A pivot, in the land of startups, is when you and your team realize that what got you to where you are now isn’t going to take you to where you need to go. Typically, this realization is reached amidst a lot of mental anguish: a real waste of your creativity, collaboration and common sense.
It’s time to make a pivot when you’ve sold yourself on the viability of your startup more than you have remained in-tune with the marketplace and industry mindset and needs.
A pivot can mean the slightest shift in position, concept, technology, and perception that makes all the difference to the viability of your product, service, platform, and team. A pivot can make all the difference to your startup’s forward momentum.
Can you recognize when it’s time to pivot?
Can your team achieve that 10,000 foot eagle’s eye view of whether your idea is relevant and valuable? Or have you and your team become so myopic and focused that you have lost the ability to have these critical insights?
Often the need to pivot manifests itself under non-obvious situations. A critical mass of opinion, feedback, economic and regulatory events, and funding changes the landscape of your startup. Yesterday things looked one way; today it’s an entirely different startup ecosystem.
You know it’s time to pivot when customers struggle to articulate how your idea fits into their habits and practices. Are you are pointing your product at inappropriate first customers? Have you solved the right problem? Is your platform interface too cumbersome to create a positive user experience? Are there system-related issues which are barriers to ease of introduction?
You know it’s time to pivot when there are IP issues. Did you take that final “No!” from the patent office as a catalyst for moving your startup forward? Is it time to procure someone else’s license that they have let languish? Perhaps this issue is your startup’s first Milestone which needs to be addressed, and funded, to move forward.
You know it’s time to pivot when your team chemistry isn’t providing synergy and creative output. Depending on where we sit around the table, we see the same things differently. As your venture moves through various stages of commercialization, how well is each of you holding up to the rigors of this process?
Startups are never an either-or exercise; neither is business as a whole. There is no straight-line trajectory for creativity or decision-making.
There will be at least one pivot as you move your venture towards commercialization. That’s a given. What is your pivot story? The pivots your team decides to make can become the most compelling reason for funders and first customers to do business with you. Have you ever thought about pivots this way?
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, catalyzes business transition, startup growth, and professional development. She works with non-traditional sellers, engineers, manufacturers, and technical startups.