Successful Entrepreneurs share their Breakthru
fm Fast Company Zine 22 Mar 16 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
Be Flexible. Companies brave enough to make disruptive changes, adopt a trial-&-error attitude, to later reap big rewards. We’ve seen how much Facebook, Apple, & Google have changed their focus since launching. We’ve seen the transformation of PayPal from a cryptography company to the online Payment service it is today. We’ve seen Netflix go from disrupting Blockbuster’s DVD rental business to being its force in TV.
From Failure to Fast Track. But for every successful bold change that worked, there are a boundless amount of those that didn’t work out as planned. Nonetheless, the “failures” moved the company forward and the founders live to tell the tales today. Below are moments that didn’t work as intended—and what it meant for the below companies:
Michael Kim, CEO, Habit Design. When Kim’s “behavior-change” training solution startup was getting off the ground, the team was invited to Silicon Valley on the final round of selection to present for Y-Combinator investors. “Only 8% get that far and Y was the only investor we’d consider, so we were pretty excited,” says Kim. The excitement didn’t last too long, when the company started talking marketing strategy with Y. Kim explains: “Based on our customer traction & data, I felt that B2B2C was the best way to capture the most opportunity in the corporate productivity & wellness markets. Y totally disagreed.
1) Following our Convictions. “Many dark days followed, questioning our decision for B2B2C , revisiting our customer data,” says Kim. “Knowing when to stick to your strategy and when to change, comes from good judgment. But, good judgment comes from experience, which comes from bad judgment. When is a decision one or the other? Usually, it won’t be revealed until much later.”
2) Feels good when we’re right. The company didn’t have to wait long to see its decision as the right one. “We’ve trained over 500 companies and 100,000 employees—including at Google, Apple, Starbucks, NASA, even the White House—without giving up our Vision or dilutive financing.”
Ashwin Navin, Founder, Samba.TV. At one time, the company was pursuing a product called Flingo, which allowed users to share what they were watching on their Smart-phones and other smart devices to their TV screen with one click. This was prior to the days of AirPlay & Chromecast – when this option wasn’t readily available. The product & concept was cool enough, but inevitably, the team realized they weren’t gaining enough adoption & momentum. In the process, they also discovered that their SW had a window into users’ preferences on content.
The Flip. “We thought, instead of making the TV a consumption point for video, why don’t we make a discovery point for things you might be interested in, not only on your TV but on your second screen,” explains Navin. The flip in direction happened in 2012, & by 2013 the company had changed its name to Samba TV. The move proved profitable: The company currently has over 100 full-time employees—up from 25 a year ago and revenue is up by 600%. (Could you live with that? Wiz4biz)
Brian Leventhal, Founder, BK Winery. When our idea was born, it was initially conceptualized as a Wine bar with a totally unique make-your-own wine component to the business. The idea was to create an environment that not only served great wine, but allowed guests to intimately partake in the process it took to get to that final pour. In theory, it was exciting and well received, but in practice it was quite the opposite. “Selling wine is easy—selling wine futures that require a minimum investment of about 300 cases, about 3,600 bottles, proved nearly impossible,” says Leventhal. “We didn’t have a name or established reputation behind us, and we realized relatively quickly that we wouldn’t be able to survive on the minimal revenue stream we were seeing from the private client wine-making. We needed to change and figure out a way to support the wine-making business at a time when we weren’t even able to serve our own wine in the bar. We had to wait out the aging process.”
The Change is the Solution – which came in the form of a couple, who walked in one day and asked if they could rent the 25-foot glass Atrium space for their wedding. “That was a key moment for us. We didn’t build the space to host events, but quickly realized that it was ideally suited for everything from weddings to corporate meetings and receptions,” explains Leventhal. “We slowly started to build our Events team, brought catering in-house, & used our sales team to drive awareness in the events industry.”Six years later, Brooklyn Winery is thriving, hosting over 300 events annually. “It’s easy to say that none of this matters – because in the end – we were able to build a successful business, but that first 18 months was a true test of courage & determination,” says Leventhal. “Luckily, we learned – and continue to learn – that taking risks and diving into the unknown is usually worth it.”
Taylor Erkkinen & Harry Rosenblum, Co-Founders, Brooklyn Kitchen. When Erkkinen & Rosenblum were approached to open a store in Manhattan, it seemed too good to be true. “Our growth until then had been steady, and impressive – even to ourselves – so we went for it,” says Erkkinen. “We moved a brand that had been distinctly built on serving our own neighborhood in Brooklyn to a different borough, and – despite our high hopes – it never really translated. The new space didn’t reflect the core reason that people were coming to our original location, and location ultimately didn’t stick.”
Backing-up. It quickly became clear that the Brooklyn-based store wasn’t going to work in Manhattan, and after a year, the co-founders decided to “back out” of the project. Erkkinen describes it as one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. “We would have been sunk if we had waited any longer,” she says. She explains: “We battened down in Brooklyn, and we realized that serving our community & our people was where we needed to be. Our then smaller education program pivoted into a full-blown culinary program, and we’re now working tirelessly to bring this same culinary curiosity to all areas of the store.”
Comment: Do you know any Startups that have made a significant change for their breakthrough?