How to Determine the Direction of Your Startup. Pivot or Die.
posted 1 year ago

During the course of the last 10 years in business we have run across many companies with different reasons for starting up. Everything from a social cause or personal pain that turned into a passion for advocacy like cancer-q.com who built a company from the ground up with a tech component that enabled families suffering through the cancer journey with a family member to stay informed and positive to individuals with a passion for a particular area. Despite the varied motivations we’ve come across, the motivations that drive us to build are common across the board. As entrepreneurs we seek to build freedom through financial means and to provide an outlet for our passions to be heard and experienced by the world.

In the last 4 years, 422 Studios has transitioned away from being a “web design company” that creates informational websites into more of a software development company that assists early stage startups in the planning, design, building and launch of their tech startup ideas. This was a pivot from our own original ideas on what we wanted the studio to be, but it has truly led to a thriving business that we can feel passionate about and through our passion for this type of work, create beautiful, highly functional web based software applications for our clients. There were several sit down thinking sessions at the company where we sought to “define ourselves” for the coming season. This introspective look at yourself, your passion and your business is the only way to continue to thrive. Like the individuals that start a company, the passion and direction of a company are ever-changing. From the way that you want your company perception to be received, to the type of clientele you seek to attract and the type of work you want to work on, the lifeblood of the company has to be constantly evolving. These thoughts and ideas lead us to the following 5 points that will help you determine the direction of your startup and whether you should pivot.

1. What is my passion?

When deciding to start up a company, realize that hustle is the only way to make it happen for the 99% of us that are not well connected and have millions of dollars in early stage seed capital to get our ideas off the ground. That said, is this your passion? Whatever it is that you are building, can you work on it from 8am – 8pm every day? Can you dedicate your life and possibly stake your success or failure as a business person on this idea? If you’re answer is not an emphatic, YES, then you should take a second look at what you’re doing. To build a successful business, you need to have the passion and motivation to wear every hat in the company in the early stages.

2. Can you evolve?

Evolution and pivots are a crucial part of the process. Many times we have clients come to us to plan and prototype their tech startup ideas. During the process, we often discover that there is a huge opportunity to pivot into a direction that would be laser focused, have a high probability of monetary success and overall, just be a better direction for the company. Sometimes founders choose to pivot and sometimes they don’t, but the one constant is that those that are open minded and don’t treat their ideas like their firstborn children, but rather as a living breathing organism that needs space to thrive, are more successful in the long run.

3. Is the team right.

This is a huge one. One of the Twitter founders recently tweeted, “The perfect founding team are 2 or 3 individuals with the same financial status, availability and mindset, where 1 has a tech background and the 2nd has a sales background”. I agree with that mentality 100%. Throughout my 10 years in this industry I have experienced working with partners on my tech ideas and only recently have I realized that this mentality is the only way to go. As a founder, you will grow to have animosity towards those that are taking an equal share of the profits, but they’re not on your level either technically, mentally or financially. If one founder “needs” more than another to survive, it rarely works out. If one founder does ALL the work because of knowledge limitations of the other founders, it rarely works out. If one founder is mentally just not in the same place with their daily hustle as the others, it rarely works out. Finding a team that has 2 strong abilities is absolutely crucial, the ability to BUILD and the ability to SELL. Which leads us to our next 2 points.

4. Can you sell it?

More important than point 5 (Can you build it?) is this point, can you sell it? So many times we run into founding teams that have an idea, but when they meet with us and we inevitably ask, “can you sell this?”, they are at a loss for words. Or even worse, they’ve done ridiculous vanity research and immediately start spewing out numbers and stats like, “There has been a 100% increase in the need for this over the last 5 years”. Drop the vanity metrics. Drop the bullshit. Why are you trying to convince yourself of something that you know if not true? The best thing that you can do as a founding team is to determine an audience that will directly benefit from your product and test the reception of this idea through targeted facebook ads, twitter promoted ads and any other means that you can to get real results and collect real email addresses of people that are interested in your idea. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to test either. At 422 Studios, we create landing pages and informational sites all the time for customers that have idea and need to validate them before spending $20 – $50k building out a software application. Bottom line, make sure you can sell it before you start to build it.

5. Can you build it.

This point is less important than the other 4 points, but important nonetheless. Once you have a solid plan in place, you’ve validated the idea and proven that you can sell it and you have the right team in place, it’s time to build it. This is unfortunately where alot of early stage companies lose a ton of money. And it’s sad because alot of times, the funds come from their own pockets, friends and family or some newby angel investor that has no idea how to select a software development company. Ultimately alot of companies are burned by their lack of knowledge in selecting a company to build their product. When selecting a software development company, do not search for “web design companies”. These companies most likely have a bulk of WordPress work in their portfolio. Basic, informational web design. You need to find a company that has a portfolio full of software development and website with lots of custom functionality. Ask around at various web development companies for them to show you examples that are NOT built on open source content management systems. Software applications, web apps and custom sites that have advanced functionality and database driven backends. At 422 Studios we build tech products with modern technology and we have a full portfolio of web based software applications. We’re not afraid to show off our capabilities outside of the standard WordPress website and any company that wants to take on your tech build should be able to do the same.

Outside of these 5 points, remember, the best way to be successful at your ideas and goals is to rise and grind every single day. Work for it. There is no magic bullet, no special serum or million dollar connection that is going to drop out of the sky and make you a successful entrepreneur. It’s about the hustle. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

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