Moves Like Jagger

It’s done. You’ve spent the better part of a year tweaking, fine tuning, and buttoning up the perfect business plan. It can’t fail, right? You’ve covered all your bases. The Executive Summary alone is compelling enough for someone to invest. You’ve done your research, and your Competitive Analysis has determined that there are no competitors (convenient). If that wasn’t enough, your Financial Plan has you cruising around the world on a 200-foot yacht in no more than 3 years. You’ve secured funding on this dream, and now it’s time to execute.

I’ve seen this time and time again. In fact, I’ve been there, but this isn’t only reality for you and me, it’s the reality of some of the biggest names in tech. Twitter wasn’t always the 140 character text based social network. It started as Odeo, a tool to let you subscribe to podcasts. Instagram wasn’t always your favorite photo sharing app. It started as Burbn which allowed you to check-in places and included some gaming elements from Mafia Wars.

The point is that no one, not even Twitter and Instagram, started from a perfect business plan that was turned into reality. The odds that your startup turns into the company you see in your future are incredibly slim, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be successful. Your success will be determined by what you do when your plan doesn’t go as planned.

When my partners and I started Platypi, we were a cross-platform developer tools startup. After a year and a half of coding, we had a great product. We use it for everything that we do, but we quickly determined that selling it wasn’t an option so we open-sourced it. The competitive landscape changed too rapidly over that time, and we had to pivot. If you aren’t familiar with pivoting, it’s when a startup or company makes a fundamental shift in direction.

Our company today doesn’t look anything like I had imagined, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a great thing. Had we been stubborn and forged ahead trying to sell our platform, we wouldn’t be around today, but we pivoted (several times) and turned our platform into our greatest asset. Our platform has allowed us to implement mobile and web solutions for our customers for much cheaper and faster than they would with a traditional creative agency. And by building things with our platform, we’ve been able to create other products like our Content Management System.

On a whole different spectrum, we were able to use our expertise in these areas to create Alabama’s first coding bootcamp, Depot/U. If someone would have told me 2 years ago that I would be running a coding school, I would have thought they were delusional, but here we are in the middle of our second 10-week immersive coding bootcamp with 19 future developers under our tutelage.

Running a startup is all about how you pivot. Your agility in the marketplace is the one thing that separates you from the big corporate empires. They can’t change direction over night, but you can. The beauty of being small and nimble is that you can pivot from a podcasting company to a social network like Twitter.