“Pivot” is probably the most overused word in the startup community. Everyone is pivoting his/her company from this to that. So how do you know when you should pivot your company slightly, jump to a completely new business idea altogether, or just shoot for the moon with what you have?
My friend Rishi recently wrote a post about how he thinks many entrepreneurs pivot too early — they don’t give their businesses enough time to prove or disprove its hypotheses. I think he writes a very fair post — it does take some time to validate assumptions. But, I think there’s another big reason to jump or pivot that is often overlooked: passion. Do you have a passion for the business you’re in? Can you be excited about waking up to that same business day in and day out for 3-5 years? And if the answer is clearly no from the beginning, no matter how good the numbers look, you should not be in the business.
I often hear successful entrepreneurs talk about how you should scratch an itch that you have — this is apparently an indicator of passion. But, I would guess that 80% of internet and mobile entrepreneurs haven’t got a clue what they’re actually passionate about.
Sometimes you need to experiment with lots of different startup ideas to find your passion. (tweet this)
Case in point: I tried to scratch my own itch by developing Shiny Orb with my friend Jennifer. Shiny Orb is a social shopping site for wedding apparel. When I was planning my wedding, it was so frustrating to coordinate dresses with my bridesmaids who were scattered all over the globe. It was a problem that plagued me for months, and Shiny Orb came about as a way to scratch my own itch. The trouble is — even just a couple months after starting the site, I realized that I wasn’t actually passionate about the wedding industry. I didn’t actually care which one-shoulder dresses were hot and should be on the site. I didn’t enjoy mingling at wedding-related tradeshows and events. And yet, I could not have known just how tedious the whole business idea would become had I not started pursuing it. There are so many clever startup ideas we think we want to pursue but are not actually areas we’re passionate about.
After spending nearly a year experimenting with different internet business ideas, I finally figured out that I was passionate about solving the problem of customer acquisition. At LaunchBit, we jumped from idea to idea to try to create an effective platform to help internet and mobile companies grow their customer base. But, it took me a long time to figure this out — I had to go through many different business ideas across multiple verticals to learn what I liked and didn’t. So, when I talk with new entrepreneurs who are just starting a business for the first time, I usually suggest looking at the qualitative data more than the hard numbers. If the qualitative aspects of the business (e.g. tedious nature of the industry, mundane operational activities) are bothersome in the first few weeks, you should not be in the business. You should jump or pivot. How will you discover your passion?
Thanks to Rishi Shah for his feedback.
Want to learn how to avoid common startup mistakes? Attend FailCon on October 24, 2011 in San Francisco. Founders from Airbnb, Uber, Udemy, KISSMetrics, yours truly, and more will be sharing war stories and lessons learned. But only 500 founders and investors can attend, so sign up here to get specially alloted tickets at 20% off.