What Your VC Wants You to Know: You Need To Pivot
In the second part of our series we’ll be taking a look at the concept of “pivoting” and why it may be time for your startup to pivot in a new direction.
In the fall of 2010, a 26-year-old named Kevin Systrom had a major problem. Nobody was using his app. Specifically, nobody was using it the way he intended. Burbn was meant for check-ins; ideally users would check in to locations, earn points, and share pictures. However, nobody was checking in, and instead, all they did was share pictures. Seeing an opportunity in the situation, Kevin took a decision many a young entrepreneur has had to make at one point or another. He chose to pivot.
According to https://www.startups.com, pivoting is ‘a shift in business strategy to test a new approach regarding a startup’s business model or product after receiving direct or indirect feedback.’
Systrom retooled his app into primarily a photo-sharing application and renamed it Instagram. Instagram gained 25,000 users on its first day. In the years since, Instagram has grown from strength to strength and is now the #1 social media platform. What if Systrom had not chosen to pivot? Where would Instagram be today? It likely would have crashed and burned as so many apps before it.
There are numerous reasons to pivot your idea. The following are just a few of them.
1) Your business doesn’t address a need.
Disruption is the buzzword these days. Every startup wants to disrupt the industry they operate in and cause real change. However, sometimes disruption isn’t the right answer. If your product doesn’t address a real need in the market, it doesn’t matter how revolutionary or disruptive it is. Nobody is going to shell out money for it.
For the UAE market in particular, convenience and cost are the two factors that matter the most. Does your idea increase convenience for your customer or reduce their costs? These are the two questions you should be asking yourself. If it does neither, maybe it’s time to pivot to an idea that does. Pivoting can be done in the idea stage as well as after a Minimum Viable Product or MVP has been achieved.
Case in point: PayPal started as a service that allowed you to exchange payments between Palm Pilots. A Palm Pilot is a tiny computer that fits into the palm of your hand; a predecessor to today’s smartphones. At the time Palm Pilots were all the rage; everybody had one. However, the concept never really took off and the company pivoted to sending money by email instead. In 2019, Palm Pilots are a thing of the past and PayPal is one of the world’s leading payment processing companies.
2) It’s too expensive.
This is a trap many fresh-faced entrepreneurs have found themselves falling into. They have this amazing idea but it’s going to take $15M just to get it off the ground. This is especially common in the UAE market.
In reality the chances of them getting any funding at all are slim to none. Even if by some miracle they get the cash it’s likely they’ll burn through all of it before they even reach an MVP. Instead, they should pivot to an idea that needs a low amount of initial funding so that they can focus on becoming profitable as soon as possible instead of breaking even in year 3.
3) Someones already doing it better
Things move quickly in the startup world. By the time you get to market, there may be a hundred other startups already doing the same thing. Some of them may even be doing it better than you. In these cases the best option is to move in a different direction, one that allows you to take hold of a smaller yet more potentially profitable niche.
A founder needs to be passionate about their idea, but he should be willing to listen to what their users are saying. Sometimes the best thing you can do as an entrepreneur is to take a step back and really think about your idea and what you want to accomplish. Is it just disruptive for the sake of it? More importantly, can you not obtain the funds to get it off the ground? Is someone already doing it better than you? If the answer to any of these questions is a yes, it’s time to consider pivoting. It may just be the thing your startup needs to really take off.