INNOVATE

Why Pivoting Isn’t Always ‘Evolve or Die’

Sometimes, it means taking advantage of an opportunity to grow

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BY Tanya Mariano - 26 Apr 2017

business plans

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The pivot -- it's an essential part of every start-up’s journey.

In order to thrive in the fast-changing world of business, companies must be willing and able to adapt. Sometimes this means making a subtle product tweak or tapping a different market, other times it entails altogether overhauling your mission and business model.

But pivoting doesn't always have to be fueled by an “evolve or die” ethos. Says John Bailon, co-founder and CEO of Manila-based bitcoin company Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI), “You don't necessarily pivot away from a disaster. Sometimes, a pivot is a means to be able to tackle an opportunity.”

At a panel discussion during the recent Inc. 40 Philippine Forum -- a gathering of 40 of the most exciting start-ups in the Philippines -- Bailon talked about how his team at SCI prepared themselves to be flexible to changes in the market.

For instance, majority of SCI’s business right now is happening on Rebit, their remittance platform, but Bailon thinks there will be bigger demand for wallet services in the future. “We plan our product line to adapt to the changing needs of the Filipinos. When [Internet penetration] goes up to maybe 80%, I think we should also have a presence in app-based services,” he says.

But “personal pivots” are just as significant as business-related ones, points out panel moderator Kiron Bose, co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Media Holdings, which owns the license for Inc. Southeast Asia.

A SPACE Philippines founder and CEO Matthew Morrison agrees. He adds that the pivots he made in his career were mainly led by opportunity, and “my own view of whether they were a challenge I wanted to surmount, a wall I wanted to climb, or maybe a wall I wanted to avoid.”

And these, he says, only made sense in retrospect: “When you're in the middle of it, it doesn't. But the changes in my career, they all make sense now. I can see one thing leading to another. But at the time, there were moments where I had no clue, really, if this part, this choice, was the right one, or if I could make something successful or not, or if I can ever recover from failure or not.”

The key, then, is patience and perseverance, but also enough discernment to be able to tell whether what's in front of you is an obstacle worth tackling, or a pivot down a path better left untrod.