a16z Podcast: Startups, Pivots, Culture, and Timing (Oh Shit!)

The hardest thing about pivots (major shifts in company/product direction) isn’t just the actual pivot. It’s the courage to make the decision… and being honest with yourself as a CEO. Especially since, no matter how great the team or board or even customers may be, it’s lonely: You’re the only one in the position to synthesize the knowledge; nobody else has the data and the insight put together in the same way.

And sigh, “pivot” has also become such an overused word, it’s certainly lost nuance, and perhaps even meaning. So what does “pivoting” a startup really mean? For decision making? Timing (or time left until you run out of cash)? Culture? Are things different for so-called “hard tech” or deep research-based startups?

Finally, how do you know when things are working, that you really do have product-market fit? a16z co-founder Ben Horowitz and Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal discuss (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) all this and more in this episode of the a16z podcast, sharing war stories and lessons learned. Both witnessed first-hand — and drove — pivots: Jason watching Ben at Loudcloud/Opsware post-IPO, and conversely, Ben watching Jason at Lytro. Maybe, all startups — and ultimately, successful companies — are really just a series of pivots…