Silicon Valley has a new buzzword with plenty of historical relevance.
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A new Silicon Valley buzzword was born yesterday, when Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said he would revive his disappointing social app, Jelly.
“For anyone who remembers Jelly, yes, we took a break but we're back 100%,” he wrote. “Silicon Valley types might call this an 'un-pivot.'”
Some important context: “pivot,” in tech startup circles, is a well-known code word for abandoning a failed project in favor of something new. This is a fairly common practice, and lots of things we love, like Twitter and Slack, started life as something completely different before a pivot to something better.
Stone, when he saw that people weren't using Jelly, pivoted away from the app to work on another app called Super.
An “un-pivot” — returning to that which was pivoted away from — is relatively unusual in tech, which is probably why Stone felt the need to coin a word for it.
But while “un-pivots” aren't the norm in tech, they have played a central role in some of the most important developments in human history. Here's a few of the great historic un-pivots that Stone and Jelly can perhaps take inspiration from.
1920: During Prohibition, the U.S. pivots into national sobriety, then unpivots back to national drunkenness 13 excruciating years later.
In one of the most foolish political decisions of all time, the United States Senate passed an amendment banning the sale of alcoholic beverages. Franklin Roosevelt, looking to disrupt our long national nightmare of experiencing life without the aide of beer, pivoted us back to turnt in 1933.
48 B.C.: Ancient Rome, after several centuries as a republic, un-pivoted back to a dictatorship.
Julius Caesar un-pivoted the Roman Republic by becoming “dictator in perpetuity.” His disruptive vision got him killed, but the groundwork for the Roman Empire had been set.