Pivot or perish in changing markets

By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor

The pressure is always on for businesses to adapt to become successful, but in the technology industry, where innovation thrives, companies must work extra hard to find a focus that works both technologically and economically. More

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FOCUS: TECHNOLOGY

Pivot or perish in changing markets

PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL PERSSON
SURVIVE AND THRIVE: Kopin President and CEO John C. C. Fan with one of the company’s wearable-technology prototypes.

By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor

Posted 7/29/13

The pressure is always on for businesses to adapt to become successful, but in the technology industry, where innovation thrives, companies must work extra hard to find a focus that works both technologically and economically.

That can mean shifting focus, sometimes more than once, to find the right niche in constantly changing markets.

Swipely Founder Angus Davis’ company has done so three times since its 2009 inception. The Providence-based company was founded as a product-review site through which customers could share shopping histories. It then transitioned to a customer-loyalty program that would let merchants analyze customer purchases and – most recently and successfully – to a platform that helps merchants accept payments and understand customers.

Swipely’s latest iteration has garnered the attention of investors. The company raised $12 million in a series B funding round in May and, according to Elizabeth Ducoff, a senior manager in public relations and marketing, is so “laser-focused” on its future that it did not want to discuss past endeavors.

“I think it’s true in life, but it’s almost certainly true in new ventures – everything that you’ve planned out has to change,” said M. Cary Collins, a finance professor at Bryant University. Collins added that most likely, the drive to change in the business world is coming from either clients or competitors.

“You listen and you change. Sometimes you find that the revenue model isn’t there. There’s just no one there to pay for what you’re proposing,” said Collins. “Still, if you know you’ve got good technology … if you’ve got a good team that works well together, then it’s really incumbent on you to keep the team together and keep the technology and go find the problem that really needs your coding skills and is worth conceiving.”

This is exactly what GreenBytes Inc. did when it started to shift its focus last spring. GreenBytes, founded in 2007, originally offered only data-reduction and data-deduplication technology as a way to reduce the amount of disc space required for companies to store backups.

“We had some competition and the competition outcompeted us in the marketplace,” said CEO Stephen O’Donnell. “They had more money, and they were just able to do sales executions better than we were. … So what we decided to do was to spin the business around, to actually turn our back on the market we’d been addressing in the past and focus on a brand new market.”

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