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“Failures” to be celebrated: an analysis of major pivots of software startups

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In the context of software startups, project failure is embraced actively and considered crucial to obtain validated learning that can lead to pivots. A pivot is the strategic change of a business concept, product or the different elements of a business model. A better understanding is needed on different types of pivots and different factors that lead to failures and trigger pivots, for software entrepreneurial teams to make better decisions under chaotic and unpredictable environment. Due to the nascent nature of the topic, the existing research and knowledge on the pivots of software startups are very limited. In this study, we aimed at identifying the major types of pivots that software startups make during their startup processes, and highlighting the factors that fail software projects and trigger pivots. To achieve this, we conducted a case survey study based on the secondary data of the major pivots happened in 49 software startups. 10 pivot types and 14 triggering factors were identified. The findings show that customer need pivot is the most common among all pivot types. Together with customer segment pivot, they are common market related pivots. The major product related pivots are zoom-in and technology pivots. Several new pivot types were identified, including market zoom-in, complete and side project pivots. Our study also demonstrates that negative customer reaction and flawed business model are the most common factors that trigger pivots in software startups. Our study extends the research knowledge on software startup pivot types and pivot triggering factors. Meanwhile it provides practical knowledge to software startups, which they can utilize to guide their effective decisions on pivoting.

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Correspondence to Sohaib Shahid Bajwa.

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Communicated by: Magne Jørgensen, Mika Mäntylä, Paul Ralph and Hakan Erdogmus

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Bajwa, S.S., Wang, X., Nguyen Duc, A. et al. “Failures” to be celebrated: an analysis of major pivots of software startups. Empir Software Eng 22, 2373–2408 (2017).

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