As the world embraces rapidly advancing technology, average Joes are left wondering just how the individuals are leading these companies managed to make millions on the everyday tools we all use. You’ve heard all the big names: Jeff Bezos at Amazon, Bill Gates at Microsoft, Steve Jobs at Apple, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. The list could go on for days. No matter what technological advancement these individuals brought to the marketplace through their company, millions ask the question, “was it luck or talent?”
The question is easy to ask, but difficult to answer. If you look at the successes of some of these individuals, you will see that the answer is more complex than some believe. So how did they do it?
Bill Gates – Microsoft
Gates didn’t amass a billion-dollar bank account overnight. His fortune, estimated at $50 billion, took decades of hard work to amass. Some might call Gates’ success luck, but to label it as luck devalues the vision he (and all members on this list) had about the future of certain industries. Before there was a desktop or laptop computer in millions of homes across America, Gates saw computers as something that could change the way business is conducted and people interacted.
He also possessed the vision to position his company, Microsoft, as a premium provider of office and personal software programs that are now viewed as the standard software programs used for word processing and many other services.
Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
During his brief time as a college student, Zuckerberg (and others) had a radical idea to change the way people interacted with one another. After dropping out of college and launching Facebook, creating the social media craze in the process, millions watched as Zuckerberg’s fortune grew exponentially. It is easy to look at that situation and assume it was luck that launched Zuckerberg’s wealth.
In reality, Zuckerberg was tuned into the changing means of communication that were becoming popular among younger generations of Americans. He foresaw a future in which people would share thoughts, photos, videos, and communication online for the world to see. It wasn’t luck that he sensed this change; it was talent that saw the potential in this trend.
Steve Jobs – Apple
What didn’t Steve Jobs do? Putting aside his revival of Apple’s computer business, the man is responsible for creating the modern smartphone and launching the concept of a tablet. Today, the marketplace he created generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. Apple’s newly released iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) sold 10 million units the weekend it was released. The iPad remains the single most visible tablet in the marketplace. So was it luck or talent for Jobs?
As with Gates and Zuckerberg, Jobs had the visionary talent to understand where mobile technology trends (in his case) were going and what kind of devices consumers would go crazy to get their hands on. Jobs understood not only the demand for these devices, but the role they could play in the world of business and personal interactions.
At the end of the day, the vast majority of tech leaders have gotten their companies and their personal profiles where they are because of talent. These individuals didn’t just wake up one morning with millions of dollars in their pockets. They had to work to develop and refine their concepts, implement them properly in the marketplace, and tirelessly promote them to consumers.
These individuals remain visible personalities today (minus Jobs, who has passed on) who work continuously to convince consumers why their products are needed. As Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal) put it, “We attribute too much to luck. Luck is an atheistic word for God.”
Did luck play a role in the success of these individuals? Yes. Factors beyond their control, such as consumer demand and technological advancement to support their ideas, had to coalesce at the right time. However, their ability to use vision to see changing trends and capitalize on advancements at the right time made all the difference. Those talents cannot be attributed to luck alone.