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Startup founders need less pivot, more personality

It seems like medias love the word "pivot".  They over-use it in articles.  A startup is not doing good?  Don't worry, a pivot is on the way.  Pivoting a business not only seems to be a solution if your product doesn't work, it also seems to be an accepted explanation why you would change direction so quickly.

Some defines "pivot" as "the idea of reinventing or refocusing your business on the fly".  Personally, I have another definition for pivot: "prototyping without vision".  It's like trying to figure out how to use all those disconnected Lego blocks, without having an idea of the model on the box.

What does it take to become an entrepreneur and start your own company?  It takes vision.  Vision is a primary ingredient to be a successful entrepreneur.  An entrepreneur needs to be a visionary, as only he (she) can see the future the way he will build it.

However, an entrepreneur is nothing without a strong personality.  By this, I don’t mean that you must be the kind of entrepreneur that speak loudly in events and that wants to be noticed.  No.  Strong personality is all about being strong in character.  You have to be strong at confronting failure.  You must be strong when your ideas are being rejected by others.  You must hold on when most would give up.  This is what a strong personality is about.

When I started Nimbb at the end of 2008, I had a vision.  I knew that I wanted to build a product that would allow others to add webcam recording in their websites.  I could see how the product would be used by others, how it would make their life easier and better.  In my head, I was already building my path to success. 

However, success doesn’t come easily. If I was like many entrepreneurs, I would have pivoted my business.  Nimbb’s start was very slow.  In May of 2009, I was finally starting to sign up my first paying customers.  It was a step in the right direction.  But just like a baby, each step looked like eternity.  In a startup world, this can appear as discouraging to most entrepreneurs.

However, I didn’t give up.  Neither did I give up when people around me told me that my idea would probably fail.  This seems to a normal reaction from people around any entrepreneur.  You need a very strong personality when you see your friends turning you down.  I did believe in my product, so I did continue without a second thought.

Things get also hard once you try to get others interested in your startup.  In 2010, in a trip to San Francisco, I gave it a shot.  I met numerous entrepreneurs, investors and medias.  Medias ignored me, as it’s mostly the case for entrepreneurs without contacts in medias.  Other entrepreneurs would listen to my speech, then I would listen to theirs, most of the time without new business relationship.  As for investors, they are the first to tell you to pivot your business.  Your product is never totally what they have in mind.  They are very good at judging your product in matter of minutes, without even trying it.  In my case, I even drove one hour from San Francisco to Palo Alto to meet some investors, just to be turned down by them quickly without even a "thanks for dropping by".

When rejection is so strong, most entrepreneurs pivot.  They lose their vision and they weaken their personality.  They let other diminish themselves.

My trip to San Francisco might have looked like a failure.  I wasn’t able to get investors interested in Nimbb.  But, instead of feeling down, something else happened in me.  "I don’t need investors and I don’t need to pivot.  I’ll work even harder."  That was my reaction.

Sure enough, without a strong personality, you can’t achieve that.  Instead of doing a pivot, I actually gave up my 10-year safe job and went full time on my business.  I knew that I had what it takes: a great vision, a strong will to succeed and faith.  If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need all of these.

Unfortunately, too many startup founders think that pivoting is a way of succeeding.  Your product doesn’t take off the way you want? Pivot.  Investors tell you that you won’t succeed with your service? Pivot.  You can’t take the pressure anymore? Pivot.  Surely enough, this can’t feel right.

Some entrepreneurs are even famous for their pivoting personality.  Some even use the word in their LinkedIn profiles as a trendy word.  If you think that pivot is cool and you are applying it to your own startup, then maybe it’s time you seriously ask yourself if you should be an entrepreneur.  Don’t prototype blindly with hope of finding a great product.  Instead, try building a strong personality and following your vision.  This will be the start of a great adventure.

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1 Comment:

Comment by yaren on 2012/04/18: