Thomas Edison once said:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

With over 1,000 patents credited to his name, I think it’s safe to say the man knew a thing or two about the trials and tribulations that came with innovation. Including…. the pivot.

A start up business can be an unruly beast. I mentioned in a previous blog “Cogniom and the Accelerators” that you don’t know what you don’t know, and I won’t lie. EVERY DAY presents a new “I didn’t know that!” moment.

Welcome to #startuplife right?

Sitting here, 12 months into our journey one of the biggests lessons we’ve learned is the plan you start with, wont necessarily be the same one you finish with.

Whether it’s your product or service that changes, the direction alters or the target market is different to what you expected, be assured that there is a pivot or two is waiting for you.

As an entrepreneur or a founding start up member, there is one thing you must know:

We often liken the start up journey to that of a roller coaster. A never ending roller coaster. A never ending roller coaster that even Disneyland couldn’t rival. There is no exact science to it, no definitive roadmap to navigate it and yet it is still one of the most rewarding adventures you’ll go on, if you have the tenacity to see it through.

You will learn more about yourself and what you are capable of, you’ll see just how far out of your comfort zone you can go and still survive, you will expand your knowledge and skill set far beyond what you could imagine and meet some of the most fantastic, supportive and inspiring people.

But, OH! That change!

What’s supremely important though, is these stories are shared. Quite possibly, it’s our duty as existing start up founders to share our experiences and our misfires, our tumbles and missed opportunities in order to help those even newer to this than us to understand how important these moments actually are. Sometimes, almost as important as the wins.

So, join me for a mini roller coaster ride and consider the pivots these well knowns have been through.

Twitter – had beginnings as a one stop shop for podcasts known as “Odeo”. Their pivot came when a competitor took over the podcast market (thanks Apple!) After an internal hackathon they took the leap into status updates and micro blogging.

Starbucks – whilst always with their foot in the coffee game, they originally started out selling espresso makers and coffee beans. Insert pivot after a trip to Italy, where the now CEO had the crazy idea of turning Starbucks into an actual brew house, like the Europeans do!   

Nokia – they may be in a bit of a need for another pivot, they were the King of the mobile phone industry in their day, however they originally started out as a paper mill! They continued to pivot into rubber products, electronics, then telecommunication devices before finally focusing on mobile devices.

Avon – The founder was a traveling book salesman who would give out free perfume samples with each sale. Turns out the perfume was far more popular and he embraced the very obvious pivot into cosmetics.

Nintendo – while many of us will always have a soft spot for Mario and Luigi, did you know they first began manufacturing playing cards before trying their hands at vacuum cleaners, instant rice and a taxi company!

We too have experienced our own pivots, starting out as a diabetes tracker for patients, to a diabetes diagnostic tool for nurses, to a device to help nurses with medication rounds, to today where we see TANDM making benefit realisation processes much easier to manage. Nowhere near where we started!

Sometimes a pivot doesn’t come in the shape of a product change. Sam Jockel of ParentTV’s story has made its rounds through our community recently highlighting an investment opportunity that went south completely out of her control. Her brutally honest post is not only a testament to her strength, but an accurate depiction of what start ups truly face.

At the end of the day change is inevitable and shouldn’t be seen as a failure. The importance comes with understanding that fact, being agile enough to ride the roller coaster, but also understanding when it’s time to embrace the pivot.

How do we do that? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned for part two….!

4 + 1 =