In the long history of innovation, there have been some incredible instances of companies pivoting to a different niche. Perhaps the most startling pivot was Nokia, which despite being the leading mobile phone maker from 1998 to 2012, was originally a small-town Finnish paper and rubber manufacturer.
But while technology companies of today might not so drastically change their infrastructure, even one-beat smartphone apps have successfully overhauled their outlook to adjust to growing tech and mobile trends.
Arguably the most notable example of an app successfully pivoting, is Instagram. Instagram was originally conceived as “Burbn,” a check-in, location-based tool. Unlike Foursquare, its main competitor in this space, Burbn enabled users to share filter-enhanced photos. Co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger quickly realized that users were more intrigued by the photo sharing aspect of Burbn than the check-in function. It was from that insight that Instagram was born. With over 100 million active users, and its historical $1 billion acquisition by Facebook, Systrom and Krieger were wise to pivot.
When Feathr launched in 2012, many people had a similar reaction: I should have thought of that. The app’s original focus was to digitally re-invent the traditional, and archaic business card, while also implementing a social, share function. But co-founder Aidan Augustin decided to point Feathr in a different direction in 2013, repositioning it as an interactive tool for corporate conferences. With Feathr, users are quickly able to access cleanly designed profiles for conference speakers, exhibitors, and other attendees, while also seamlessly connecting via LinkedIn and Twitter. Suffice to say, Feathr has vastly improved its app, and in doing so, could potentially revolutionize the vCard in the process.
Even though Qwiki, which was essentially a “video meets Wikipedia” tool, had been a heralded iPhone app since its inception in 2010, founder Doug Imbruce wasn’t satisfied. Imbruce yearned to compete with video-based social apps, like the Twitter-backed Vine. But instead of implementing Vine’s 6-second, GIF-style approach into his app, the founder went in a slightly different direction. With the new Qwiki, users can create a quick video (or slideshow) sourcing photos from one’s iPhone camera roll, and without any prior editing software knowledge, turn a folder of cute nephew baby pictures into a short video. Users can then share the video with friends, family, and the world (if you really wanted to).