Pivoting Your Startup Based on Customer Feedback

Lessons from Jeremy Snyder, Founder and CEO of FireTail

As a founder, you pour your heart and soul into your startup, believing you have the perfect solution to a problem. However, what happens when you realize that your target customers don't share the same enthusiasm?

This is where the importance of listening to customer feedback and being open to pivoting comes into play.

In a recent episode of the Startup Hustle podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Snyder, founder and CEO of FireTail, a software company that helps organizations identify and mitigate API security risks. Throughout our conversation, Jeremy shared valuable insights on the challenges of selling to developers and the importance of adapting your product based on customer feedback.

Jeremy and his team initially built FireTail with the intention of selling security code libraries directly to developers. They believed this was the best approach to solve the problem of API security. However, as they engaged with developers at meetups and conferences, they realized that their target audience had other priorities and limited decision-making authority.

Jeremy shared, "We got a lot of that is academically cool. I have other fish to fry. You know, there's there's just a lot of priorities and a lot of kind of conflicting priorities for the developers' time and attention."

This experience resonated with me, as I faced similar challenges when trying to sell to developers with my previous startup, Stackify. Like Jeremy, I quickly learned that developers can be a tough crowd to please. They often have limited budgets and are focused on shipping features quickly, making it difficult to capture their attention and convince them to adopt new tools.

Faced with this realization, Jeremy and his team made the difficult decision to pivot FireTail's strategy. Instead of selling directly to developers, they shifted their focus to selling API visibility and risk assessment tools to security teams. This pivot required them to go back to the drawing board and rethink their product offerings. As Jeremy put it, "We've ended up having to pivot, what we were building, and how we even frame the problem and talk about the problem quite a lot in the last 9, 12 months."

Pivoting based on customer feedback can be a daunting task, but it's essential for the success of your startup.

It requires humility, adaptability, and a willingness to learn from your customers.

When I was building Stackify, we had to make similar adjustments to our product based on feedback from our users. We initially thought we knew exactly what they needed, but we quickly learned that our assumptions didn't always align with reality.

One of the key lessons Jeremy shared was the importance of validating your assumptions through customer conversations. He emphasized, "Every customer conversation you have, even if it's somebody who shows no interest, in the end, you learn from that as well. Yeah. And so you know, just kind of being very, very good and diligent at like, kind of listening to what people say, you know, running demos, talking about your vision, problems you're trying to solve, and getting the feedback along the way, customers, partners, analysts, all of it is informative, and help you, can help push you in one direction or the other that, you know, ideally leads you towards providing a better solution that solves their problems more effectively."

This advice hit home for me, as I've learned firsthand the value of actively seeking and incorporating customer feedback. At Stackify, we made it a priority to regularly engage with our users through surveys, interviews, and beta testing. This allowed us to identify pain points and opportunities for improvement that we might have otherwise missed.

Another important aspect of pivoting based on customer feedback is being open to iterating on your product. Jeremy mentioned that even after FireTail pivoted to focus on security teams, they continued to make adjustments based on feedback. For example, they initially thought that organizing APIs by application would be intuitive for security teams, but they quickly learned that their customers "could not care less" about that hierarchy. This led them to rethink their data management structure and prioritize the information that mattered most to their users.

As entrepreneurs, it's easy to get attached to our original vision and resist change. However, the ability to pivot based on customer feedback is what separates successful startups from those that fail to gain traction. Jeremy summed it up perfectly when he said, "I think it's really easy to get kind of married to the initial vision that you've set out with and not take that feedback into account as you go, and as you grow, we all make mistakes. That's natural."

In conclusion, pivoting based on customer feedback is a critical skill for any startup founder. It requires a willingness to listen, learn, and adapt in the face of challenges. As Jeremy Snyder's experience with FireTail demonstrates, sometimes the path to success involves making difficult decisions and embracing change. By actively seeking and incorporating customer feedback, you can build a product that truly resonates with your target audience and positions your startup for long-term success.


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