Startup Pivots: 6 Case Studies to Help You Recognize the Warning Signs

October 5, 2012

11:00 am

“Pivot” may be an overused word, but whatever you call it, changing course isn’t easy for startups. If general advice about pivoting is too abstract, these case studies can give you an idea of what triggers a pivot and what kinds of changes to make.

Bow and Drape

From: Zoora, a marketplace connecting independent designers with young women who want unique, customizable fashion.

To: Bow and Drape, a fashion brand that offers customizable clothes to mature women.

The Story: The Zoora team realized that young women weren’t willing to pay steeper prices for customizable fashion. They also underestimated the effort involved in being a middle-man marketplace dealing with physical goods. This became clear as their site’s growth didn’t meet their expectations, and a different demographic – older women – started emailing them looking for clothing.

The Takeaway: Target different users, change the business model.


From: Venga, an app for browsing nearby restaurant specials and events.

To: Venga, software that helps restaurants create a loyalty program.

The Story: Venga says they took too long trying to make their app perfect before releasing it. As time passed, they realized restaurants had a stronger need to keep track of and target repeat customers.

The Takeaway: Solve a different problem.


From: Gradeful, an app to help fathers plan activities with their kids and save memories.

To: Remember, an app for families to take, share, and print photos.

The Story: Gradeful piqued some fathers’ interest, but they wanted their wives to participate, too. And the feature that was most popular was saving photos. The team says they spent too much time tweaking the product rather than releasing it early.

The Takeaway: Target different users, solve a more narrow problem.


From: Kibin, a community of writers and readers where everyone edits each other’s work.

To: Kibin, a marketplace that connects people who need editing with skilled, verified editors.

The Story: Kibin had assumed that the same people who needed editing would also be willing to edit, all based around virtual currency. But they saw their users divided into two groups: those who needed editing (mostly students) and skilled editors. They also spent too much time manually reviewing edits, since they initially allowed anyone to edit.

The Takeaway: Change the business model.


From: Crowdspoke, a news site with communities around every imaginable topic.

To: Crowdspoke, curated content for social media managers around their topic of choice.

The Story: Crowdspoke had trouble getting communities, who were used to interacting on forums or social networks, to move over to their website to interact. But they observed that many of the users who did come were social media consultants.

The Takeaway: Target different users.

Restin Chairs

From: Restin Digital, which displayed advertising on digital screens hooked up to massage chairs.

To: Restin Chairs, which rents massage chairs to businesses.

The Story: Restin Digital attended a conference and heard that companies would love to rent chairs – buying them was too expensive.

The Takeaway: Solve a different problem.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact

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