05 October 2010

Startup Pivoting & Software

What is Startup Pivoting?

As Alan Cooper says in To Pivot, Or Not To Pivot,
When a startup company discards Plan A and moves on to Plan B, it is called a "pivot."
The Lean Startup approach suggests that entrepreneurs use the Lessons Learned from the inevitable failure of Plan A to adjust their business model. An iterative approach that rapidly continues until the business model proves the viability of the idea.

In the context startups, pivoting is a term coined by Eric Ries. Pivoting is when, through a series of small-scale trials (hypothesis testing), a startup moves incrementally toward a better business model.

Each failed trial causes a pivot point where some element of the business plan is tweaked (e.g., customer segment, feature set, positioning).

Does Pivoting Apply to Iterative Software Development?

I propose that we - the iterative software development community - think of each release of new features as a business proposition and an opportunity to Pivot, much like a lean startup. Then, ask
  • What is our feedback loop with our customers?
  • Would our team modify a feature based on negative feedback?
  • Would our team roll back a feature based on negative feedback?
Further, I challenge the iterative development community to think of meaningful measures of the value of a new feature, whether value is measured by revenue generated or by the coolness buzz created.

Beware of Shadow Beliefs

One term I learned from Eric Ries is Shadow Belief. Shadow beliefs are the closely held, somewhat notional beliefs and assumptions that frequently sink good-intentioned entrepreneurs. All of us fall somewhere in the continuum of delusion, particularly those under the spell of a great startup idea or cool software feature.

One shadow belief is We know what the customer wants. Another shadow belief is Advancing the plan is progress.