Is there any startup that doesn’t pivot at least a couple of times these days? The term is everywhere, to the point that, during a recent round of putt-putt golf, we overheard an entrepreneur passing off the many pivots of his e-commerce startup as acceptable first-date small talk.
Well, the Harvard Business Review has discovered the trend, and the venerable publication isn’t so sure it likes what it sees.
The magazine’s September issue takes a look at four recent(ish)ly released business books–The Launch Pad, The Lean Startup, Startup Weekend and The Ultralight Startup–and came away quite alarmed indeed. The title of its review: “Too Many Pivots, Too Little Passion.”
Some data from Fab.com’s blog-happy CEO Jason Goldberg, who checked in with some data earlier this week from Fab’s Cyber Monday sale. Mr. Goldberg includes a triumphant illustration that would be a hockey stick if it weren’t a bar graph (and if it included all those early pivots). But as such, Fab’s orders by month have been steadily growing and in November, the company had what looks like more than a 33 percent increase, likely due to the big sale. Fab did more than $1.1 million in discounted deals
on Monday alone Friday through Monday, the company reports.
Kevin Ryan may be moving away from the flash sites that put Gilt Groupe on the map, but the sales device seems to be working just fine for Fab.com. After a smooth landing on a successful
triple pivot [Ed Note: our bad, original idea plus two pivots does not equal three!]–from a daily deals site for gay men called Fabulis, to a flash sales sites for gay men, to a flash site for design for everyone, regardless of gender or sexuality–GigaOm reports that Fab.com has grown 800 percent since May. It’s only been ten weeks, but the site is already approaching the 500,000 user mark. The key, according to CEO Jason Goldberg, lies in part with a little feature they like to call the “inspiration wall.”
Freespeech was serving half a million texts a day. But in a crowded market of group texting apps, some of which have received millions of dollars in funding and hired fancy PR teams, the three-engineer start-up wasn’t getting enough traction. About three weeks ago, former financial services coder-turned start-up entrepreneur Jason Fertel decided to throw in the towel. “It was hard to be seen amongst the 20 other applications that did the same thing,” he said. “On top of that, with Apple and Google and whoever else about to jump in that ring, it just didn’t make sense to continue with it.”
Bummer, Mr. Fertel and his team were shooting around some ideas at the keg at WeWork Labs in Soho when WeWork manager Matt Shampine started complaining about he kept checking in to a certain establishment where Fourquare was offering a free margarita, unaware that Scoutmob was offering a more hefty discount of half-off everything.
“It would be awesome if when I check in I get a text with those Scoutmob deals,” Mr. Fertel thought. He started building it right away, and a few days later dealburner.com took its first steps on the world wide web, serving up deals instantly to users who check in on Foursquare and Facebook Places.
Last week, the recently-launched curated recipe site Gojee scored a pick-up from swissmiss, a design blog and studio run by Tina Roth Eisenberg, which called Gojee “a beautifully designed new food lover destination.” Swissmiss referred more users than a review by TechCrunch, co-founder Michael Lavelle told Betabeat this morning. “She put us up last Wednesday and it was pretty much insanity from that point on,” he said, comparing the site’s growth to the viral new music lover destination, Turntable.fm. “The post sent us 10,000 sign-ups in 24 hours, and it blew up from there.”
But Gojee wasn’t always a beautifully designed new food lover destination.
There is no more overused and reviled word in the world of tech start-ups than pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot.
It seems to capture the manic energy of the current tech industry, in which an idea can get millions in funding before building a product and, if the users never materialize, or the business model never emerges amidst all hype, simply change their direction and try something new.
No company better epitomizes this idea of second chances than Turntable.fm, a social music site, born out of the ashes of a failed venture called Stickybits. Founders Billy Chasen and Seth Goldstein raised almost $2 million for Stickybits and worked on the project for about a year. The idea was to leave little stickers on physical objects that contained links to stories, photos and video on the web. Big brands like Pepsi thought it was a great idea. Users, not so much.
With little momentum and cash running low, they decided to pull a monster pivot. Turntable.fm, which launched a little over one month ago, has already attracted over 300,000 users and the interest of top tier investors on the east and west coast. Suddenly a team that was running low on funds is being courted for a fresh infusion of $5-10 million at a $40 million valuation, Betabeat has learned from multiple sources.
Alternate headline: Productivity Plague as Turntable.fm Sucks in Start-Up After Start-Up!
StickyBits is now Turntable.fm, and while we bet that makes some investors very, very happy–namely First Round Capital, Polaris Ventures, and Mitch Kapor, who gave the company at least $1.9 million–others must be smiling through their teeth. “Biggest threat to productivity today: turntable.fm,” tweeted FastSociety’s Andy Thompson. Foursquare’s Tristan Walker called it “WAY too dangerous.” There are rooms for Foursquare Zynga, Twitter, Facebook, Formspring, TechStars, YouTube, Chartbeat, TicketMaster, Zaarly, Uber, and Google Wallet, plus the Coding Soundtrack room, which at time of writing had 137 listeners and at one time was speculated to be open in the browser of every developer in Silicon Alley.