Why it’s less “pivot” and more “handbrake turn”

3 Jul
Startup drifting...

Startup drifting…

I was having a chat yesterday with Andy Young of Stripe, telling him about Satago (my startup) and our recent strategy change to focus on accounts receivable automation, and told him that I didn’t think there was such as thing as a startup “pivot” because it’s more like a handbrake turn.

He tweeted my comment today and it got a bit of attention so I just wanted to expand on my thoughts…

I’ve never liked the term “pivot”. A pivot is when you change direction with one foot placed on the ground. It’s soft, it’s gentle, it’s quick and once you change direction with your pivot, you know which way you’re facing. Dancers pivot. Startup don’t.

For one thing, a pivot takes an instant. A handbrake turn takes a fair bit longer. Now, startups may be agile and nimble and all that, but that doesn’t mean that your tw0-developer team startup can just change its model overnight. It takes weeks and months of planning and re-factoring. It may require a complete re-write of your app’s engine. In our case implementing a new pricing model required some significant changes to Satago under the hood and we’ve still got lots to do…

Pivots are not scary. Handbrake turns are… but not necessarily for everyone in the car. The CEO may think he is a “Fast & Furious” style driver, but everyone else in the car is probably crapping themselves, eyes wide in terror and knuckles white, gripping whatever they can to try and stay seated!

Also, with a handbrake turn, you’re not really 100% certain what direction you’ll end up facing. Hopefully you’ll end up facing in the direction you planned, but if you hit a bump in the road you might end up somewhere you did not expect. Try not to flip the car.

So I propose we ditch the term “pivot” and start talking about “startup handbrake turns”.

3 Responses to “Why it’s less “pivot” and more “handbrake turn””

  1. Carlos Julio Garcia Ottati March 9, 2017 at 5:10 am #

    this is so true, love it!!!


  1. Six Questions About Seedcamp - July 18, 2014

    […] In a sense, every startup that joins Seedcamp changes on some level, and there are many different levels of pivoting. We have had some drastic pivots but far more common is that a startup develops with the insight, advice, and mentorship they receive. You can read an interesting blog from Buffer on the ‘quiet pivot’ and from our own Satago on the ‘handbrake turn’. […]

  2. STARTUP SPOTLIGHT #5 SATAGO | Rainmaking Loft London - June 15, 2016

    […] to balance product direction with validating our understanding of the market has also thrown up some tough lessons, but more recently while we have been building the biggest addition to our product features yet, we […]

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