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What You Really Must Know As You Pivot

Janhavi Parikh
Janhavi Parikh, Founder & CEO, Giftery

If you’ve tried a few things and nothing has really made a big difference, it is probably a good time to pivot. Last year in August, Aurality, a startup that built a podcasting app decided to pivot. It eventually shut down the service and launched Giftery, a business based on gifting. Now the company sells gift vouchers that are accepted by more than 100 of its partners.

Aurality was launched in March 2012. The startup raised money from Blume Ventures and others around the same time. In 3-4 months, the team realized that they had to change things because there wasn’t really any traction for the product. So they began to run smaller experiments within the product and soon decided to pivot.

At the the time, the company lost a co-founder and went through a tough time. But the good news is that it is still in business! Janhavi Parikh, the founder & CEO of Giftery shared her experience which has a few lessons for anyone who is considering a pivot.

Should have launched earlier

In hindsight, Janhavi feels that they should have launched a basic version of the product quicker. “We started working on the product 8-9 months before launch. Instead of aiming for perfection, we should have tested our hypothesis quicker,” she feels.

Quickly validating ideas

When the main product wasn’t working for them, the team started quickly running through all the ideas it had. Janhavi then zeroed in on Giftery and the other co-founder Bhavin decided to move on.

“While we weren’t quick enough to launch, we iterated fairly quickly to fix the product,” she says. The startup tried 9-10 smaller pivots before finally moving on to another idea altogether. “We’d given ourselves a finite number of attempts,” Janhavi recalls. It really helps to know when you need to put a full stop.

Shouldn’t have optimized for cost in the beginning

Approaching everything from a frugal point of view, Aurality was looking for cheaper solutions to solve problems. For instance, when they found that recording studio voice over was expensive, they decided to discontinue that.

“But if we had continued that and changed our model for a different use case, it may have worked,” she says. Though you can never be sure, the key takeaway for them was: “Perhaps we shouldn’t have optimized for cost at an early stage. It wasn’t really worthwhile. Perhaps we should find the right business model first and then optimize for cost,” she recalls.

Taking investors into confidence

The team took its investors into confidence right from the beginning. “They knew that were were trying these mini-pivots. We were completely honest with them,” says Janhavi. By November, they’d decided to move on. The investors valued the team’s transparency and decided to stay with the company. Although we must warn you that not all investors are patient enough.

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