Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur: Michael Noble on Pivoting



Michael Noble

Thank you to Split Rock Partners  for underwriting the Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur series.

Minnesota tech entrepreneur Michael Noble recently discussed the launch of his latest startup, Apruve during Minnebar, where he subsequently coined the phrase “pivot towards the pain.”

Noble has been living in startup land for years (LimeWire & Nitch), learning a bit about the importance of pivoting early on.

1) What do you mean by “Pivoting”?

In startups, pivoting is often made in response to a necessary change in the product-market alignment.

“This isn’t working how I thought it would, so now I’m going to try something else.” But why are you pivoting and in what direction are you now headed? Answering these questions involve talking to customers and prospects first before determining which way to go. If you listen close enough, your customer(s) will tell you about their pain and it’s up to you to chart a path in that direction.

Pain is the key, pivot towards the pain.

2) How have you pivoted in your startup?

Apruve is all about the pain businesses have when they buy things online, a massive problem that I discovered, in part, through my experiences with a previous product called Nitch.

The business shopper and the authorized buyer are often two different people. This gap is filled with expense reports, use of personal cards, reimbursement, requisitions forms, passing the card around the office, screen shots sent to others, or writing the card number on post it notes (it happens more than you think).

A lot was learned through interactions and conversations that were happening when developing Nitch, and in some ways, Apruve is one large pivot in the direction where a lot of pain was emanating from.

Split Rock Partners

3) What advice to you have for other languishing startups in need of their own pivots?

We’ve all heard many “boat in the water” analogies for startups. Mine wouldn’t involve charting a course through choppy waters from A to B, but rather, get out there and search the water for people that are drowning. Figure out a way to find and save them and they’ll point you toward the others.  So many companies today started with assumptions, but ended up finding their stride based on the customer discovery process.

4) Is there anything else you would like to add?

It’s not up to you to decide if your idea has merit. It’s up to your customer. Talk to as many as you can, test your idea, uncover their true pain and solve it with ease.


  • yaelgrauer

    Love this.

  • http://twitter.com/insphereJon Jon Wittmayer

    This speaks volumes to where I’m at right now.