Oct 232010
 
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If you are a entrepreneur– especially a first time entrepreneur or an entrepreneur outside of Silicon Valley– you need to stop what you are doing and watch this video. Yes, it is 45 minutes long. But it’s worth it.

Last night at a Founder Institute event, super angel Mike Maples gave a talk about what he calls “pivots” and “thunder lizards.” Thunder lizards are startups born from atomic eggs that “emerge with attitude” want to disrupt and chew up their competition– both new world and old. They are big, chaotic, relentless and when successful, become huge companies. What helps make a thunder lizard successful is something Maples calls the “pivot.”

This isn’t about product iteration– the pivot has to do with business model. Business model shouldn’t be confused with “business plan,” Maples says. A business plan is a static thing, a business model charts money flowing out to create a product and money flowing back in from that product. A startup’s entire reason to exist is to have  more arrows going back in than arrows going out, and it’s always changing.

To some corners of the business world that may seem obvious, but in today’s build-a-product-throw-it-out-there-and-flip-it startup culture it is actually contrarian. A big reason? Pivots are really hard and painful to do.

In the talk below, Maples walks you through three examples he invested in: ngmoco, which did a pricing pivot; Chegg, which did a product pivot; and Odeo/Twitter, which did an entire company pivot. Maples doesn’t do that thing that startup PR departments love. He doesn’t sugar coat how horrifying and uncertain these moves were at the time. He doesn’t make the startups or investors sound like they’d seen the future through some magical product/market oracle. He shows that each of these pivots were made out of semi-desperation, and he talks about how risky each move was. In each case the entrepreneurs had something, but not enough to make a big business and they had to throw that thing they’d already slaved over away in order to get to the larger business. Watch the video for the details.

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