A Pivotal Week At Firstround

My partner @joshk  has written about finding entrepreneurs who are “heat seeking missiles” , and this past week has driven that point home to me and the entire @Firstround team.  When we fund a company, we hope that we have picked the combination of a great entrepreneur and his/her team, along with a great product in a large available market.  But sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way we all expected.  Perhaps we need to modify the old adage to “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then pivot, don’t  be a foolish slave to the first idea.”  When the first idea doesn’t succeed, the true heat seekers show their advantage over those who are so wedded to their initial idea that all the contrary data does not move them off of it

With both Jason Goldberg at Fab.com  and Billy Chasen at StickyBits we have been fortunate to back two of those heat seeking missiles  that know when to pivot and how to reaim. 

Jason (@betashop) came to us with an interesting social networking idea, well executed in terms of product design and market focus..  But the truly viral growth wasn’t happening.  However, once he had an audience, Jason tried to add a few daily deals to his audience.  Seeing how well they did inspired Jason and Bradford, his cofounder, to stop and tell the board they wanted to pivot into becoming a truly design inspired flash sale site.  He set some ambitious goals, such as having more than 100,000 people on the list pre-launch, and getting lots of beautifully designed products in the sales queue.  And then he added the community feature to encourage people to post on the inspiration wall, so that the design aesthetic of the site could be shared across communities.  Fab.com launched a week ago (sign up here), and the results blew us all away.  Sales were a significant multiple of expectations, ASP was higher, viral signups higher, and it looks as if we have another winner here. Jason has been generous enough to share some of the experience on his Betashop blog. Only time will tell, but this seems as well designed a pivot as we’ve seen.

Billy Chasen (@BillyChasen) came to us with StickyBits, a FourSquare for objects.  The concept was to allow users to scan bar codes of objects, and attach comments, get offers, share with friends and participate in some games.  The launch at SXSW went very well, and there was a lot of interest in testing. But, in the end, scanning bar codes, QR codes, etc. did not prove to be a viral behavior.  Lots of things were tried to boost engagement, but we never quite found the secret sauce.  However, Billy told the board he had been thinking about another completely different idea, listening to music with friends, synchronously.

The music space is …