Not every successful startup was a success right from the beginning. YouTube was once a dating site, Flickr was a role-playing game. It takes research, planning, and a lot of guts, but a pivot can sometimes mean the difference between the success or the failure of a startup.
Initial startup teams make countless assumptions about what niche their new company will fit into, what the market will be like, who their customers will be and what the revenue model will be. In many cases, those assumptions turn out to be less than perfect. In some cases, they’re destructively wrong and killing the company from the inside out.
So, how do you realize that you need to change? It may start with an inkling, but that gut feeling needs to be followed up by a hard look and research into where you company is and its potential if you continue in the path you’re on. Plus, like the old saying goes, numbers don’t lie. If your business isn’t performing the way you think it should, it’s time to take a deeper look. Take a guess at what might be wrong, test it, and adjust your hypothesis until you hit the nail square on the head. It’s all about finding the product-market sweet spot.
Begin with the small changes, the things that aren’t so scary if they need to be tweaked, or overhauled. Test it on 100 of your contacts, then expand it out and test it with a wider audience. You may need a major pivot when you’ve exhausted all of your small changes and there are still issues to be had.
When and how to pivot is as much about intuition as it is research, but if it’s gotten to this point, it should be substantial and it should be strong. Don’t confuse changing your mind about a little matter with a full company pivot. A pivot is a major alteration to one or more business model components, one of the legs your company stands on. To pivot means to admit a partial defeat, and then being willing to change directions and try again. And again, if necessary.
So what are you chances for success? There’s no magic calculation, no easy button. We recommend releasing early, listening to your customers, and pivoting to match the market. Starting with a minimum viable product means that pivoting is scary, but not a deal breaker. It can mean the difference between going under, being mediocre, and being the next Instagram.