The Power of Pivoting: My 2013 Startup Weekend Experience

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The Power of Pivoting: My 2013 Startup Weekend Experience


What is Startup weekend?

startup weekend chandler 2013Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, empower individuals, teams and communities, share ideas, form teams, and launch startups. This year Chandler, AZ’s startup weekend was hosted in historic downtown Chandler at Gangplank.

Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. On Saturday and Sunday the teams focus on customer development, customer validation, sharpening their ideas, practicing Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. Then on Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts. LilliMedia had the privilege of sponsoring and photographing this wonderfully entrepreneurial event. Here’s what it taught me.

arian startup weekend chandlerOn Friday a vibrant crowd of entrepreneurs assembled one by one onto the Gangplank stage and pitched their “surething” ideas. To see their passion, and zeal was very invigorating - and all too familiar to say the least. The pitched ideas would then be voted on, and teams would be assembled around the ideas with the most votes. The whole process was quite chaotic, but very comedic.

After the open mic idea pitches were finished and the teams were created, they got to work. Just as soon as the creativity and collaboration started flowing, the pitched ideas began to change. The more the teams gelled, the more these new startups became something else. One team in particular lead by a young entrepreneur named Arian underwent several pivots, just to return to their second idea.

What does “Pivoting” mean in business?

When contextually used as a business term, to pivot typically refers to an evolution or mutation within the DNA of a business. Most startups will follow a squirly path leading them to find the right mix of the perfect customer, unique value proposition, and industry positioning. Kinda like if your business started out making rubber boots and then pivoted to making cellphones. Pivots happen.

So, whether you’re a startup or a big business, how do you know when it’s time to pivot?

#1. What Are Your Customers Saying About You?
Talk to your customers! Ask new customers why they are coming to you for your product or service. If you’re not using social media to monitor what your customers are saying about you, then you probably shouldn’t be in business anyway. Social media is a FREE way to figure how your customers really feel about your products or services. If you think that it’s time to take your company in a different direction based off of customer feedback, getting social can help you to figure out which new market your company could work well in. It’s a great way to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses in a market you aren’t as familiar with.

#2. Keep An Eye On Analytics!
Simply by knowing what your target market likes, and where they are coming from gives you the opportunity to continue to please them. More importantly, website analytics provide insight on things like what your website’s visitors consider valuable, and what they do not. They allow you to understand the influence and reach of your brand based off of link referrals, and where your customers are coming from. Thinking about a new direction for your business? Create a marketing campaign for the new industry in order to conduct research. Record the responses that you get from the new desired customer, and use that data to forge a path into your pivot.

#3. How’s Your Team Spirit?
Your team is all you have. If you have good people, you’ve got a great business. If you’re taking steps to keep the people on your team happy, motivated, and appreciated, they’ll move mountains for you. If someone hates their job they’ll show it to your customers. Instant-validity-destruction. So, if your company is starting to suck, ask your people if they still love what they do.

Why Pivoting is Important

Pivoting: Constantly be innovating. Times change. People change. Technology changes. Smart business change. Pivoting doesn’t have to mean complete recreation though. A company’s transition from one industry to another could simply be an additional service or slight changes in their product or service that allows them to break into a new market.

Facebook started out as an exclusive social network for Harvard. They’re now the biggest social network in the world. Google originally only did search. They didn’t start as the creator of android, a web browser, or an operating system. Amazon began by selling books online. They didn’t start as the ecommerce mecha that they are now. These titans all either switched or expanded into new industries in order to cater to the needs of their customers using their product or service.

So, converse with your customers, continuously analyze, and make sure your team is in for the long haul. The lesson that I learned at Startup weekend 2013 was that no matter the size of the business; giant or newly germinated - pivoting is crucial to the success of any business.


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