Enlightened Serendipity

You’ll know when it’s time to start your business

By Frank Demmler

Amazingly enough, this is my 50th article for TechyVent.  That being the case, I am going to indulge myself a little. Please bear with me.

One of things I’ve observed about the fraternity of those who provide entrepreneurial advice and education is that we say similar things, but we have our own way of presenting it.

Š      Jack Thorne characterized entrepreneurship as, “Insane perseverance in the face of total rejection.”

Š      Jack Roseman has captured the essence of his perspective in the title of his excellent book, Outrageous Optimism.

Š      Fred Beste has a series of articles, including the classic,  “25 Entrepreneurial Death Traps.”

Š      Ron Morris has his “75 Immutable Truths.”

To this list I humbly offer “Enlightened Serendipity.”

Enlightened Serendipity

Being in the right place

At the right time,

Recognizing it, and

Acting upon it,



An observer can often be heard exclaiming, “What luck!” or “Another overnight success!” when reacting to someone’s achievements.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

True, intuition and flashes of inspiration may play a role in the process, but these seemingly sudden bursts of accomplishment may have been gestating for years, perhaps decades, with conscious preparation throughout.  It is the confluence of personal and external events, trends, and developments; many controllable and some that are not, that ultimately lead to opportunity.  It is the TRUE entrepreneur who has prepared himself and successfully grasps the opportunity to make it his own.

Right now and right here – is your opportunity at hand? Do you expect it to be? If not, how will you recognize it?

Have you ever exclaimed, “That was my idea!” when someone achieves success? At the risk of hyperbole, ideas really are a dime a dozen. Having an idea is one thing.  Acting on it is quite another.

“If only I had the money…” “Once I close on a round of investment…” The everyday person frequently finds reasons not to do something. The entrepreneur scales his pursuit of the opportunity to a level appropriate to the circumstances and prospects.

“It should have worked…” “If only I’d had one more round of investment…” Virtually every successful company I know was essentially bankrupt by all rational measures, but the passionate founders refused to accept that outcome.  When others are ready to throw in the towel, entrepreneurs redouble their efforts to make it work!

Opportunity Obsession

Entrepreneurs are obsessed with the pursuit of opportunities.  Unlike administrators who attempt to optimize outcomes based upon a given set of resources and constraints, the entrepreneur pursues opportunities without regard to the resources currently under control, but with the confidence that they can be attracted when needed.

I am a firm believer in the adage that if you throw enough mud against the wall, some of it will stick. Through business planning activities; networking with other entrepreneurs, professionals, and business practitioners, among others; and attending conferences, trade association meetings, virtually any gathering of people; the budding entrepreneur will be exposed to an unlimited number of opportunities.

Entrepreneurs will seize opportunities while others see only noise and confusion. 

THAT is Enlightened Serendipity.

Frank Demmler is Associate Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. Previously he was president & CEO of the Future Fund, general partner of the Pittsburgh Seed Fund, co-founder & investment advisor to the Western Pennsylvania Adventure Capital Fund, as well as vice president, venture development, for The Enterprise Corporation of Pittsburgh. An archive of this series of articles can be found at my website.