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If the value in most startups -- as evidenced by the practice of acquihiring -- is really just the team, then a pivot would be anything which changes the business while keeping said team.

The value of most FAILED startup can be salvaged from the team, you will never see a startup with a valuable/popular product gets acquit-hired. Sure, the team has value as engineers, but a company that keeps failing with their products and keeps "pivoting" puts doubt on the value of their founders as entrepreneurs (they may still be brilliant engineers). VCs like to invest in entrepreneurs (especially entrepreneurs who are also engineers). So the quality a VC looks for from a team is drastically different than the quality a bigger company looks for when they acquihire a team.

Since most startups fail wouldn't this make the parent's comment true?

Not if you go by investment returns...

This is obviously not the case, otherwise VC's would not analyze the business model or product at all when making investments. On the contrary, the particular idea and plan take on a large part of the investment thesis. In fact, the pairing of the team and the idea (can this idea be executed on by this team? do they have some unfair advantage in this area?) is an important factor as well.

In other words, what you're doing here is basically redefining pivot so as to be meaningless.

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