Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings

14-Oct-2013 by Startupbootcamp

After having pitched more than 50 times in front of so many mentors, you at some point start to rethink certain dimensions of your startup. You receive feedback regarding challenging and changing different aspects as well as do market research to figure out the dimensions of the market you are entering.

With 45 days remaining until the Investor Demo Day on the 28th of November, the 8 teams are close to the deadline of changing crucial points to their startups. After having researched, tested and gotten advice from mentors, there are several of teams who are changing the general focus and altering their business plan.

Firstly, Funifi, previously focused mainly on making boring tasks fun, are now focusing entirely on motivating and incentivize children to do their daily chores.

Secondly, EasySize have changed their focus from a B2C 3D visioning technology, by defining clothes sizes from 2 pictures, to use a more accurate model – a new “Brand Size Converter” algorithm and turn towards B2B. It enables people to easily and quickly define the perfect size without asking the brand size chart.

Thirdly, earlier known as Starify, focusing on celebrity fashion trends, and now Projector35 have done a hard pivot and changed their entire business. Today approx. 80 % of cinema seats are empty. Projector35’s mission is to fill out the cinemas by making it possible for movie theatres to sell a certain amount of discounted tickets. To get an insight on the challenges and learnings when taking the step and pivot, we had a chat with Enrico and Richard from Projector35.

Why did you decide to pivot?

After having the lean workshop with Kees van Nunen, aka “Lean Jesus”, at the beginning of the program we quickly took the lean approach to Starify. We started going back asking ourselves what the actual problem we were solving was. To figure this out we did 40 customer interviews with different target groups and realized the mindset of the customers. The universe of celebrities and fashion are not perceived to belong together – it could work, but putting it up online was too obvious. The reason for this is that most people would rather look for gossip as their main focus and be inspired by the celebrities’ fashion by chance.

As the rule of thumb is that you should not exceed the need of 4 times more retention, we also found an error, as we needed 5 times more. We began to look at our different options – a soft pivot, for example putting an extra feature to Starify, such as the celebrities Twitter and Instagram feeds. However, the switching costs for this are high and after having validated it, we also realized that people not only want to follow celebrities but also their friends on these platforms. As we kept hitting a wall, we went back and analyzed the market thoroughly one more time, put it all into perspective by using our mentors, as well as talking to entrepreneurs who had tried to do the same thing. Summing it all together, we realized that the validations we had made were correct and decided to go a different way, which was the start of Projector35.

What challenges were there with pivoting?

One of the biggest problems was actually acknowledging that you kept running into a wall, no matter what you did. Another challenge was the fact to trust your own instincts. We kept getting the feedback that people liked Starify, however they did not buy anything when they were on the site. Therefore, you have to remember that there are several people who want you to keep working on your startup to get something out of it themselves.

List the 3 best learning points you gathered from pivoting

We learned a lot from the experience, however if we should list the 3 best learning points it would be these.

  1. As said before, trust your own instincts.
  2. Learn from the mistakes other people have made. There will most likely be someone, who has tried to do the same as you are doing. By exploring the mistakes they made, you will get a better insight on what challenges there are with your startup and what not to do.
  3. Act as soon as you can. Don’t postpone anything, as you need to take actions as soon as possible to make a fast development possible.

How are you going to prevent Projector35 to go the same direction as Starify?

We are going to focus on validating – test everything even though it may seem too basic. Like for instance, “do people have a problem with the product being too expensive?” – the answer seems straight forward, however to be on the safe side we simply want to validate it, as you never know for certain. With Starify we had 50 % of the lean approach, so this time we will go 100 % with Projector35. Through the lessons learned from Starify, we now believe that we can be 6 months faster with every validation, by also following the 3 learning points mentioned before.

Startups’ pivoting is very often seen, as it is a dynamic process, where a lot of research and validation is being made. To pivot is therefore also a learning process, which often result in a positive output one way or another. Several of the biggest companies, such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, all pivoted after having done marked research. You can read more about their journey and process here.

When standing in the position as a startup in the dilemma to pivot or not, there are several of aspects you have to think about before taking the step. When doing a search there are plenty of tips to follow. Check out a list of 5 here.