Pivots pivots.1. Turntable.fm
2. Fab.com –
3. Gojee –
4. Shelby.tv –
Fabulis —> Fab.com
We could argue all day about whether Fab pulled a double pivot or the rare and perhaps mystical triple pivot, but the fact remains; this reversal of fortune was so good that the stodgy folks at the Wall Street Journal had to put "pivot" in their headline.
In some ways Betabeat feels like we've grown up with Fab. We interviewed CEO Jason Goldberg about his gay social network back when there was only one tech blogger at The New Observer. And we covered their move to a gay daily deals site, then a flash sales service focused on design.
Fab has since raised a $7.7 million round and reached one million users.
Stickybits —> Turntable.fm
Some might argue that this rebirth—from an internet-of-things company focused on physical stickers to a social music app based entirely on the web—goes beyond "pivot" to the point of total reinvention. But since it was the same founders working with the same investment capital and some of the same staff, we're going to go ahead and call this the biggest, ballsiest pivot of 2011.
Stickybits was a company that big brands loved, at least on paper. But it never got the traction it was looking for among users.
Turntable.fm, on the other hand, was the viral hit of the summer. It exploded with users worldwide, before the labels clamped down and made it U.S. only.
The company, once on the verge of exhausting its capital, scored a fresh injection of $7 million dollars, led by Union Square Ventures. Pivot on playa'.
Gojee —> Gojee
Perhaps there is a lesson here along the lines of Fred Wilson's famous maxim, "Don't be Google's bitch, don't be Twitter's bitch, be your own bitch."
Gojee, launched by two former bankers, started out trying to be a Mint.com for groceries; but it turned out people don’t relate to food as quantitatively as they do to their banks statements, the design was poor, and people didn’t like looking at the data–it didn’t say what they wanted it to say. Next try tried to be "Twitter for food," which meant a stream of stories or related qualitative context around your data, i.e. you went shopping for food, you bought chicken, mushrooms and onions, here’s a recipe that uses chicken, mushrooms and onions, or you bought this kind of peanut butter, here’s a coupon for another kind. "Everyone just pooped all over it," cofounder Michael LaValle told Betabeat.
Back at the drawing board, the cofounders decided they wanted to build something more fun. They redesigned Gojee to be a curated recipe recommendation site that suggests recipes from a database based on what users say they’re craving, what they don’t want to eat, what they have in the pantry, and what their recent purchases were. The site exploded in popularity, raised $1.2 million from Kapor Capital along with Ustream co-founder Brad Hunstable who joined as an advisor. Recently, they launched Gojee Drinks.
Homefield —> Shelby.tv
Shelby.tv wins the prize for being perhaps the most televised pivot in history. Fans of the Real TechStars of New York will no doubt recall Bloomberg TV’s fondness for montages of co-founder Reece Pacheco’s athleticism—or at least his use of the phrase, “I’m an athlete.” That was a huge advantage when the company entered TechStars as a Homefield, web-based video platform for coaches to share game footage. But that became the team’s Achilles heel once Mr. Pacheco and company decided to pivot to Shelby.tv, a channel for web videos.
Investors dug Homefield and the synergy of the co-founders passion and the startup’s product, but worried that the overall market was too small. Juking (see what we did there?) to consumer web video opened up the platform’s potential, but mentors wondered if they were right bros for the job. ”Do they have the technical chops to go build something in a technical market where everybody else is lining up with Google engineers?” David Tisch asked in judge’s chambers. “The road is littered with video companies that have gone splat,” echoed Roger Ehrenberg. Mr. Pacheco told Betabeat that he and Mr. Tisch didn’t talk for a week at some point as a result of Mr. Tisch’s skepticism. “I was like, fuck you dude, but then we came around,” said Mr. Pacheco. The tough love from Coach Tisch paid off when Shelby.tv ended up with $1.5 million in funding a few months after Demo Day. In October, Shelby.tv launched its channel with an iPhone and iPad app.
As for Homefield-diehards, like Mark Suster, who said of the pivot, “I loved their first business,” they can follow co-founder Joe Yevoli, who is still pursuing the (original) dream.