Intuitive Surgical, a successful and famous manufacturer of clinical robotic products, initially (in 2000) launched their Da Vinci robot for cardiac surgeries. The lack of traction among the medical community made them pivot into a solution for prostatectomies and hysterectomies, which caught on, and Intuitive is now an established organization with over 5000 employees.
Conceptus, a medical product intended to enable conception by opening blocked fallopian tubes, did a 180-degree pivot to a product for minimally invasive sterilization when it was found to block fallopian tubes rather than open them.
The Medtech industry is filled with stories of business pivots. In business, Pivoting is diverging from the current idea, from the existing business move-forward plan. Pivoting is a crucial tool in surviving
– a company that pivots at the right time continues to stay afloat vs. a company that sticks to ideas that are dead or dying.
Ardian (acquired by Medtronic in 2011) went through a pivot. The co-founder, Howard Levin, issued a statement that beautifully justifies pivoting: Knowing when to switch or modify an approach is one of the hardest things. Of course, you want to stay in there long enough to know if it’s right or wrong, but you also want to be flexible enough to change when change is warranted.
Most entrepreneurs and startups struggle with is not why to pivot but rather how and when to pivot. So we spoke to Aditya Ajmera, CEO and Owner of Chimco Bio-Medical Engg. Co. to get his insights on this question in the context of MedTech startups.
The 3 Situations That Call for a Pivot
A business that sticks to an idea simply because it was the founding idea is most likely to fail. The product should be built for the customer, not for the concept, says Aditya. When you create for the customer, you will find that your product will go through multiple stages of revamps.
Aditya recognizes three situations when a startup should consider pivoting –
- The customer is not well-received (or is not expected to be well-received): Interacting with prospective customers should be a part of your startup’s simple strategies. If the feedback you get from real-world users during testing is not favourable, you should consider pivoting the product to something that works for your target audience.
- When there is a better way to build the product: If the same idea can be materialized in a better way, it’s time to pivot. Selling online rather than through a brick-and-mortar store, for example, is a way to pivot the method of taking your idea to the real world without changing the core idea itself.
- Pivoting to accommodate growth: A successful business/product can add diverging segments or branches to solve a more significant problem or exit a highly competitive or saturated market.
The Number One Rule of Pivoting - Listen To Your Customer
Aditya stresses the role of the customer in any significant business decision. Is your decision going to benefit the customer? Is it being done for the customer? Is it being done after listening to the voices of your customer?
You are building something that has to be suitable for the customer, says Aditya.
Pivoting a MedTech startup should happen with the customer in mind. Only by constantly talking to your target audience will you know if your startup needs to pivot. And the best way to do this is by immersing yourself in your customer’s world, says Aditya. For example, if you’re building a product for surgeons, get into an operating theatre and see first-hand the problems they face and the solutions they need.
During a pivot, startups face a common issue: disruption among stakeholders – partners, teams, and customers. When a startup is pivoting for the right reasons, with the customer in focus, however, trouble is minimal, observes Aditya. If the stakeholders can believe in the business vision, they will believe in the pivot.
Pivoting should not be viewed as abandoning an idea; it should be seen as evolving a concept. Don’t be afraid of pivoting. Building a business is a cumbersome process that involves ongoing trials and errors. When a startup faces a situation that demands an alteration in its path, it must be ready for the inevitable transformation.
About the guest author
Aditya Ajmera is the CEO of Chimco Biomedical Engineering Company. He is an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the health care industry. He is skilled in Business Planning, Medical Devices, Management, Healthcare, and Business Development. He is a strong entrepreneurship professional with considerable insight into the healthcare industry. He is a MedTech mentor with Villgro Innovation Foundation