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Consider these 10 ways to ‘pivot’ a lean start-up


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2011

On his blog Startup Professionals Musings, Martin Zwilling describes the “lean start-up” concept pioneered by Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author Eric Ries. Successful entrepreneurs find that the uncertainty of a new product or service usually requires many course corrections, or “pivots,” to find a successful formula, according to Ries. He advocates designing products with the smallest set of features to please a customer base and moving products into the marketplace quickly to test reaction, then iterating.

Pivots come in many different flavors, each designed to test the viability of a different hypothesis about the product, business model, and engine of growth, says Zwilling, who summarizes Ries’ top 10 pivot types:

  1. Zoom-in pivot. A single feature in a product becomes the whole product, highlighting the value of “focus” and “minimum viable product,” delivered quickly and efficiently.
  2. Zoom-out pivot. In the reverse situation, a single feature is insufficient to support a customer set, so what was considered the whole product becomes a single feature of a much larger product.
  3. Customer segment pivot. A product attracts real customers but not the ones in the original vision. Although it solves an actual problem, it must be positioned and optimized for a more appreciative segment.
  4. Customer need pivot. Early customer feedback indicates that the problem solved by the product is not very important, necessitating a repositioning or the development of a completely new product.
  5. Platform pivot. An application is changed to a platform, or vice versa.
  6. Business architecture pivot. A model is reconfigured into one of two major business architectures: high margin/low volume or low margin/high volume. “You can’t do both at the same time,” Zwilling writes.
  7. Value capture pivot. The monetization or revenue model is tweaked to capture value, with corresponding changes in business, product, and marketing strategies.
  8. Engine of growth pivot. A start-up selects one of three primary growth engines — the viral, sticky, or paid growth models — to affect the speed and profitability of growth.
  9. Channel pivot. A company selects unique pricing, feature, and competitive positioning adjustments to deliver its product to customers.
  10. Technology pivot. A start-up achieves the same solution using a completely different technology that can provide superior price and/or performance to improve competitive posture.

 “Every entrepreneur faces the challenge of deciding when to pivot and when to persevere,” Zwilling writes. “Ask most entrepreneurs who have decided to pivot and they will tell you that they wish they had made the decision sooner.”

Source: Startup Professionals Musings

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