Monday, January 03, 2011

Pivoting + Startups

Pivot is one of the most overused terms in the startup world in 2010. The general thinking is that Pivoting is a good thing and founders are very proud to say that they have 'pivoted' X number of times for their current startup. I have seen funding pitches which even contain a slide on 'possible pivots', where the founders talk about how its easy for them to change their vision.

Having 'pivoted' my own startup (Pickv -> TheIceBreak), I feel this is definitely something that is important in a startup's lifecycle. However, it is not all that fun or glamorous, and there are very strong reasons to have a plan that does not involve pivoting as the strategy.

Pivoting usually involves changing the vision of the company. From what I have seen, there are 2 kinds of 'pivots':
  1. Pivot to a bigger opportunity: You have a generally decent product getting tiny amount of traction, but see a bigger opportunity so you switch over to that.
  2. Pivot to a new product: What you have done is not doing well, or has very little hope of getting traction, so you pivot to a new product that might or might not have anything to do with the original idea.
In both cases,
  • Pivoting is extremely painful: You have spent a ton of time and energy really optimizing the service for a particular use case. Now you are dumping that use case.
  • Pivoting doesn't really solve the problem: It shifts the problem somewhere else, or results in a different problem. 
  • Too many Pivots = lack of vision: If you have a clear long term vision, there might be changes required in the execution where you take 'diversions' to get to the final goal, but there is not usually a full 180 degree pivot. If there are too many pivots, the long term vision might get lost and the company might flounder and stutter without getting anywhere.
  • Pivoting means something has failed, and its time to try something new. This applies to the first kind of pivot that I described earlier. While its good to accept failure early and move on, there should be enough time and resources spent on each iteration so it can reach its potential.
In general, I am still a supporter for pivoting, but has to be done thoughtfully. There is absolutely nothing glamorous about doing so and it should generally be the last resort.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Dwipal! Really liked the thought process.