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Harnessing Serendipity for Profit and Fun

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It takes a lot of sweat equity to build a successful and sustainable start-up, which is why I don't get out of the office very much. My startup is focused on building HomeSnap, a real estate brand for the mobile world. All of our primary competitors have more developers, more marketers and much more money. The only way we win is to build innovative products that create real value. That's why I spend most of my time tucked behind my desk programming, Photoshopping, testing, measuring and strategizing.

But I've realized that it can be counterproductive to spend ALL of your time hunkered down in the office. If you never get out, then you never create the opportunity to let serendipity happen.

Serendipity is an ability to nurture a chance occurrence and make productive use of it. The chance occurrence can be almost anything: an insight, a desire, a new connection or a random encounter. Serendipity is elusive and can be tricky to cultivate in the midst of a demanding schedule. The best way to give serendipity a chance is to break your routine.

Get out into the real world. Go to places where the smart people in your industry hang out. Bring your product or pitch to the table and share it with everybody you meet. Seek out relationships with professional contacts that you admire. Take a deep breath and get up on stage. Take a risk.

We took a big risk when we decided to build HomeSnap, which itself is based on the happy feeling derived from experiencing serendipity. With HomeSnap for iPhone, you can take a picture of any home in the United States to find out all about it. The allure of serendipity is strong. Many people try HomeSnap because they want to find out if it really works.

We chose to launch HomeSnap at SXSW on a shoe-string budget because we knew that we had to forge relationships with influencers. My expectation was that SXSW would be a great networking opportunity; it turned out to be an amazingly fun experience and a significant turning point for our start-up.

At the TechCocktail Startup Showcase, HomeSnap won the "Most Innovative" award. Serendipitously, Steve Case walked through the door moments later and came over to meet us. Flash forward five months and Steve Case's Revolution Ventures is a significant investor in HomeSnap. I'm not sure that Revolution would have invested if we didn't make our case to Steve at a cowboy bar in Austin (1500 miles away from my desk)

The best part about serendipity is that it's seemingly available in limitless quantities, if you push yourself to look. In the past few months, I have pushed myself to attend more networking opportunities. Sometimes on the heel of a 12-hour shift, sometimes in the face of a daunting deadline. But it's almost always worth it.

Quick example: I wouldn't have been invited to The Huffington Post's Entrepreneurship Expo at the Democratic National Convention if I had not previously met the founder of StartupHire at CapitolConnection. And without attending the DNC, I would not have met the Startup America team and been afforded the opportunity to write this blog post.

If you're ready to embrace serendipity, break your routine and say 'hello, world.'