In 1981, when Michael Bloomberg first launched the company that would make his name famous throughout the business world—then called Innovative Market Systems—he was repeatedly told that the venture would fail. The big idea? Bring live financial data to desktop computer terminals across the globe. “Remember, this was before people had desktops,” Bloomberg later wrote. It was also before most people knew who Mike Bloomberg was, and getting his brand-new, as yet unproven product in front of the right people would be tough. But as he once explained, the “best time to strike is when the gatekeepers aren’t there.” So that’s precisely what he did.
At 6 a.m. each day, a full three and a half hours before the stock market’s opening bell, Bloomberg would go to a deli across the street from Merrill Lynch’s New York headquarters and buy several cups of coffee, some with milk, some without, and several cups of tea, also with and without milk. A few extra sugar packets in hand, Bloomberg would then head over to Merrill’s HQ and roam the halls looking for executives to pitch. “I’d walk in and say, ‘Hi, I’m Mike Bloomberg. I bought you a cup of coffee. I’d just like to bend your ear,’” he explained to Gillian Zoe Segal, author of 2015’s Getting Ther