½ This time is different, coin flipping

“This time is different,” is often more wrong than right.

But sometimes, “this time is different” is.

This came up in the Super Pumped book about Uber. What made 2008-start-ups different from 1998-start-ups were new tools. Specifically, author Mike Isaac points out; AWS servers, consumers’ online habits (half of all homes paid for broadband), and the iPhone. That new environment meant that Uber had to do a lot to succeed, but not as much as companies of the previous generation.

Think about sports odds. Forget one team being better (in some metric), and instead, think of even odds. This highlights the importance of a bye round. A team with a first-round bye has the same chance of winning ‘both’ games as a team that’s a 70/30 favorite but with two games to play.

Tom Brady’s playoff record isn’t really the official 30-11 but rather 42-11. By winning so many games in the regular season, and earning byes, Brady effectively won twelve first-round playoff games.

This time might really be different if a business needs fewer flips of a coin. Uber succeeded because they needed less to go right.


Lastly, a request. I’m brainstorming a project about second ideas. If you know of, or come across, a company that was a pivot, second bite, or follow-up please let me know. As an example, Instagram was a check-in app that changed direction to photos. Or, Basecamp was an internal tool for a design firm. And, Milton Hershey thought he wanted to be in the caramel business, tried, and floundered before succeeding with chocolate.