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Pivot Away from Pivot

Pivoting is all the rage in startup land. But it is a concept that I believe is extremely harmful to entrepreneurs. Pivoting (and "failing fast") is exactly the wrong approach to launching a new company. 

The problems with "pivoting" don't get enough attention. Venture investors and successful entrepreneurs love to tell the stories of the early days of their startups. 

And this is understandable. I have been there, and the early days are exciting. You start with what seems to be a great idea, you raise venture capital, you start hiring a team willing to take enormous risk to build something new. 

Fred Wilson recently posted about startup creation stories. And there are lots of lessons to be learn from these stories. 

But there are many, many more lessons - and better lessons - to be learned from startup failures. 

And my conclusion from seeing many startup failures is that the entire innovation process for startups (and larger companies) is fundamentally broken. 

So the answer to the innovation problem is absolutely NOT to pivot. Here's why. In the mind of the enterpreneur, this leads to launching before he/she really understands the market opportunity and the customer needs. 

The lean startup movement would seem to be a solution to this and Steve Blank's customer development model is an improvement over traditional product development.

But both lean startup and "customer development" are based on the idea that customers don't know what they want, i.e. they have latent needs.

So if customers don't know what they want, it would make sense to launch quickly, fail fast, pivot, and hope for the best. 

Seesmic is the latest example of the pivot method. And Seesmic shows that pivoting doesn't work

I was amazed at the number and types of pivots Seesmic has taken. From All Things Digital: 

Since it launched in 2007, Seesmic has been a video platform, then made Twitter clients and other social tools, and last year tried to make a go with Salesforce CRM products...  In February, the company announced it would be changing and expanding the free Ping.fm social media cross-posting tools it bought in 2010 into a paid service called “Seesmic Ping.”

This is absurd in the extreme. But it is also very common with startups. In fact, this type of behavior is encouraged by venture investors. 

Ultimately it is harmful to entreprenuers who are dedicating their lives and souls to their startups, often at the expense of their personal lives and their families. 

A much better approach is to spend the necessary time to understand the market, the customer needs, the opportunities and to innvotate only when you know all of the unmet needs in a market.

It can be done