Some of the most successful people I’ve met had their biggest wins by riding someone else’s coattails. They didn’t invent anything or start a company, but they did have the wisdom to stick with a winning ticket.
There’s no shame in slipstreaming behind a winner. People do it with companies as well. They join a rocketship and get yanked along for the ride. The first time they do it a lot of it comes down to dumb luck. The second time they do it, it means they are smart enough to recognize their luck and humble enough to step into another winner’s slipstream. Most of the time these kinds of people are quick to reach down and help others with introductions and starter positions. They recognize the value of slipstreaming and momentum for younger up and comers. Reaching down and helping others is the crucial ingredient to paying to forward in Silicon Valley.
Side note: If hubris kicks in, then some people convince themselves that their success is all about their efforts and it had nothing to do with the mega-successful company they joined. Don’t expect introductions or help from folks like this because they don’t think that “people luck” or being in the right place at the right time means much.
I’ve also seen other super-smart “good” people join zombie companies, work their tail off and the company goes nowhere. Silicon Valley is like Vegas with slightly better odds.