We've invested in a few pivots over the years. Twitter is the one that immediately comes to mind. But we invested post pivot there. Return Path's pivot from email change of address to email deliverability happened after my investment and it is a real success story that Matt should blog about (or write a book about because it is a long story).
We've got a pivot in action in our portfolio right now called Hashable.
Hashable is "the ultimate networking app. Exchange business cards, make easy intros and 'check-in' with people to track meetings and calls." If you want to try it out, you can get the iPhone app here, the Android app here, or the web app out here.
Hashable started out as Tracked.com which I blogged about in Oct 2009. Tracked was a competitor to Yahoo Finance and Google Finance. It had a bunch of improvements over both services but it never gained traction. In the winter/spring of 2010, after trying for about six months to launch Tracked.com, the team decided to mothball Tracked.com, which is still live, and focus elsewhere.
The founder, Mike Yavonditte, cut his team down to about five or six people, took the burn way down, and brought in a few new product people (Emily, Teddy, Dave and Oz). Together they thought about different problems that had yet to be solved on the Internet as well as new tools and techniques that were available to them.
The "new tools" they focused on were Twitter, hashtags (that's where the name comes from), checkins, and the social web. The problem they wanted to solve was creating a better database of business connections, based on real world interactions (doing an intro, meeting someone, exchanging business cards, a meal, a meeting, etc). Just like Foursquare allows you to build a database of places you've actually been to, Hashable allows you to build a database of people you've actually met or are going to meet.
They launched a web version of Hashable invite only in the fall of last year and got a very active user base very quickly. The leaderboards and social interactions worked very well. But they also got a lot of feedback on the privacy model. It turns out most people don't want to share their business meetings and business intros publicly. And most importantly, they figured out that Hashable was a mobile first, web second application.
So back to the drawing board one more time. Over the winter, they rebuilt the app, went from default public to default private, and built two awesome mobile apps.
And now, just in time for SXSW (the ultimate networking event) they have launched Hashable (the ultimate networking app). I suggest getting one of the two mobile apps if you have an iPhone or Android and giving it a spin. If you are going to SXSW, you will see Hashable in action.
I'm a big believer in using real world interactions to build a social graph that reflects your real relationships. That in a nutshell is what Hashable is all about. Give it a spin and let me know what you think.