How to know it is time to pivot your startup

Anish Shivdasani, founder and CEO of mobile employment platform Giraffe, shares his lessons on when to reassess and realign your business.

Elna Schutz
May 15, 2019 · 4 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Anish Shivdasani, founder and CEO of Giraffe

When Anish Shivdasani launched Giraffe in 2015, he wanted to take advantage of the increasing mobile penetration in South Africa to connect medium skilled job seekers with SMEs. The company had significant initial success but has adapted and improved by making several important shifts. He recently shared some of his tips on how to do this successfully in a session with jamlab accelerator teams.

Learn from the data

While Shivdasani says “you have to look at what the numbers are telling you,” he also advises to not get caught up in ‘vanity metrics’. These may look good on the surface, but entrepreneurs have to consider the bigger picture, including qualitative factors.

Giraffe had strong initial numbers both in terms of job seekers and available positions, and while the company reached product market fit very quickly, it wasn’t enough. “The economics didn’t make sense,” says Shivdasani about the high operational costs involved. This led the company to focus on corporates instead of SME’s to bring in higher revenue. However, after a while the data showed them that this was lowering customer engagement, so they made another adjustment to include SME’s again in a new way and strike a balance.

Talk to your customers

“You as an entrepreneur will always have rose tinted views of your product. You’ll always think it’s better than it is. It’s the biggest danger and risk to seduce and delude yourself. You’ve got to be brutally honest with yourself because if you’re not, you’re more likely to fail.”

Keeping open lines of communication is important not only to inform a pivot but to implement it successfully. Shivdasani explains that you need to update your website wording and brand positioning “whenever you change anything, such as your market segment, your targeting or your pricing, otherwise your customers will get confused.”

Choose your mentors well

Instead of seeing others in your line of work as competition, you should see them as valuable sources of opinion. He says, “the insights you can get from people who have been there and done that is something your data can’t tell you. It’ll be higher level advice that can guide you.”

Beware the pivot

He explains that implementing changes is costly because you may have to build new parts of your product and you have legacy products or work that you have to handle correctly. Adjustments to your direction may be bothersome to clients, but also could affect your team. When a startup shifts too often over several years, teams get tired and Shivdasani says “they start to wonder ‘is it really going to work this time?”

While many startups may aim to do something revolutionary that works perfectly from the start, Shivdasani says this doesn’t have to be the case. Instead he advises taking partially proven idea and innovating it for your market, improving as you go along. “Try to do something you’re sure is going to work, which someone in the world has successfully done before, and you dramatically increase your chances for success.”

Successful pivots are a risky but important step for startups if informed by good data, customer feedback and mentorship.

Want to stay up to date with the latest journalism and media innovation news from the African continent? Subscribe to our newsletter.

jamlab

Strengthening innovation in African independent journalism and media.

Elna Schutz

Written by

jamlab

jamlab

The Jamlab Africa Newsletter is produced by Wits Journalism. The Journalism and Media Lab supports innovators to bring new information, new ideas and new conversations to new audiences in Africa.

Elna Schutz

Written by

jamlab

jamlab

The Jamlab Africa Newsletter is produced by Wits Journalism. The Journalism and Media Lab supports innovators to bring new information, new ideas and new conversations to new audiences in Africa.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store