At SPLT, we value different ideas from customers, partners, mentors and our own team. In the rideshare business, no idea is too bold or crazy, so we surround ourselves with idea generators. Based in Detroit, we benefit from the wealth of automotive and mobility knowledge here in the Motor City, home of the automobile.
Ted Serbinski, Managing Director of Techstars Mobility, forecasted early on that SPLT would pivot away from our B2C. We did pivot, moving to a more elegant and effective B2B model selling our carpool platform to enterprise customers. This saved our business.
Founders may believe they are susceptible to losing their company’s vision in the process of pivoting. For SPLT, this pivot ensured that we would see our vision come to life. In a B2B marketplace, we’ve carved a niche for ourselves to sell, grow and put a stake in an otherwise underserved market instead of grappling with Uber and Lyft in the consumer world.
This would not have been possible without mentorship.
In heeding the advice of our mentors, we have launched an entirely new vertical in Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, in partnership with Lyft. This came at the recommendation of a SPLT mentor.
We have learned the most by allowing others to dream with us.
We send out regular update emails to our Mentors, print and gift them SPLT t-shirts, and keep close communication, because to us, knowledge is power. We know that knowledge is our greatest asset. With all the talent in the world, we could not produce value without it.
Free Money Growth
Our mentors drove us to take a different route to raise capital for our company by applying to competitions of all types. These competitions led to PR opportunities, cash prizes, the refinement of our business model and pitch, and so much more. We have participated for 50 competitions, won 19 of them, and won over $225,000.
The relationships across the country and the world are also invaluable. They help us build our network, bridge global partnerships and gain PR.
In the last few months, we won The Startup Conference pitch competition, the Clean Energy Trust Pritzker Award worth $100,000, Techweek LAUNCH Detroit, and we competed in Google Demo Day!
Just this month, I had the incredible opportunity to speak at the United Nations to young leaders from around the world. Why? Because we have been hustling in sharing our story with the world, listening to mentors, and putting our team first.
Free money growth is available to all, and by listening to the right mentors, we have taken advantage of these opportunities. And that’s just the last few months. We have the business students at the University of Michigan in Detroit CompPrep to thank for accelerating this process and Jill Ford, the brainchild of the idea.
Select Likeminded First Customers
It was crucial that we found SPLT believers to be our initial corporate customers. The data collected from first customers may not be the best, but it’s most important to serve as proof when you’re making progress.
DTE Energy, Magna and Honda all saw our vision and our intended impact. They demonstrated interest in being a part of what we’re doing to take cars off the road, reduce carbon emissions and lead the charge in a new age of shared mobility.
Not only are they Techstars Corporate Sponsors and Mentors, they are businesses focused on innovation, mobility and the future.
In launching with our first partners, we make the value inherently two-sided. The customer gets a front row seat into the future of shared mobility and we are able to learn and grow with customers who want to see us succeed.
We are grateful to our mentors and the corporate sponsors of Techstars Mobility for helping us redefine our business to take us in a new direction.
Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk more about the #TSFounder Life!
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Eric Posen and Dan Altmann are the co-founders of Naritiv (Disney ’14), a mobile media company born on Snapchat that went through a pivot during Techstars. This post gives insight on how they realized a pivot was necessary, how they executed it and their reflections on the decision.
What was going on before your decision to pivot?
We were a platform to help creators monetize directly from their biggest fans through interactive content. The focus was on YouTubers. Fans could come watch content from their favorite creators and donate money for awesome rewards like digital downloads and exclusive swag.
How did you execute the pivot?
By the time we started Techstars, YouTube added a feature called Fan Funding which directly competed with our product. We were already fighting an uphill battle in a crowded space. At the same time, a few things things were happening:
- Disney was trying to figure out new mobile platforms like Snapchat.
- The team itself was spending more time consuming content on mobile-first platforms like Snapchat than anywhere else.
- Many of the creators we work with were spending more time on Snapchat and mobile platforms than YouTube. So we decided to dive in head first on Snapchat as we felt (and still feel) it represents the future of mobile content and the Disney/Techstars folks were extremely supportive.
So, we dove in on a product that would connect brands and publishers to Snapchat in ways they didn’t understand at the time and match them with the best creators.
We were heads down for 8 weeks working on the product and the mentorship from Disney and other Techstars mentors were amazing in helping us shape what we are now.
Any regrets? Was it the right decision?
No regrets. You can’t be afraid to admit things aren’t working and we never have been. Going through this with our MD, Cody Simms, and others within the program was a blessing and we couldn’t have done it without them.
Any advice for other founders who are considering a pivot?
It’s a really hard thing to do and super stressful to go through, but at the end of the day, you have to do what is best for the future of your company. If you have the right investors and advisors they will understand that. Get a lot of feedback from friends, mentors and existing investors.