I was cleaning out a drawer recently and I came across the business card for Living Social CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy. In early 2009 we setup a meeting with the hottest Facebook app developer called Living Social. I remember going to their website and reading about the Washington DC based company with a founding team from Revolution Health (?). But now they were hottest Facebook app developer on the planet.

In terms of app developers, at the time theirs had a major hockey stick. Quizzes had just started hitting the user feeds and these guys had the lion share of the popular ones. The numbers he was throwing out were mind blowing.

As Tim walked into the meeting, he had a beat up suit, a wrinkled white shirt, and he looked like he’d been traveling for a week. Nothing he said overly impressed or shook the room. He reminded me of a lot of guys I went to college with in Provo. He was just a nice, normal, mellow guy who founded a company and worked hard with his friends to grow it.

We tried to work with them but it didn’t pan out. As quickly as Living Social had exploded onto the sync, the quizzes were gone like Jean Valjean in the middle of the night. Facebook cutoff their feed access and that was pretty much the end. I don’t know full transition story, but obviously the company pivoted from apps and took a huge roll of the dice to go with the group deals market and they exploded again.

The amazing thing about Tim and Living Social is to think how high they were at the top of the Facebook app world, to then have it all crash down, but then rebuild it all again. Amazing. Maybe he’s a brilliant guy who had an off day with us, but I don’t think so. He’s a normal who has put it all on the line several times, and with the big ups and downs he’s been able to pull out a huge win for the company. He’s a grinder for sure. From on top of the app world, to the floor falling out, he kept pushing and found a way to successfully refocus the company and rebuild (read: pivot).

For all the slack ‘pivoting’ is taking right now, there are some tangible examples of incredible companies that were pivoted into brand new business models from what they set out to create. Something to keep in mind if you’re looking at a new direction from where you originally started. It’s not all bad, just maybe find a different word to use if you’re telling someone about it.

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