So there was a rabbit in our parking lot yesterday...

by Pascal Rettig posted Oct 27, 2010

Around 2 in the afternoon yesterday, someone pointed out, from our office perch on the third floor, a rabbit running around like crazy in the large parking lot in front of our building. It would hop from one piece of cover to the next and then stop, hiding beneath a car until something made it move. The last I saw of it was running underneath a large, dark SUV, after which I assumed it had made a break for it out of that inhospitable terrain to greener pastures.

Fast forward to around 6:00pm, as I'm leaving the office our dog starts jumping around like mad as we approach our car (next to the dark SUV), and I think to myself, that poor bunny can't still be in the lot here, can it?

Sure enough, unmoving and wedged underneath the front left tire of that same SUV was the rabbit, having not budged an inch in 4 hours. It played dead as I approached up until I was about a foot away and then haphazardly scampered off at full speed, darting between cars and across our side street, into the safety of the some greenery next to the adjacent building.

A couple things struck me about the rabbit: first, it had no business being there in the first place. What was a tiny little rabbit doing in a parking lot with hundreds of vehicles that could crush it in a heartbeat? Secondly, before it found some apparent safety under the wheel of the SUV, its strategy, while haphazard, was actually getting it closer and closer to safety before it gave up. Only a massive threat (me) finally dislodged it from its hiding place.

The same could be said for Cykod (or any small start-up) Although we have no idea what we're doing, jumping around haphazardly, while not a great long term strategy, at least will get you a view of the surrounding terrain. As we're still in the early stages of marketing our product (Webiva), we need to do as much learning as possible, and that learning can only come from launching ourselves into areas where we don't already have all the answers. Even with a number of users actively using our system, we can't assume that where we are right now is that right place to be.

Satisficing with a half-way decent product that nets you a few users, and then catering to that small market segment is the startup kiss of slow, painful death. The worst thing we can do is just abide.

At the lean startup circle last night, Backupify CEO Rob May pointed out an interesting pivot in their business. A significant portion of their initial customer base insisted on being able to use their own S3 account to store their backups, and Backupify (then called something else) made that feature available. As they grew, however, the technical challenges with allowing this became more an more unwieldy, to the point where that feature is now a technical ball-and-chain. The thing is, of their first 500 customers, 300 used this - so how could they possibly remove it? Well, of their next thousands, few beyond the initial 300 were still using the feature. They had already pivoted to a different user base a long time ago, despite their early adopters consumer tech-centric focus.

Catering to a small local maximum, while it seems safe, won't get you to the growth point that you need. You've got to keep Pivoting like a madman even if temporarily it seems like you're bouncing around like a potential roadkill in traffic.