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Horn Entrepreneurship

Pivoting for the Better

jonwoodbigChange is hard! Like, so hard we never talk about it and just avoid it, pushing the inevitable hardship off. And don’t even mention your startup needing a change - the idea you’ve put your heart and soul into can feel too weighty and special to want to mess with. But sometimes, change is the best way to move forward, especially for your venture. 

Pivots are changes to the idea around your venture, but don’t take it from me. Garry Johnson, Master’s in Entrepreneurship and Design, offers his own nuanced take: “Pivoting is a term that is used a little loosely. Sometimes a pivot is used to describe an iteration, which is more of a small, minor tweak. A true pivot is more saying ‘Let’s go in this different direction and change the business canvas.’”

Intricacies aside, the reason behind pivoting is clear: things aren’t going well, and that’s ok! As always, sticking to the entrepreneurial process provides a solid roadmap to follow. Serial entrepreneur and well known Horn Entrepreneurship regular Jonathan Wood is no stranger to pivots. “Pivots are hard, but necessary,” said Wood, who recently found himself pivoting away from his original idea in Summer Founders 2018. “It shouldn't be scary to change, but it should be done carefully and deliberately. Pivoting means you've proven that your current path is a dead end, or you've found a better alternative path.”

Pivots, as Wood alludes to, are not a quick troubleshooting technique, but a motivated, critical look at how to move forward. “You're making a change to avoid a lot of pain or reap great reward, but it can be complicated to weigh trade-offs, which is why you need to work with research and customer discovery to validate your assumptions.” 

Johnson had to weigh his own trade-offs, after working on different startup ventures to address diversity in the tech industry since 2016. Johnson realized a change was needed during his work trying to teach young minority students to code with his venture, Color Coded. The seeming lack of student interest in the venture sparked Johnson to consider how he himself could become the diversity he wanted to see in tech.

“Being somebody who is very passionate about working with and helping youth, it was difficult for me to be a little more selfish and become that diversity in tech myself.” Johnson, just like Wood, had to weigh a series of trade-offs before diving into his decision. “I have to figure out how to make money myself doing this. For every day I'm not working on a business that helps young people, I have this question of ‘Is this really me, am I just chasing money?’ But I've realized my business is just a trade-off to sustain the type of work I want to do in the world.”

Pivoting away from your hard work can be daunting, but as entrepreneurs have proved time and again in the past, moving on quickly is part of the process. “A willingness to change and adapt defines the success of a venture,” said Johnson. “Fail fast and fail often, don’t waste time and resources on something that may not make sense.”

Stuck on your entrepreneurial journey? Email Horn Entrepreneurship at hornprogram@udel.edu to set up a consultation and explore the next steps.


About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

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