What is Business Success?

On Sunday (10/28/07) several affiliated news sites published a story by Gary Rivlin called After Succeeding, Young Tycoons Try, Try Again. The headline is great. I was pulled in. As I started reading about Max Levchin I thought this guy could give me some real insight into what it takes to get very wealthy. After reading the article I knew the answer, but I will hold off on that.

Max Levchin comes off as a very competitive person. As a man who works many hours. He identifies himself as a CEO and wants to out do his previous success. I would say he is very smart from a academic and technical sense. I would say he’s fairly dumb from a life perspective. That is harsher than I would like to sound. But I can’t get over this statement:

Even among this jittery group of overachievers, Mr. Levchin stands
out. In part that is because outdoing PayPal may be an
all-but-impossible goal. Mr. Levchin acknowledges that he has already
earned more money than he could ever spend. But he said he would not
consider Slide.com, the photo and video sharing site he founded in 2005
that is still in its start-up phase, a success unless it is ultimately
worth, in real dollars, “at least $1.54 billion”— the price eBay paid for PayPal.

“Otherwise,” he asked rhetorically, “what have I learned?”

I sincerely hope that isn’t his definition of success. I hope he really sees value in creating a unique product or service offering that meets and exceeds his customers needs and expectations. Granted, the story wouldn’t be much of story without quotes like that, but come on…

If I were Gary Rivlin, I would have interviewed Sean Combs 12 years ago. He is a young tycoon. He built and diversified his holdings. I’m sure he is competitive, but I think he understands that for a business, and himself, to be successful he doesn’t have to out do himself.

So after I finished the article, I learned something I already knew, that to become very wealthy, you need a lot of luck. Max Levchin had a great idea, pushed it, and got lucky with the timing.


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