Opportunity is rather a strange thing. In many ways, it’s the life-blood of business: but what kind of entrepreneur would have the cojones to pierce the pretence of business strategy and put their job title down as “Shameless Opportunist“? [To be honest, I did try it for a while, but got bored and moved on].
Perhaps we collectively need to kill the stigma attached to “opportunism”, to rescue it from the shadowy depths business theorists have relegated it too, and instead declare: I’m proud to be an opportunist. I’d say that Steve Blank and Eric Ries don’t go nearly far enough with iteration and customer development: the real point of running a startup is not to pivot until you get motion sickness, but rather to do everything you can to prepare it to grasp with both hands whatever near-workable opportunities come its way.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that luck in business is perhaps more of a skill, comprising extensive scenario preparation and a certain kind of glinty wide-eyed-ness quick to alert you to analogous chances you can take advantage of. Yes, ‘business luck’ is 50% preparation and 50% opportunism – the new reality of startups.
Might this also point to what is so wrong with the implicit contract between angels and entrepreneurs, that foolishly seems to assume (as business schools like to insist) that sheer force of intellectual will can bend reality sufficiently to force a commercial opportunity to come into being? Strategy is dead, long live opportunism!
Similary, the high failure rate of startup investments is often explained away in terms of eventual market luck. But rather, isn’t the real point of seed stage research is not to find a single mega-opportunity (i.e. a single ostrich egg to put into your creaky basket, VC-stylee), but to instead make sure that the proposed venture is sitting squarely in the middle of a field vigorously blooming with multiple opportunities? (Not knowing which one will ultimately work for you goes with the territory)
All in all, if you were to be brutally honest about what what you actually need to do to succeed as an entrepreneur, the real job title on your business card would be Chief Opportunism Officer, no more and no less. So march over to the nearest window and shout your new mantra to the world outside: Opportunity-Ready Is Investment-Ready!