Smart or Lucky?

How Technology Leaders Turn Chance into SuccessSmart or Lucky book

An insider’s look at the combination of luck and smarts you need to succeed in today’s changing tech world.
To be successful in any highly competitive market, you have to be smart, but you also have to be lucky by being at the right place at the right time. The most successful technology entrepreneurs understand the value of the combination of luck and smarts and make it work for them. Those who fail are the ones who may be lucky but get complacent, believe they’re the smartest players in the market, and fail to make the changes needed to sustain leadership. Smart or Lucky? is for business leaders who are interested in learning what it takes to be successful in emerging markets and how to sustain success over the long term. It shows entrepreneurs how to recognize a lucky break and have the foresight to take advantage of it.
  • Offers concrete lessons based on well-tested principles that have broad applications for business leaders and entrepreneurs across industries
  • Based on experiences with hundreds of successful and failed companies in the software market over three decades
  • Author’s method has resulted in expanded revenue and increased market success for both large and small companies

Informative and highly detailed, this is a must-read for all business leaders and emerging entrepreneurs who want to understand how to stay nimble and succeed in complicated, competitive markets.

Now also available as an ebook! Order now and read on your 

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice
Wang Laboratories: What Happens When a Company Starts Believing Its Own Marketing
Digital Equipment Corporation: Sometimes the Smartest Kid on the Block Loses
Sun Microsystems: Why Deft Execution Is as Important as a Great Vision

Chapter 2: Gaining and Retaining Customers
Visix: Overly Complicated Technology
Visual Basic: Easy Solutions Up Front
Cloud Computing: Changing the Way Businesses Attract Customers

Chapter 3: You’re Not Dead Yet
Changing IBM’s DNA
Transforming Apple, Inc., from a PC Maker to a Commercial Brand

Chapter 4: The Google Sneak Attack
Netscape: The Giant That Could Have Been
The Google Sneak Attack’s Walmart-Inspired Sneak Attack

Chapter 5: Hero Worship
Powersoft versus Gupta Technologies
How Powersoft Beat the Odds
Gupta Technologies: Why Elegant Technology Isn’t Enough
Powersoft’s Problematic Success

Chapter 6: Lessons from the Lemmings Era
Agillion: The Precursor to Software as a Service
Broadband Sports: A Premature Attempt at Online Sports
Excite@Home: Combining Cable and Internet Before the Market Was Ready

Chapter 7: The Gotcha Syndrome
Artificial Intelligence: Not Commercially Viable
Object Orientation: Unmanageable and Unpredictable
Open Systems: An Approach, Not a Market
The Client/Server Market: Lack of Infrastructure
The Inevitability of the Gotcha

Chapter 8: Standing on the Shoulders of Pioneers
Cloud Computing

Chapter 9: The Silver Bullet Syndrome
The Internet
Artificial Intelligence
Object Orientation
Taligent: A Victim of the Silver Bullet
Navigating a Silver Bullet Market

Chapter 10: Splitting Up Is Hard to Do
Enterprise Resource Planning: The Value of Maintenance Revenue
AT&T: Forcing Change
Microsoft: The Advantage of Killing Off the Cash Cow
HP: Getting Out of the Instrumentation Market
Apple Inc.: Leaving the Hobby Market to Become a Media Empire
Skunkworks: Allowing New Products to Develop out of the Spotlight

Conclusion: Ten Rules for Turning Luck into Sustainable Success



About The Author


Read a Chapter

Chapter 1 Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice (sample)

What Happens When You’re Lucky but Think You’re Smart

It is the mark of an inexperienced man not to believe in luck. —Joseph Conrad, Polish-born English novelist

Companies that were once in the right place at the right time sometimes forget that they were lucky. By taking advantage of their good fortune, they grow powerful. However, in some cases these companies focus on their power and position in the market and ignore signals that their market is changing. Because these companies take their success for granted, they do not plan for a time when an upstart will challenge them. They rely on the illusion of invulnerability as a strategy.

Lucky companies—that is, companies that find themselves in the right place at the right time—face a common dilemma. The entrepreneurs who start these companies typically understand that they are lucky; they have created an innovative product or service and brought it to market just when there happened to be a demand for their offerings. They hit the market right, and their strategy has garnered substantial rewards. However, these same entrepreneurs often lose sight of their humble beginnings and early missteps; they start to believe their own marketing hype, and they attribute their success solely to their own smarts. At this point, management often begins to think that their company is invincible. Such arrogance can cause a once lucky company to falter, but this doesn’t happen overnight. It may take a decade before arrogance turns an enterprise with a promising future into a dismal disaster.

This chapter presents examples of successful companies that were unable to sustain their leadership positions, explores the combination of luck and good judgment that enabled these companies to succeed in the short term, and examines the processes and practices that led to these companies’ downfalls. Entrepreneurs can learn to a lot about success by studying the reasons why others fail.

In the technology market, we tend to live in the moment. It is difficult to imagine a time without the Internet, a time when so much information wasn’t available to so many people so quickly. Few of us remember when a single computer covered an entire city block and sold for millions. Not long ago, Microsoft was the most important emerging company in the world of high tech. Today a new batch of behemoths, with names like Google,, and Facebook, appear to be unstoppable. As the technology industry has grown, new companies have emerged in a steady stream and grown gargantuan and powerful. But, as I’ve mentioned, these companies tend to become arrogant with the growth of their revenue and influence. Sometimes they are smart enough to keep focused on their long-term strategy and the factors that brought them success, and by doing so they attain sustainability. Other times, failing to recognize that the only constant is change, they lose focus, assume their market position is permanent, and, ultimately, fail.

In the computer industry, there are many examples of companies that were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, but then weren’t savvy enough to harness that luck in order to sustain their market position. Three particularly good examples of this pattern are Wang Laboratories, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Sun Microsystems. Each of these companies became huge and powerful by entering the market at just the right time. They were all lucky. They all had spectacular opportunities, which they took advantage of and executed brilliantly. Yet not one of these companies exists today. In 1999, Wang Laboratories sold its remaining assets to Getronics N.V., a subsidiary of the Dutch IT & Telecommunications firm KPN. In 1989, Digital Equipment Corporation was sold to Compaq Computer, Inc. (which was later purchased by Hewlett Packard). Sun Microsystems was sold to Oracle Corporation in 2009. So what happened? All three were blinded by their own hype. They began to believe that their power would sustain them into the future and that it was unnecessary to change with the times.

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