Pivots are great – you launch a product, you learn, and you change direction.
But founder/market fit is real – you need to evaluate/adjust your strategy based on your understanding of your future client. Here’s how to evaluate that:
A market opportunity without a founder/market fit it’s a futile objective. If the founding team, or at least the CEO, does not find the customer’s projects something meaningful to solve, it’s game over from day one.
Short personal story:
Back in 2007, I started Conectoo, an enterprise email marketing service, because I wanted to help a few of my friends – they were running some of the biggest publishing websites in Romania, but their newsletter system was really bad.
We built some amazing software – you could load content from the website into the newsletter without touching HTML through a visual drag-and-drop process. But the online advertising and publishing market tanked in 2008/2009, and our clients were gone.
Instead, we started targeting a new client – the marketer. However, if the publisher had a process and volume problem, which relied on a very complex tech system, the marketer had a totally different set of problems around improving conversion, doing A/B testing etc.
I found it hard to relate to their needs, I never managed to build a new killer product and my startup never fully recovered.
End of story.
Founder/market fit is a very important and a common problem, especially for technical founders who start with a solution (the technology) searching for a problem. If you cannot relate to your client, his needs, and his context, chances of being able to build a useful product are minimal.
If you find yourself evaluating a new direction for your startup, apart from calculating TAM and SAM and brainstorming over GTM and competitive advantages, ask yourself the following questions:
1) Do I care if this customer can excel in doing his/her job?
2) If not, do I want to spend time understanding their problems more deeply?
3) If not, could my startup still be successful?
The answer most of the time is not.
Adding founder/market fit as a data point in your pivoting strategy will help you make decisions that will actually work in real life.