# What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
The world is a different place than it was 100 days ago. Countries traded saving lives by shutting down most of their economy. Tens of millions who had jobs are now unemployed worrying about their future. Business owners large and small are struggling to find their footing, wondering what will be the new normal when the recovery happens. For the majority of companies, the business models of the past will not return.
We opened our office this week. It is kind of spooky to go to office and find empty desks staring at you. We have a ringside view of the impact that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is undergoing. Most startups and business service providers have been hit hardest. Each day they have seen their bank accounts dwindle, each day we have watched them wonder about what will happen to their business. The reactions ranged between uncertainty, fear, panic, anger and distress.
But over the last month the reaction from a growing percentage has been of a resolve. Resolve to leave behind elements or services in their business that no longer work in the current environment, and determination to create new ones that do. Ambiguity is inherent in the startup culture for numerous reasons. There are too many variables that are too hard to predict. The current environment has added one HUGE variable to this already long list. Fortunately, there’s a last-ditch option available so you don’t have to scrap what you’ve built: You can pivot, changing some fundamental aspect of your business, whether it’s the product, the target market or your style of execution.
Is it all ‘gyan’ or can we look around for some real examples? A quick search throws up literally hundreds of them –
Youtube started off as video-based dating service, where users could upload short videos describing their ideal partner, and browse for potential matches. Along the way it learnt its lessons and morphed into the massive video-streaming giant that it has become now.
We started using Slack a lot during these lockdown times – biggest names in professional chat and messaging services, Slack originated with a much different premise – it started off like a video game called Glitch! While the game was popular, it wasn’t profitable, so the team instead started investing resources into a new product: a chat app designed for co-workers. The change worked, and how!
One thing that we all have been missing during the Lockdown…the coffee shop which we all love – Starbucks, it did not always sell fresh-brewed coffee to customers. They started off selling espresso makers and coffee beans!
Nintendo began life as a playing card company way back in the 1880s. However, in the mid-20th Century as the demand for playing cards waned, Nintendo explored a number of different directions including a taxi company, instant rice and even hourly hotels. It also took an interest in the growing popularity of video games finally getting into Console business!
In fact, we don’t have to look too far. We have commendable examples in our cohort as well. Horeca Stop which was earlier a provider of operational supplies to the Hospitality Industry has now pivoted to selling current essentials such as sanitizers, masks, PPE Kits, etc. Ingenium a B2B EdTech startup has introduced live streaming facilities to capture that segment.
There are hundreds of such examples…but I guess you get the drift.
My two cents for these tough times –
1) Cut your losses. Even if you’re in love with your business idea, you can’t keep pursuing it if it’s not striking a profit.
2) Follow the money. Ultimately, your business needs to be profitable if it’s going to survive. Throw hypotheticals and ideals out the window, and instead focus on where you can generate the most revenue.
By the way, Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, who had famously said those oft-quoted words mentioned at the start of the article, ironically his life turned out to be rather short and miserable. What it tells us that while in an evolutionary sense, those who survive a calamity are by definition the fittest. But it is not the calamity per se that made them so. It is how one reacts & adapts to the calamity that defines a person or for that matter a start-up.
Think about it. Do whatever it takes…Live to fight another day. There is a very good reason why SoftBank has shifted its strategy from long-term domination to short-term survival. Everything is about resiliency now to weather the storm. Forget unicorns – Investors are looking for ‘cockroach’ startups now. Be one. Period.