The Art and Science of Pivoting in Startups
Jun 14, 2023
2 min read
Navigating the realm of entrepreneurship is not a straight path. It often involves an element that sets successful ventures apart - the ability to pivot effectively.
We've all had those conversations where friends think about founding their own companies, but their enthusiasm wavers between two extremes. One common refrain is, "I'd love to start a business, but I just don't have any good ideas." The other end of the spectrum is, "I have so many creative ideas, but I just don't know how to implement them."
In response to both sentiments, my advice remains the same: begin. Start anywhere, and you'll learn and adapt as you go. This aligns perfectly with the famous startup analogy: building an airplane mid-flight.
Our journey with Faktor, which we started in 2017, was grounded in a grand vision: to empower individuals to manage their own data and identity, thus enabling a transparent value exchange between consumers and businesses. However, we quickly learned that our audience found it overwhelming, too complex, and lacked a clear benefit - the internet is free right? It was an idea ahead of its time, and we soon realized we needed to tackle a more immediate challenge - privacy. So, we pivoted, refocusing our efforts on that area and honing our expertise. That went very well and our business was acquired by LiveRamp in 2019.
With our new venture, Rayn, we envision a world of Digital Twins of Customers, synthetic digital identities powered by various data streams and void of personal data. Despite the potential, the concept is still futuristic, technically challenging, and the practical applications are limited. However, what we learned is that for machine learning and GenAI to be effective, we need to generate context from content and crucially, seek validations.
Our approach is to engage with customers directly. When we generate a prediction, we pose a question to a cohort of an audience and use their response to reinforce our probabilistic data. As we progress, we'll explore value exchanges - whether that's exclusive content, a raynbow shooting over your screen, special services, planting trees, discounts, or a more novel approach, we'll discover the best path forward. The pivot may be daunting in the moment, but in hindsight, when successful, it forms the basis of any great (r)evolution.
I find that music often shapes my thoughts and writing process. While envisioning Rayn, "Rumble" by Skrillex and Fred Again was my muse. Interestingly, the name 'Rayn' was partially inspired by a hip-hop lyric (Rain drop, drop top). Today, as I write, it's "You Don’t Want Love" by Robin Knightz and Two4Kay that sets the mood. It's not about the lyrics, but the story behind it. The song was first suggested to me as an unreleased snippet by the powerful algorithm of TikTok. I loved it. After much anticipation and quite a few hiccups, the artists finally found a label and released it on Spotify today. It serves as a poignant reminder that having a great and grand vision is just the beginning. Connecting it to the present and executing it effectively is where the real challenge lies.