Pivot or Persevere?

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I came across this phrase for the first time when I read The $100 Startup book by Chris Guillebeau. Then it was just at a “theoretical” stage. My early startup stage. The idea of pivoting or persevering sounded very amazing. From my limited practical perspective, I imagined it to be an easy feat for entrepreneurs who found themselves in that situation to overcome.

The idea of changing one’s business focus to another or simply continuing that path should be easy. It sounded easy until my co-founder and I found ourselves in that situation. We had founded a startup that got incubated in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai to be precise). We imagined it becoming a high flying startup due to the nature of the idea, the environment it found itself in and the tons of press coverage and exposure it received. Our idea was to remodel the barter trade and present a new competitor to the cash-based trading where people with little or no disposable incomes, cut off from the current e-commerce ecosystem, could trade without the need for money. We were on a quest to empower people with a new form of social currency that didnt involve the use of money.

Startup founders always envision a hockey stick growth pattern where their idea zooms from a prototype stage, growth hack its way to success and become a unicorn in no time. Theoretically this is 100% right. Practically, it takes more than just the execution of an idea to make it achieve massive growth. We were faced with user growth. Our numbers trickled down over time because we faced stiff competition from other classifieds in Ghana who had a lot of financial muscles to spend on advertisement. We were faced with the pivot or persevere dilemma. Our options remained either to keep pushing with the hope they we may raise enough capital to outrun competition or completely pivot into a new area. We pivoted. Outrunning our competitors was going to be a near impossible task.

Pivoting does not mean giving up. It is not a sign of weakness or indecisiveness. Many founders fall in love with their original idea and its difficult to let go. Pride and ego plays a part also. Its common to see people still holding on to dead startups because they fear people will mock them for being a failure. They will rather hold on to a dead startup, pretend all is rosy than to face reality. The ultimate aim of a startup is to be survive and make money. If an idea cannot bring you money, you will crash and burn. Pivoting once doesn’t necessarily guarantee an automatic success. You may have to pivot several times before you find your eureka moment. You can still pivot and fail. You can perservere and succeed.

Founders need to have an open mind when they come to the crossroad where their idea seems to be on the path to dying. Having an open mind allows you to make decisions, not push blame on people and decide on the next step to take as a team. Luck always like persistent people…

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