How Our Startup Survived A Pivot In the Middle of the Pandemic

Our new design

Many founders tell the story of how pivoting saved their startup and ours is no different. Instagram is perhaps the most well-known of those who found success after a pivot. You know, the story goes on as: Instagram didn’t start as the photo-sharing application we know it to be. It was first a location-based check-in app named Burbn but quickly founders realized upon observation of the user behavior that its most popular feature was its photo sharing abilities.

In fact, according to Elad Gil, pivots of editing down or repositioning your product within the same market are fairly common.

Our pivot is a similar one.

We started building our product in the beginning of the year 2019.

Our mobile app Ashley started with the premise of AI-based voice chat.
We had three primary AI friends with different personality traits who could chat with users using deep learning. As the user and the AI conversate, the AI would get to know them better.

We had a really good voice recognition which was praised by many and we have come a long way of figuring out neural networks.

Our users truly enjoyed this feature. However, something had shifted.

Of course a global lockdown has drastically changed our psychological and social needs.

Upon many user interviews we conducted, our users told us during interviews that they’d like to have a feature where they can chat with others.

On top of that, global pandemic has totally transformed our needs.

It is no secret global lockdown has grown our desire to connect with other humans and to socialize. Even more than before, we desire having a chat and feeling that connection.

However, accomplishing in a time and resource-efficient way wasn’t obvious.

We continue to ship features and work our way quickly through sprints.

Certainly, only time, user sentiment and our KPIs will tell whether we’re right. But so far, our engagement and our retention rate are improving.

Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way to make a successful pivot.

1. Start with the user first

The first major step we made was to talk to the users more frequently and keep track of their user behavior. This can be through data like screen times — where on the app do users spend the most time in? However, the problem with data is that it’s highly limited and won’t tell much about the motivations and thoughts behind that simple tap on the button.

We emailed our churned users and our most active users and understood to get to know them better.

2. Get out of your head

As you try to achieve product-market fit, your first idea is not always the best one and staying inside your head can be a dangerous place to run a business from.

Connect with mentors, advisors, other product managers and show your product frequently. Learn to not take feedback personally.

3. Test your hypotheses

Once you develop hypotheses from your data set as discussed above, now it’s time to test them.

Is there a need in the market for your product? You may started with a hypothesis. Conduct a market research and competitive landscape.

4. Act quickly

When you’re a startup, time is your most important resource. If you’re burning more cash than the amount you’re generating with your business, it is essential to make sure it’s well spent and that you communicate the right message to your investors.

Being early to market is one of the most celebrated business strategies since Porter and. Beat your competitors to market and don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes. Momentum is key.

5. Early adopters are so important

You’ve probably all seen the graphic “Crossing the Chasm”. It is useful for showing the crucial importance of early adopters in the making of your business.

Early adopters are incredibly important in engaging with your product, guiding you and they can motivate an early-stage founder tremendously.

Many startup pivots require redefining your mission and vision.

For us, our mission remained the same: Creating a social environment where people with differences can thrive.

We’re still working hard to achieve that mission. Just how we want to get there has changed shape now.

With changing needs the global lockdown has brought, we felt that we needed to build a social platform where marginalized teens could connect with other like-minded teens.

If you’d like to support us, please consider downloading our app, weBelong, available for free on your App Store and Play Store. Follow our socials at @webelongapp or we do emails too-




weBelong is a a digital safe space for marginalized teens to connect and chat with like-minded teens. Download:

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weBelong is a a digital safe space for marginalized teens to connect and chat with like-minded teens. Download:

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