Billy Chasen, the co-founder and CEO of Turntable.fm, learned to shift gears and abandon projects when necessary. In 2008, he unveiled an app called Firefly that let users live chat with one another and see the cursors of those looking at the same webpage. The app got some buzz, but didn’t gain the kind of traction Chasen wanted, so he decided to take the web data he gathered with the tool and turn it into an analytics company called Chartbeat, which is still used by many organizations today.
You’ve clearly pivoted multiple times in your career. What is your thought process when weighing whether to pivot from one project to another?
It’s incredibly stressful. It’s easy to look in hindsight and see they were the right decisions at the time. If we did the pivot from Firefly to Chartbeat and Chartbeat failed in six months, it would be a different hindsight. You make the best decision you can. What I’ve always tried to do at every point along the way is be as objective as possible and look at the pros and cons and see where I am. I try not to make decisions based on the amount of work I’ve put into something or the amount of love I’ve put into something and instead pull myself back and look at the usage and make the best decision going forward on how to evolve.
No startup that I’ve ever started or been a part of has ever been a perfectly direct path. It’s always pulled in certain directions, and the better you are at reading those directions, the more successful you will be.
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