Different types of pivots

Understanding different types of pivots in the startup journey and how to navigate them for success.

A.T. Gimbel
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July 25, 2023

Pivoting in the Startup Journey: Navigating Small, Medium, and Large Transitions for Success

Most successful businesses go through pivots before they break through. It is much easier to pivot earlier in the startup journey than later. However, not all pivots are the same. Here are three different examples of pivots and what to expect. 

Small pivot

Sometimes you have done your customer discovery and identified a must-have problem. You have lined up early development partners to build with. You deliver the first version of the product to customers and it adds value. But as you try and scale the go-to-market process, it is not quite taking off. This could involve small pivots in the message, channel, and/or product. Usually you can quickly get the team behind these tweaks.

Medium pivot

Sometimes you have done the above and customers are not buying and/or customers keep churning. This may involve a medium pivot to change the customer/product. Changing the customer could just be refocusing on the type of customers that were getting value from the product vs. the ones that were not. Changing the product could be keeping the same ideal customer/problem, but refocusing the product to better solve the pain points. Usually these pivots require a little more discussion and can be challenging to teammates and customers who strongly believed in the original vision.

Large pivot

When none of the above pivots are working, a large pivot may be required to change your industry/problem. Maybe you thought the problem you were solving was a must-have, but it is actually just a nice-to-have. Maybe you thought the industry was large enough and growing, but you realize it is not big enough, too regulatory, or other factors that make it not a good long term place to be. These larger pivots often require going back to initial customer discovery and proving authentic demand to make the jump. These pivots are naturally the most difficult, as it can lead to disagreement on the leadership team, frustrated customers, and conflicting views from investors.

No matter where you are at in the startup journey, pivots are usually necessary at some point. Listen to your customers to make the hard decisions and right adjustments to propel the business forward.

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