Why Startup Employees Should Be Made Aware About Pivoting Before They Are Hired?
As an entrepreneur it's our job to educate the employee about how often does the idea pivot at initial stage.
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Enthusiasm, followed closely by skills and humility, is the key driver we look for in a prospective employee. We are a seed stage company.
By seed stage, we mean that we have an idea and a rugged MVP out on Google Play and we are reaching out to our prospective customers, one by one, testing our hypotheses by measuring their reaction and counting the uninstalls and understanding whether our hypothesis works or not.
That's how we figure if there's a product market fit or not, if the product — with the bare bones features—we have makes the users stick or not.
We, the co-founders, closely monitor the reaction and the usage, whereas our employees who are remotely developing the product might not be aware of the "measurements" we are doing.
When we try to make sense of the data, we figure that the product that has been developed until now isn't really working. Right in the midst of the process of their development, we butt in and say to our employee: "Hey, we have data to show that the idea you had been hired to work for isn't really working. We are pivoting to a new feature which we believe has greater potential to work."
Imagine what happens to the morale of the employee? He has worked tirelessly on the previous feature and is suddenly being informed that his work is being put on hold, if not completely discarded and now he has to restart from scratch. Yes, it hurts. And this is what happened yesterday when we chose to completely pivot the check-in product to a discovery product instead.
When we revealed this to our android developer, his enthusiasm plummeted. The question boiled down to "Why? This idea is not what I was sold for, not why I joined you guys."
I went into a damage control mode and tried to convince him. It's our job as an entrepreneur to educate the employee about how often does the idea pivot at this stage, after all, we are trying to do something completely new, zero to 1, and it's our responsibility have to make the idea fundable as soon as possible.
I cited examples of Instagram, which started as a location-sharing app with the option of sharing photos, and pivoted the other way round when they realized that the posts with photos had 10x the engagement. Though he nodded and sort of calmed down, my gut feel told that things had gotten out of hand. A day later, he called and excused himself from the job citing health reasons.
We were disappointed and saddened because of how we took things for granted. We sat down and measured what had transpired. And figured how this is a huge moment of learning for us. While we hustle to learn android development ourselves and make things work, we carry with us a fundamental understanding of how important it's for the founders to educate our prospective joinee about what working for a startup entails. Eric Ries of The Lean Start-up sums it beautifully here:
"The fundamental activity of a startup is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere. All successful startup processes should be geared to accelerate that feedback loop."