When To Pivot Your Startup? How We Decided to Pivot at Updatey

Posted by Amy Wallace Amy Wallace on .

This is #1 in a 7-part series about the behind-the-scenes ideas and decisions for growing Updatey.

The Beginning

When Updatey was first dreamed up by our CEO Benjamin Dell, he was looking for a way to keep clients at his development company informed about the progress of their work.

He says that: "It struck us that clients were often struggling to see the bigger picture and could too easily loose sight of what was being worked on right now, as well as what was due next."

__So after 6 months of building and then 4 months in beta, Updatey was launched on the 17th January, and pricing was introduced.

Customer input

With the product growing, customers were signing up and letting us know what they did and didn't like. We received a lot of really positive feedback with customers saying how much they loved the design and look of the product. These positive messages were great and a real boost to the team!

We also received messages from customers saying that they felt it had potential but that they felt it wasn't ready to be launched, that it wasn't a good enough project management tool because too many features were missing.

There's no denying that many of the features needed to be a project management tool were missing, but truth be told Updatey was never intended to be a fully-fledged PM product. Far from it. As Ben highlights in the quotation above, the goal was to create beautiful way to keep clients, teams and shareholders in the loop.

Messages like these could easily be interpreted as discouraging or frustrating; why weren't people understanding the product? We knew from the positive responses that there was a need for a product like Updatey but evidently, something was being lost in translation from our ideas to what the user expected from Updatey.

This was a great opportunity to learn from our customers who were seeing Updatey with fresh eyes, and it was encouraging in more ways than one. Customers liked the design but felt Updatey was lacking the more comprehensive project management features they wanted. This confirmed that we had a great design and emphasised the fact that customers did want an alternative to their current project management tools.

All the emails and results of surveys we sent out taught us two things: that a) we weren't communicating what Updatey is clearly enough and b) we now wanted to build something that would satisfy those users who liked where Updatey was going and wanted another option to their current PM software.

Pivoting

We found ourselves at a fork in the road. Like with any startup, there are times when the path you've so carefully laid out in front of you begins to shoot off in different directions with myriad opportunities and challenges for each potential option.

In Lean Startup Methodology, as set forward by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup, there are various important moments in a startup's growth. Building a startup along the lines of Lean Methodology involves using techniques of experimentation, testing and measurement to see the value of your product and whether there's any need or desire for it, all while remaining as flexible as possible.

Once the initial product is launched and everyone's working hard to help it grow, Ries explains that there comes a point where:

Every entrepreneur eventually faces an overriding challenge in developing a successful product: deciding when to pivot and when to persevere.

So what exactly is pivoting? Ries describes it as 'a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth'. To find out when you might need to pivot, Ries emphasises that entrepreneurs need to ask themselves a question:

are we making sufficient progress to believe that our original strategic hypothesis is correct, or do we need to make a major change?

The idea of pivoting might seem a lot scarier than perserving with your current plan and product model but sometimes it's the key to making drastic improvements to your startup. Of course, pivoting without thought, thinking that it will make everything an instant success without as much work as perservering is a very dangerous move.

There's no magic formula for deciding which path to choose and Ries elaborates on different ways in which, using Lean methods, you can test and measure what might be the best option for your particular example. It's not as simple as following a pattern of steps to the letter. Ries emphasises that:

Because of the scientific methodology that underlies the Lean Startup, there is often a misconception that it offers a rigid clinical formula for making pivot or persevere decision. This is not true. There is no way to remove the human element--vision, intuition, judgment--from the practice of entrepreneurship, nor would that be desirable.


When to Pivot

There's no one definitive moment at which to pivot but Ries does suggest 'the telltale signs of the need to pivot' which should trigger the consideration of a pivot as soon as they appear. They are:

the decreasing effectiveness of product experiments and the general feeling that product development should be more productive.

Once you see these indications, it's time to consider what changes might need to be made. But remember, the idea of a pivot is to protect the success of the business so it must be done with care and planning.

Ries emphasises that pivoting 'is the heart of the Lean Startup method. It is what makes the companies that follow Lean Startup resilient in the face of mistakes: if we take a wrong turn, we have the tools we need to realize it and the agility to find another path.'

Pivoting Updatey

We've been thinking a lot about possible changes to the vision and direction of the product, keeping in mind the tools laid out in The Lean Startup. In most concrete and immediate terms, that means that we're working on new and more advanced features. While Updatey started as an 'add-on' to other PM tools, it is now evolving to become a much more comprehensive project management application.

We used a combination of survey results from our customers about the product as it is, as well as how it might be improved to understand how our customers might relate to any future changes. Listening to the questions and other feedback we received from a customer support side was vital to deciphering what features were seen as unnecessary and confusing, and what out customers most wanted in a future version.

This meant a lot of work and thought about how we could make Updatey a better product while keeping an emphasis on simplicity and a clean design. We've come up with a plan for the future of Updatey, which involves both more comprehensive project management tools and a conscious return to the concept of what Updatey should be in the first place.

In the next three blog posts, we'll expand on what those new features will be before looking more at what the changes mean for Updatey's future and how the product is evolving. We are all really excited about launching the next update, which we're working on furiously, and can't wait to hear our users' thoughts about it!

What's your experience of Lean methodology? Have you used it at your own business to help grow your idea? We'd love to hear about your thoughts and experiences, so add a comment below or send us an email. You can also follow us on Twitter.