Pivoting to success

A pivot is the term for a company that changes its business model in order to take advantage of an opportunity.  The opportunity is often only visible after the founders have progressed with their initial concept enough to learn about their market and its needs. Many of the hottest companies today, from YouTube (which started as a dating site) to Flikr (which was a videogame) are examples of great pivots.  The founders in these companies tested their hypothesis and realized they wouldn’t work, so they moved in the direction that would. The affectionate name for this is “failing fast” and its a good thing.  Chad and I did just this about 3 weeks ago when we changed our underlying business model.

Our previous idea was a marketplace for creative messaging services, from funny eCards to custom phone calls from voice impersonators.  What we found was that people wanted ways to interact, but our product offering was too wide.  We were talking with too many different target markets. We needed a much more narrow product offering which would enable us to target just one demographic and build a core user group. Our customers and artists told us repeatedly that they were interested in printed cards.  We heard “I love the eCards but I want you to mail it as a real card” and “I hate going to the store to buy cards, I end up not sending them! Can you make some of your eCards available to print?”

We started researching the greeting card market and realized that it is massive. Over 7.5 billion greeting cards are bought each year in the US, representing a $11B market with over 3,000 independent publishers. Only a handful of small companies currently print and mail cards from a web marketplace and none of them are executing the concept particularly well.  Chad quipped that we could do to greeting cards what NetFlix did for videos, bring the card buying process online.  As soon as that came out of his mouth, we both instantly realized the market potential.  We were hooked.

That was 3 weeks ago.  Since then we’ve repurposed our website and launched the new features as a minimum viable product.  Try it out, you can actually have us print and mail a card for you right now. Don’t forget to let us know what you think of this new direction in the comments.

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Pivoting to success

14 thoughts on “Pivoting to success

  1. Sebastien DesMarais says:

    Love the new concept. VERY useful, especially for someone like me who always forgets and ends up never sending cards. I also love where you can go with this initial concept of designing digital and having the rest done for you, especially now that within my own business i’m reaching out to people to design and print company brochures, newsletters, calendars, etc. I would love to have the ability to go online and do it all myself instead of having to pay expensive design fees. I definitely see some potential here. Keep it up.

  2. Berto says:

    Umm, your nudgems.com home page doesn’t AT ALL explain what it is you guys are trying to sell or how it works. I think it’s a great idea, but your execution is empty. You are allowed to have more than 6 words on your web page, you know…

    Suggestion – Facebook Application Integration, and weekly (or monthly) reminders of friends of yours who have birthdays coming up. And also allow people to add custom alerts for relatives not on Facebook (or who don’t share their bdays).

    PS – Been following you guys for a bit, Eric in Austin told me about you.. my old comments were blocked by Akismet.

    1. admin says:

      Thanks for the honesty Berto. The site is a Minimum Viable Product for us to test out the concept, we aren’t advertising or trying to convert users just yet. We’re going to be rebranding the site with a different name & design with a real conversion flow in the next few weeks. We’re hiring a designer and a dev right now.

      Man cards would be sweet, if you know an artist that would want to create them on our site, we’d approve them for a shop. Your feature suggestions are good, they are on deck for the next couple releases. Are you referring to Eric Gross?

  3. Berto says:

    Another suggestion while we’re at it – Something my buddy said the world needed: MAN CARDS

    Imagine wedding cards. They’re all wimpy and lame. Come out with a line of cards that are edgier, more hardcore, and rough around the edges. From men to men. Task your artists for some of that. Cuz I’m not sending a card with a picture of a giraffe on it to my brother.

  4. Exciting change of direction for you two. If Nudgems can make me look like a hero, I’ll use it. Here’s how I would like the service to work (it’s all about me, after all):

    1) Create an account that asks for my credit card once.
    2) Import the birthdays, anniversaries, etc. from my calendar/address book.
    3) E-mail me 3-6 suggested cards 5 days before each of the occasions for me to select & personalize.
    4) Ship the card for me and make me look like a thoughtful friend/husband/etc.

    If you create this, I’m good for at least 20 cards/year, probably more if I listed everybody that I want to send a card to but never remember to.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Great concept and excellent feedback you are receiving! I love the idea of a few “suggested cards” based on previous purchases. I wonder if you could categorize sentiments like “types of humor”? The majority of cards I find in the humorous section are not funny to me and I have to dig and dig to find the one that makes me laugh. Usually I end up going home with something blank. But if you could target humor (and other sentiment) styles it could become the Pandora of greeting cards – a genome project of personal taste.

  6. I love the new pivot. @Berto’s the “man card,” hilarious! Can’t wait to see this take off for you guys and I look forward to helping by buying a few as holidays and birthdays come around 🙂

  7. Eric says:

    Let users upload a signature as an image to attach. If it can store it in my profile and automatically send birthday cards on-time that look like they were signed by me, I think you’ll have a hit! 🙂

    However, I do wonder how you’d make this site offer value over other companies. What’s to stop VistaPrint from deciding to add a “Greeting Cards” category to their site and destroying you in one fell swoop? I guarantee they can print/ship for a much lower cost than you ever would be able to….

    1. admin says:

      The risk in any new business is that people with lots of money wipe you out in one fell swoop. That fear keeps people from starting new companies.

      Keep asking for the automatic signature feature. If enough people ask for it we’ll build it.

  8. Berto says:

    Yep, E-Gross is my boy… I used to work with him. I’m now a full time internet marketer (mostly nutrition stuff) and when I last visited him, he told me about you guys, so I follow you.

    Anyway, my buddy with the “Man Card” idea has moved on to architecture stuff and doesn’t have time. But there’s a need. Other good feature requests in here for sure — I like where this is going.

    PayPal’s new payment system is great too. Low fees and people don’t even need a PayPal account to pay. I’m a big fan.

    1. admin says:

      Thanks for following us, that makes us feel great. We love the direction PayPal is heading in, the sooner the better on the easier to use APIs.

      If you meet any artists that want to do “Man Cards” we’re all for it!

  9. The idea is certainly a good one – Minted.com is doing Threadless for cards and they’re doing well. (Their CEO is on the board of the company where I’m CTO.) There is room for multiple players if you focus on a niche within the market. I took a semester off Yale in 2001 to work on starting a SaaS event management company and decided to close it down because I was worried about a well-funded competitor. Instead of shutting the company down I should have pivoted to something else.

    So keep talking to your users and meeting their needs and you’ll find the right product-market fit.

    1. Minted.com is a great site. Both of us like a lot about what they do and their commitmn tothe artistic community.

      We certainly have a long way to go, but we feel strongly that we’re in a niche that works (and don’t think we compete with Minted). We’d love an intro to the CEO, there could be a lot of value in knowing some of the other leaders in the space.

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