"Special request for Stormpulse to go first."

The White House liaison finished his half-question, half-requirement and took a step back.

The response from the director of the startup accelerator was quick:

"Okay! Change of plans: Stormpulse, you're first!"

I was standing far enough away to not make it awkward, but close enough to overhear the exchange. As my mind melted, my heart descended from where it had lodged itself in my throat.

Stormpulse was me. And the person running the show for Obama's visit to Austin, Texas had just informed the person that runs the show on any other day of the week that my startup would be the first to present to the 44th President.

As my organs re-assembled themselves, my mind pieced together how this was happening:

They knew me.

Events like this, both good and bad, are often perceived as things that fall from the sky unannounced: utterly out-of-our-control.

I do believe this is half the story, yes. Life comes at us, often tragically.

The other half is whether that arrow life fired at you is able to thread itself through all of the barriers that will block it from landing.

Insurance, checklists, helmets, seatbelts: we have lots of ways to patch holes in our walls to prevent the bad arrows from piercing through. Sometimes, they still do. Six sigma events.

But we can also punch holes that open us up to the good arrows, like a Presidential visit. Let's deconstruct.

When someone plans a visit from the President, that visit has to happen somewhere. In this case, it was Austin.

Hole #1: I had moved to Austin a year earlier because it was a better place for starting up than where I had been before. If I hadn't done this, the odds would have been 0%.

And when the President wants to meet startups in a city, he visits an accelerator.

Hole #2: I had joined this accelerator before even coming to Austin. In fact, the director was our second angel check. This gave me a chance of being one of the 5 founders chosen to present. Let's say 1-10%.

And when he meets with those founders, one of them has to be first: special treatment, the headliner, if you will. By default, this is a popularity contest. In fact, I was not originally slated to have this honor.

But I had stacked the deck. My card was on top.

Hole #3: The White House was a customer of our SaaS. This increased the chances to 90%-100% that it would be us first.

Whoa, whoa, I know, that's cheating. One does not simply knock on the front door of the WH and sell them a SaaS.

You're right! I had very little control over that. This was the result of many prior hole-punching decisions:

In 2006, I left my job to start a startup. I was living in South Florida, a startup desert at the time. I saw a pitch contest in Atlanta. I chose to get myself up there and expose our startup to regional investors and founders. One of them was visiting from IBM in Austin. He invited me to pitch at their startup event. I did, we placed in the contest, and I met Josh Baer and Bob Metcalfe (his first question to me: "have you considered the potential network effects?"). They offered us a free office space in Austin, and we took it. A few years later, #1 above: I moved to Austin, Texas.

And what about the White House being a customer?

We chose to begin our startup with a free tier. High-risk, high-reward. We made almost nothing at first, but we kept pushing it. We ran out of money (surprise!), so I joined a metro newspaper as a web developer and hustled to get my boss's boss to distribute our product as a part of their weather section. He did, and we got massive exposure when a hurricane hit in 2008. Of those millions of visitors, a domain called eop.nsc.gov was one. That's how it showed up in Google Analytics. I had no idea it stood for Executive Office of the President, National Security Council until they called one day to update their credit card information.

So "Hole #3" was the culmination of many other hole-punching decisions.

The point of punching holes isn't to make things happen. That's the mentality of a hustler selling a course.

It's to open yourself up long-term to the good arrows coming at you; it's to increase the chance they make it through.

This isn't the same as "it has to be someone, it might as well be me."

No, it might as well NOT be you. My crazy arrow threaded itself after years of stacking enduring, long-term holes (starting a startup, moving to Austin) as well as opening the occasional temporary ones (going to Atlanta for a weekend, saying yes to a startup contest in Austin).

Was it unlikely? Of course! Can I take full credit? Of course not.

But I also didn't "win the lottery", because there's only one stupid, expensive way to increase your chances of winning a lottery: buying more tickets. As with most awesome things in life, the White House didn't decide who got to meet the President via raffle.

Over the course of starting your startup, good things are going to try to happen to you.

Try to make sure they can find a way in.

Me (left), catching an arrow (right), aka Mr President.

What holes are you punching?