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Pivoting and Runway [Entrepreneurship
Posted on November 12, 2019 @ 08:13:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Lately I have been thinking about the concept of "pivoting" because this year I have had to pivot from my original farm plan of starting a "farm mini winery" (license your production acreage up to a minimum of 2 acres then make wine) to starting a "commercial winery" (few restrictions on where your production acreage comes from). I had a terrible year crop-wise (hurricane damage to grapes, bad year for my wild blueberries) so I had to pivot to getting wild blueberry fruit from a large blueberry grower who I am partnering with for the 2019 wine production. My investments now are going into upgrading the barn to be a commercial winery and, eventually, a retail space as per the regulations if I want to sell wine from my farm (must adjoin the winery). Sometimes a pivot is between two well-defined government options and all the consequences they entail.

Being able to continue making pivots on an unprofitable farm for 7 years is quite a luxury. The "runway" for this farm enterprise is very long compared to the typical "runway" for a startup that might only have enough capital to last a few months before they have to start showing traction. Because me and my wife both have other income and could afford the long startup costs for the farm, there has been no investor pressure on us to show profit quickly.

My brother-in-law has been involved in an oyster farming venture for around 7 years and is only now getting to the point where it might start to make a significant income. A big pivot his business went through last year was to partner with a childhood friend who is enthusiastic about the industry. They are buying equipment together and managing their leases together. This is a secondary line of business for my brother-in-law (who primarily fishes crab and lobster) where there is no investor pressure to become profitable quickly; however, they are gearing up to be profitable (e.g., populating leases with oysters, investing in oyster farming equipment, investing in off-shore oyster handling equipment, upgrading their boat).

Anyone who has a day job can be investing in a secondary venture for a long time without requiring immediate payback. These may one day hatch as a "startup" after many years of ongoing investment and pivoting.

Pivoting in a long running startup can look different than pivoting in a new startup.

If you want to see how pivoting works in high-performance startups with limited runway then you might want to watch Dalton's talk "All About Pivoting".

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