Tagged: pivot

Your Company Pivot Is A Movie Montage

Next up in this series on living through a pivot, we look in the rearview mirror.  Let’s jump back to early 2014.

Our business of building news, weather, and sports apps for TV stations matured, and reached the end of its lifespan.  We had time to figure out a new path, but not much, and were batting around dozens of ideas on what to do next.

I remember at least 5 brainstorming sessions, a mini-hack day or two, and a walk through downtown.  Yes, in attempting to figure out new ideas for the digital and mobile ecosystem, we strolled the physical world.  Attempting to spark creativity out of nowhere can yield a fruit or two, but the best insights frequently come when you least expect, and when you’re not plugging away at a routine.

We were looking for cues of any kind.  It’s not that we expected to discover an entirely new business model as we sauntered down Glenwood Ave, but rather to begin a chain reaction of thinking and discussing new possibilities.  Once you find that, articulating a solvable problem to test against a business model becomes a little easier.  A little.

Now, as I think back upon that time, all of those discovery sessions blend together like a movie montage.  Strolling down memory lane is much more pleasant if we throw in a little Hungry Eyes (for all you Dirty Dancing fans) or Let’s Hear It For the Boy (from the real Footloose, not that shitty remake).

PS – I walk around the office like this, all day.

When To Begin Your Startup Pivot

After you finally accept that you must change business direction in order to survive (that’s the previous post), when should you start that process?  Immediately? Yes.

But that doesn’t mean you pull the plug on current customers immediately, or you instantly cease your current operations.  Perhaps in some cases this is necessary. In our case, not so much.

While we clearly saw the winds shifting and our current market stagnating, we knew that keeping the current revenue stream alive extended our runway.  This is startup lingo for keeping more cash in the bank so that you can keep the doors open longer.

What we’re getting at here is that phasing into your pivot over time has a few advantages.

  1. Keep current revenue flowing to fund product development.
  2. Use current customers for customer research on the new product and direction.
  3. Use current / previous customers as your new prospect base.

Here’s the academic way to describe this, penned by Ron Adner in this Harvard Business Review article.  The ecosystem carryover: “using existing positions in existing market spaces to jump-start a winning position in a new market space”.

Of course, a phased pivot poses a serious risk: Holding on for too long when you should be letting go. Perhaps you should hold on loosely, but don’t let go. If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.

What better way to start the weekend than with a dose of 38 Special’s classic rock brilliance?

How Do You Know When To Pivot?

Not quite product-market fit
Not quite product-market fit

This is the easiest part of making a pivot; deciding that you need to. It’s not really that easy, but it’s easier than the rest of the process, so we’ll keep it short & sweet.

(1) You’re losing customers faster than you can replace.  Startup buzzword enthusiasts call this losing product/market fit.

(2) You can’t get enough or any of your free beta customers to start paying.  Your product may not fit the market, or your business model needs tweaking.

(3) Your product can’t get any customers at all.  Your product never fit the market to begin with.

The hard part of knowing when to pivot is knowing WHEN TO ACTUALLY BEGIN making the major shift in your business.  Every situation is different.  I’ll share our experiences in coming posts.

Happy To Be Here

This is not some happy-go-lucky, lets-all-hold-hands-and-listen-to-jam-bands-happy-to-be-here, nonsense.

moviesRather, it’s that feeling when the jaws of the giant worm are closing around you, and you narrowly pilot the Millenium Falcon to safety.  Nice one, Han. It’s when that massive ston garage-door on the cave is closing down, and you power slide right under only to emerge safely on the other side.  Nice work, Indy.  Or when you hit 88mph and your giant coat hanger hits the wire just as lightening strikes, returning you to 1988 with a flaming blaze of awesome. Time flux capacitor, all day.

When that happens, you’re happy to be there.

That’s what it feels like when you emerge from the depths of starting a company to see the light, either because things are going well, or because you flamed out and have the “relief” of finally shutting down.

My first mobile startup gotten eaten by the worm, crushed by the stone door, and mis-timed the lightening strike.  The business didn’t make it through, but I did. I joined my current company after that.

I’ve been “happy to be here” since. Shutting down your startup puts a whole new shine on the rest of the working world.

In the three years since, the market forced our hand. We sold the old business to focus on a new direction instead of completely closing down. The classic: Pivot. What a simple yet challenging word.  It’s two syllables that sound like the sound of spitting a watermelon seed. Pivot appears easy and quick, when it’s actually slow and deliberate and more like evolving.  Pivolution.

We’re starting to emerge. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and at least for now, it’s not a train.  That’s the “happy to be here” sentiment we’re discussing today.

Stick with me and I’ll walk you through the last 18 months of our overnight pivot.