You try a thing, learn that it doesn't work the way you envisioned and you modify it accordingly, informed by new info. If you do that well, the result is a functioning business.
Some creators achieved great success working like that, such as Fernando Meirelles, Larry David, and Woody Allen.
I'm much more of a planner myself - like Spielberg and Hitchcock. Not that I'm even close to them, of course. But I admire their method. It is not uncommon for most things to occur precisely as planned, sometimes to the second. But you gotta be prepared to think on your feet. I think that's the message behind those sayings.
“Plans are worthless when the fighting is once begun, and all depends on the inspiration of the moment.” (1877)
By the way, is there any source for that blog post that proves its existence and form back to 2006? The Wayback Machine only has it until 2016, but perhaps the URL changed.
(Their website used to be at teslamotors.com)
Instagram 2010, Whatsapp 2009, Groupon 2008, Twitter 2006, Youtube 2005, Facebook 2004.
Me in 2007 (market malaise): "the web gold rush seems to be over"
Me in 2012 (Facebook IPO): "the web gold rush seems to be over"
Me in 2019 (finally having learned my lesson): there are probably still plenty of opportunities left, if you know where to look
> A project founded in 2004 by Vancouver-based company Ludicorp (coming from the Latin word for ‘play’ actually), Flickr, as we know it today, is nothing like it was supposed to be in the very beginning. In reality, this website was made out to be a kind of a multiplayer online game, which eventually was turned into a chat system with live photo-sharing options. While the team behind Flickr, namely the couple Steward Butterfield and Caterina Fake, was working on quite a big number of settings and possibilities for the project, they ultimately got rid of the coding system for the game and created what is currently viewed as the beginning of Flickr. Later, even the chat system called Flickr Live, which was the basis of the earlier versions of the site was erased since the entire character of the portal has transformed into something a lot more different than the planned too. Also, we must never forget that, just like languages and cooking, the internet is something ever changing and there is nothing still inside the World Wide Web. Every site is what the users want it to be, the users of Flickr didn’t want to chat – they wanted to share their experiences in pictures and not in instant messages.
These services almost all had a handful of features to start and then found through use that they had a bunch of lackluster features and one killer one (Burbn -> Instagram) is a good example.
As an example, YouTube started as a dating site, but it was a video dating site. They had built the video upload and streaming (product) and kept that but pivoted to serve a different market.
I don't think Twitter really "pivoted", they didn't change market or product really. Ok, they started with SMS, but for a LONG time you could still tweet via SMS (maybe you still can) but the core of Twitter is you can publicly post short messages. Still the same product it ever was.
Basically, he just didn't have enough follow through on specific ideas to either validate or disprove them.
I should have walked away sooner than I did, because we went nowhere.
In general, a pivot needs to come from evidence that it will increase sales, and stay within your core competency.
The CEO insisted it wasn't pivoting, it was "refinement", but he also had a really annoying tendency to redefine X to mean "what we do", so he could tell clients and investors "we do X".
When we were discussing me joining the company there was a very clear plan for the product and the path to revenue. Unfortunately, he had one meeting that completely shook his confidence in that direction. After that meeting it was something new every week.
We would build the feature of the week and then it wouldn't immediately catch on and he would decide to scrap it and start something new.
I finally jumped ship when it became clear he wasn't going to commit to a vision and his next idea was that we should make it a social platform.
We know this from “The Lean Startup”, but practical examples can show why some aspects are important. And it’s not just small teams and solo founders from startups and young companies that may place too much importance on a great initial idea. It’s certainly also the general public, where most people belief that successful startups are the result of a genius having a clever idea. See basically every movie about inventions (and young companies). That general public also includes a lot of (potential) investors.
For example, YouTube started as a dating site. I genuinely don't know enough about the history of the website: is it that they had a decent dating website going that had videos as a feature, but talking to their users and studying the analytics they saw the video feature taking off and decide to revamp accordingly? Or did the dating part just fail, and the choice was to pivot to something else in their wheelhouse or risk losing investors? I genuinely don't know.
My sense of Twitter and some others is that it was the former. But for companies in the latter category, the lesson maybe it just "don't give up" rather than lean startup principles.
But was it a pivot? The founders later went and started a company XKL doing just what they had originally intended to do: PDP-10 clones.
Would also be interested in a list of Super successful startups that started exactly as they were and didn’t have to do a massive pivot.