Silicon Valley has seen a big bump in "pivot moments."
"We are pivoting to Chefler 2.0," said Omar Restom, the chief executive of the health-conscious food firm that is closing shop in San Francisco and moving to new cities, acknowledging it was "too similar to our competitors" in the food tech space. Sidecar announced a "pivot" when it gave drivers and customers more flexibility when using its ridesharing app.
AOL's decision to spin off Patch, its money-losing news business? A pivot, of course.
Even a character in HBO's "Silicon Valley" recently talked about the "pivot."
The term has become a catch-all phrase used when companies change strategy, markets, technology -- or simply explain away a misstep. The phrase has been mocked as a way to dress up failure, but it is gaining new traction during this frothy entrepreneurial period we are in.
The availability of early-stage investment money has given companies the luxury of experimenting, aka pivoting, as they look for what will make them a legitimate business.
"With more money out there, companies have the luxury of pivoting more in the hopes of striking gold," said Anand Sanwal, chief executive and co-founder of CB Insights, a venture capital research firm. "They have more runway."
Like any club, Silicon Valley has long had its own language. Before there was the pivot, companies talked about "iterations" or even the much-mocked "paradigm shift," all efforts to help entrepreneurs explain what's going on at their firms to investors and the rest of the world.
"Silicon Valley tends to come up with words that are incredibly nuanced but if you step outside of that bubble and start talking about 'pivots,' or 'digital disruption' or the new word, 'growth hacker,' people think you are talking a foreign language," said Brian Solis, a principal at the Altimeter Group, who has hosted the "Pivot" conference in New York for the last four years. A "growth hacker," as Solis explained it, is someone who uses technology and metrics to experiment with aspects of a business in order to accelerate growth.
"Pivot" itself has taken a few detours on the road to acceptance. At first the object of ridicule, and then a cliche, it's now back in vogue, said Eric Ries, author of "The Lean Startup" and the person credited in 2009 for taking "pivot" from the basketball court to the business world.
Ries describes the pivot as a "change in strategy without a change in vision" and the way to "redeem the failure." He points to famous tech firms that pivoted from their original ideas: YouTube (dating site), Flickr (online game), Groupon (petitions), Chegg (free classified listings for college students), Twitter (podcasting).
Of course, there can't be one kind of "pivot." There is the zoom-in pivot, zoom-out pivot, the platform pivot, the vision pivot and the discovery pivot, to name a few.
"Many startups do give up on their vision too soon, and do a vision pivot when they really just needed to persist and potentially do some discovery pivots," explains Marty Cagan, a partner at the Silicon Valley Product Group.
Sure, the pivot still carries some negative baggage; some entrepreneur even go out of their way to say their strategy shifts are "not a pivot."
But successful pivots are the stuff of tech industry lore, a critical gamble that resulted in great wealth.
"Just because something is wrong with the idea doesn't mean the company has to fail," Ries said. "You can adjust before you run out of money."