The Emotional Roller-Coaster of a Pivot – Part A
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Prior to diving deep into what happens inside the mind and soul of a startup founder before, during and after making a pivot, let’s take a moment to define what a Pivot is

Roller coaster

Photo Credit: CC-By-Neukoln, Wikipedia

This guest post was written by Ori Goshen, Co-Founder of Tawkon

Pivot. One of the most discussed terms in the startup industry during the last couple of years.

Some say it was invented to ease the “failure” and encourage entrepreneurs to dare and take big risks to create great ventures. Others claim that this is a natural evolution process that every company (should) experience toward the path of growing a sustainable business.

Prior to diving deep into what happens inside the mind and soul of a startup founder before, during and after making a pivot, let’s take a moment to define what a Pivot is.

Defining the Pivot

A pivot is a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth”.

While there’s a constant debate when, why and how to make a pivot, Eric Ries, the author of “Lean Startup” reminds us that pivots imply keeping one foot firmly in place as you shift the other in a new direction. In this way, new ventures process what they have already learned from past success and failure and apply these insights in new areas.

Although pivot often viewed as a negative word in the startup world, with the assumption being that the founders have failed or headed the wrong direction, there are famous stories of legendary multi billion dollar businesses born out of pivots:

Odeo (Audio Podcasts) to Twitter (140 chars new social platform)

Burbn (Check-in app) to Instagram (Photosharing app)

The Point (Fundraising Platform) to Groupon (Grouped Coupons)

Fabulis (Social network for Gay) to Fab (Sale site for designer products)

To understand what’s going in the mind of an entrepreneur while pivoting, first one has to understand the different types of pivots:

  1. Zoom-in Pivot: What previously was considered a single feature in a product becomes the whole product.

  1. Zoom-out Pivot: What previously was considered the whole product becomes a single feature of a much larger product.

  2. Customer Segment Pivot: A company changes customer segment when it realizes that the product it is building solves a real problem for real customers but that they are not the type of customers it originally planned to serve.

  1. Customer Need Pivot: A company changes product when it realizes that the target customer has a problem worth solving, but just not the one that was originally anticipated.

  1. Platform Pivot: A changes from an application to a platform or vice versa.

  1. Business Architecture Pivot: Switching of architectures such as from high margin, low volume (primarily B2B) to low margin, high volume (primarily B2C).

  2. Value Capture Pivot: A company changes the way it captures value (i.e. Commonly referred to changes to monetization or revenue models).

  3. Engine of Growth Pivot: A company changes its growth strategy (e.g. the viral, sticky,and paid growth models) to seek faster or more profitable growth.

  4. Channel Pivot: A company changes the sales or distribution channels (e.g.from dealership sales to direct sales) when the same basic solution could be delivered through a different channel with greater effectiveness. (A channel often determines product feature, price, and competitive landscape)

  5. Technology Pivot: A company provides the same solution by using a completely different technology when the new technology can provide superior price and/or performance compared with the existing technology. Much more common in established businesses.

Pivoting emotions

A pivot ideally should be an emotionally detached process that is based on facts and data, but reality is that there’s no formula for making such decision. Working closely to numbers & figures with deep understanding of what’s working and what’s not is key, but making a pivot is still testing a new hypothesis, it’s still a new bet you have to take. Although it is a more educated bet, based on learning, it is still dumping the old and starting something fresh. It gets so far that it may involve killing a business in order to save it.

If you think about it for a sec, that’s a very scary thought. Startups are somewhat like religions, you have to blindly believe in them to make them work, and when things don’t work as expected suddenly you have to change your belief. That’s tuff. Suddenly you’re filled with anxiety, questioning yourself, your team, past decisions, maybe something went wrong and made it fail. But at the same time, there’s a feeling of curiosity, desire to discover, a new light, hope and dream. There’s the dreamy talk again, filled with new energies.

The decision point which sets the resources, action items and new priorities is usually the tipping point.

 

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