Three CEO’s Who “Rode The Tide”

** This post was written for another blog, so the style of writing is a little different from my usual **

“Startups” are a special type of business.  They’re designed to get big and get big fast.  If they don’t get big then startups are meant to die.

How do you know whether your startup may become as big as Uber or FaceBook?  I think there’s a common theme which is fundamental to any successful startup.  You have to “Ride the Tide”.

“Riding the Tide” means that you can see where the world is heading, whether that’s a technological breakthrough, the inevitable change of an industry or a change in human behaviour.  Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, said it best: “Live in the future, then build what’s missing”.

Here are three CEO’s who successfully rode the tide.  However, any mega successful CEO will have a similar story.

1. Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, Net Worth $94 million


Aaron Levie had the idea of Box when he was in college.  He noticed that it was really difficult to share data with colleagues.  Surely, if he was having this problem then lots of others would as well?

He was right!  Turns out that most companies had to share a lot of data amongst themselves and there was no easy to use solution.  Aaron Levie realised that the cost of storing data would continue to fall and if he could create an easy to use solution for large businesses they would be happy to pay him.

Box “rode the tide” of an increasing number of businesses wanting to share more and more data and also the tide of decreasing costs of computer storage.  The company went public in 2015 and Box’s software now serves most of the Fortune 500 in America.

2. Max Levchin, Co-Founder / CTO of PayPal, Net Worth $300 million

Max Levchin was working on security gadgets for PDAs when he founded a security company.  Later on he started to focus on online payments.

At one point in PayPal’s history, millions of dollars were being lost to fraud every month.  Max Levchin and his team had to create a load of new technologies to prevent online fraud and customer money being lost.

All the hard work paid off when PayPal was acquired by eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

PayPal “rode the tide” of consumers wanting to spend more of their money online.  PayPal offered the solution and the founders  were handsomely rewarded!

3. Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft, Net Worth $87.4 billion

The story of Microsoft is a great example of what happens if you already have a successful company and you’re not aware of the upcoming tide.

IBM was a hugely successful company, but they were mainly focused on large mainframe computers.  They didn’t realise that in the future practically every desk would have a small personal computer.

When IBM got into the personal computer game, they made a deal with Bill Gates and Microsoft.  Microsoft would make the operating system for all of their computers and they would get a loyalty for each computer IBM sold.

In the 1990’s Microsoft captured over 90% market share of the world’s personal computers.  I doubt IBM would have made the same deal if they knew personal computers would become such a big deal!

Microsoft “rode the tide” of the rise of the personal computer!


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