of people are wondering the same thing.

Headlines from “Luck and Start-ups”, “Start-ups and the long-run importance of luck” and “How much luck do you need in business?” pop up when a few key words are tapped into the search engine.

Read more: Delivereasy: The NZ company going against the global giants

And it doesn’t stop there, with multiple biopic movies released this year telling the tales of companies and their luck.

April was the month of ‘Air’, a film that follows Nike’s revitalisation thanks to the basketball player Michael Jordan. May saw the film ‘BlackBerry’, a retelling of the most iconic phone of the 2000’s. We even got a film called ‘Flamin’ Hot’ in June, on the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos by a janitor.

But looking at these films and the harsh reality of start-ups side by side, maybe it wasn’t all luck, and maybe it wasn’t that they were in the ‘right place at the right time’.

Many of these CEO’s made their own luck through their sheer effort of working hard to make it happen.

Though many investors say that any successful start-up need luck and timing, if a start-up is able to come up with an idea to target a clear gap in the market, it has made its luck and found the right timing.

And that is exactly what seems to have happened to many successful start-ups.

Brianne West of Ethique.

Founder and entrepreneur Brianne West of Ethique is a prime example of this. She founded her company in 2012 after realising the amount of waste the cosmetics industry was making.

From there, West was able to create Ethique, a plastic-free and non-waste cosmetics waste and has since become one of the most successful businesses in the field.

West had a great idea. That was her lucky moment, her “lucky start-up CEO syndrome” moment.

With New Zealand’s reputation of pumping out start-ups left, right and centre it is always key to remember that it pays to work hard, because if Mark Zuckerberg didn’t learn how to code, we wouldn’t be able to connect with a relative we didn’t know existed across the ocean.

So, while we’re sitting on our couches watching these biopic movies with these successful CEO’s finding themselves in a lucky situation that turns their whole life around, it pays to remember how hard they worked for their “lucky start-up CEO syndrome” moment, and that success is actually a culmination of hard work, clever thinking, and maybe a dash of luck.

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles. To get in touch with her, email [email protected]

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