Changing course: pivoting considered as one of the fine arts.
It’s been quite some time we’ve been pushing our startup, tall vision and goals in mind. We have prepared business plans and slideshows. We have pitched it and spoken about it until we had no voice left. We were so sure of where we were headed!…
Then, this week, our ship changed course 180º — in startupspeak, we have made a “pivot”. What? Did we got nuts? Why? Let me tell you this story.
Once upon a time…
…we created nimbooks.com for digital readers Worldwide. We created it as a solution to their (our) many needs around managing ebook collections. We knew that the way of managing digital books could be improved. Improved like, you know, huge, big time improved. As storing, sharing, rating, commenting, etc. Everything that comprises the reading life of an avid reader, in fact, could be amped to 11.
Our closed beta/prototype was quite successful with our testers, fellow digital reading fans. We then received over a thousand new sign-ups from all over the World to try Open Beta as soon as available. Hundreds of followers joined our Twitter feeds each week. That was encouraging and got us confident that we were on the right path. Then we run a quite nice crowdfunding campaign, great video and all, in order to get enough funding.
And… crickets. Nothing. Niente. Zilch. Nada
We went straight to our over 7K Twitter followers. Asked them for some spare change to (figuratively) buy us some coffee. We’re working hard on this thing you say you love, bro. Got bills to pay. Need some coffee to fuel us and ship this thing. Got $3 for a latte, bro?
Aaaand… yup, you got it: crickets again.
Depression kicked in. Confusion. Shock, awe. No idea what I’m doing dude kind of moment. We put everything on hold, cut expenses, stopped development, halted marketing. Freeze! Need time to figure our what to do next. Should I stay or should I go? Pass the Prozac…
Were we doing it all wrong? Were our users lying to us when saying how much they loved the platform? Whose fault is this?
Let me get this straight. We were right in determining the needs that people engaged into digital reading had. Our approach in regard of design and features has been praised by anyone who has had the chance to give it a try so far. That was not the problem. It soon became clear that the problem was our approach to business.
Much to our surprise, we started receiving inquiries from other companies. Not readers, not individuals. Companies intrigued on how could they plug Nimbooks to their own platforms. Wishing to offer new or improved services to their customers. Who was this people?
Our target always were individuals, consumers as you and me. Publishing professionals were not in our sights other than as a potential, opportunistic possibility. It came out that we were plain wrong in our approach of working around Publishing players. And that our intended customer base, Readers, would not economically sustain our efforts. Ever. We asked them directly, and surveys came out that 90% plainly rejected paying anything. Phew!
What should we do then? With limited funding left, still in shock by the rejection of our loved ones, should we call it a day? Quit? Reimburse whichever monies were left and move to greener pastures?
No. We are on a mission. We’d turn into something else and give it a another go. We’d go B2B and fulfill our vision of fixing digital reading by helping the Industry. Helping, not going around them.
You need to swallow your pride to do this. Don’t know about you but I’m quite an assertive guy. Recognizing I was wrong in my “genius” approach, well, hurts. The lessons you get when pivoting is that you are not half as smart as you thought at the beginning. That you have far more to learn than to teach. And that you have to admit you are wrong if you want to go ahead, otherwise you sink with the ship.
So, nimbooks.com sails again. Same vision: making digital reading great for readers, but different path. New pitch. New website. New attitude. Only one thing clear to me now:
It won’t be the last course change we do before reaching port.