In one of our “Myths About” series, we looked at a few myths about pivoting and one of the myths that stood out was “Your company has to fail before you realize it’s time to pivot”. In the post, we explained that the time for pivoting is usually dependent on factors that affect the business’ bottom line.
We took a few steps further and sat with a founder who had first-hand experience of pivoting.
Meet Tonye Membere-Otaji
Tonye is the Founder/CEO of MVX, one of our portfolio companies. MVX exports goods to any port in the world from over 420+ clients and offers embedded trade finance to businesses in Nigeria. Focused on optimizing the supply chain, MVX moves goods easily and faster with over 10k freight partners on the continent (6+ African countries) and with its expansion plans is now headquartered in Austin, Texas in the US.
MVX was originally known as MVXchange, a digital platform matching ships with charterers in West Africa’s offshore oil and gas ecosystem. In 2020, MVX pivoted to a B2B digital freight forwarding and customers brokerage platform. In 2021, MVX launched an embedded trade finance service.
What started with connecting local shipowners in West Africa to businesses that needed offshore ships, evolved into a digital platform that empowers businesses to coordinate, organize and scale their import and export trade transactions.
When did you know it was time to pivot? Were there any signs?
The major stimuli for our pivot were dwindling global oil prices and the extraordinary economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our core product at the time relied heavily on the oil and gas sector, and the downturn in this industry meant that for months sometimes, we went without business. It was clear our business model was unsustainable in the long term. We had to take a long, hard look at our products and innovate with the future in mind.
How did you go about it? Any process or peculiar strategy to transition seamlessly?
I led an incredibly dynamic team that understood what we wanted to achieve early on, making our pivot easier for us. As soon as the idea caught on within the company, everyone committed to building it out at all costs.
Did the pivot affect the team? If yes, how? Team size? Morale? Commitment to work?
We operate a lean and agile team, so the effect was minimal. It was only about redirecting our focus and effort at building a new product for a familiar market. Where necessary, we hired experts. But generally, the team responded well to the changes, and we’ve been expanding ever since.
What were the outcomes after pivoting?
The outcomes were phenomenal, so much so that we became more bullish about our purpose and built more solutions for the African trade ecosystem. We are expanding fast while perfecting our products to offer more for Africa as well as the global market.
In a nutshell, pivoting does not always mean a total overhaul of your company. It could simply be a response to market changes, technological developments or change in the vision for your product. To pivot seamlessly, you need to work hand in hand with your team and hire experts where necessary.