Matt Unger

I like software

Play The Odds

What kid wants to win a gift card to Ikea over a gift card to Toys 'R' Us?

Growing up, my sister and I read book after book every summer. Our local library had a summer reading program that encouraged kids to read more. For every book you read, you got a certain amount of raffle entries. You placed your raffle entries into a bucket, each which corresponded to a $100 gift card from various local businesses – Toys 'R' Us, Best Buy, Target, and…Ikea. And again, what kid wants to win a gift card to Ikea? None, really. That’s why my sister and I put every single raffle entry into the Ikea bucket. We knew every kid in town overlooked the bucket, so we had a much better probability to win. Would you rather have a 10% chance of winning the hottest gift card on the block, or a 90% chance of winning an overlooked gift card?

We won the Ikea gift card. We waited a few months until our parents needed to shop there next, and sold it to them for $90. We played the odds.

Same goes for starting a business. It’s appealing to attempt to make the next big thing. The next hot startup that really blows up, that gets a billion users. However, the chances of success are miniscule. Everyone wants to take that route. Why not search for that smaller, under-served, less crowded market? If you’re going to put an immense amount of effort into something, if you’re going to repeatedly lose sleep over something, if you’re going to sacrifice a good chunk of your life for something…don’t you want it to have a very high chance of success?

Play the odds.

Matt Unger

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