When To Pivot In A Startup? [Lean Startups]

I was recently talking to an early stage startup who actually started off with a big bang and are now revisiting the product. The team basically needs to explore if they started off on a ‘wrong’ note or they should just keep on going.

“When to Pivot” is a very difficult question to answer, but here are a few early signs that you need to keep looking.startup pivot

a. Hypothesis.

First build a hypothesis around the core of your product (“People want to write short messages/get instant gratification” Twitter’s probable hypothesis before the first release). Validating hypothesis is a function of who you are talking to. A lot of startups tend to talk to other startup peers or friends ‘n’ family (Friends and Family – Are they Startup’s Best Friends?) during ideation phase.
Talking to potential customer always helps (heck! this is a no-brainer, but how many startups actually do this?). Infact, some of the startups tend not to reach out to customers for the fear of negative response.

After the first release, ask yourself if your hypothesis stands correct and you are close to the reality?

b. Too Soon To Pivot?

“Startups that succeed are those that manage to iterate enough times before running out of resources”
-Eric Ries

After all, it’s a high speed chase game and as an entrepreneur, you are simply running against time/resources. Your goal is to minimize the waste and keep running till your find a product/market fit. A lot of startups tend to avoid a fundamental conflict that questions the basic vision of the product.

As a startup, track metrics like a ninja and track the important ones (and not the only ones that are going up).

c. What Exactly is Pivoting?

Pivoting is not A/B testing. Pivoting is change of direction. Pivoting is about change of vision.
To give you an idea, InMobi (earlier mKhoj) started as a local deals search, realized that  it will take a good number of years to build a solid business around it and immediately pivoted to building an ad network (Naveen shared the details at the last UnPluggd event).

How much of code was thrown in the entire process? Heartaches? Can you really handle so much of heartache – in the hope that next vision will bring the much needed success?

Pivoting at times is also about solving a similar problem (similar to the one you were solving earlier) and using a different approach. And at times, it’s about solving a related problem (which need not be similar).

Pivoting is not an art – it’s pure science (i.e. driven by numbers and hard facts).

If you are a startup that has pivoted, do share your experience.

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