A lot of companies still talk about being in stealth mode and aiming for a big hoorah type launch. It doesn’t usually work. Worse still, startups that are in stealth mode rarely talk to customers, prospects, users, partners or anyone else before their big reveal, which means they have little to no validation for what they’re doing. They haven’t given themselves the opportunity to learn anything while they’ve spent months building their “revolutionary” product.
Stealth mode stinks.
You need to find a way of getting to customers, talking to the right people, and validating (or more likely invalidating) what you’re doing. If you go into a dark cave, spend months building something, and then launch, there’s a very good chance no one will care. And that’s incredibly painful.
Quiet mode is different.
I’m working with a couple startups right now that are in quiet mode. They’re actively talking to customers–daily in fact–and collecting tons of feedback. They’re iterating quickly and learning … all in plain sight. But no one, except for their users, cares. No one, except for their users, notices. And that’s perfectly fine. That’s the right way to “launch” without being in stealth mode.
You don’t need to get on a rooftop and shout your name out loud. You don’t need press. You don’t need community buzz. Unfortunately this is what so many early stage companies go after, and worse they use the buzz as validation that they’re onto something and prematurely attempt to scale without any supportive data or proof that they should. Or they go in the complete opposite direction into stealth mode and speak to absolutely no one, including customers and users, which is a recipe for painful, gut-wrenching failure.
I like quiet mode. Go directly to your customers, as often as you possibly can. Build tight, fast feedback cycles. Learn, learn and learn some more. Adjust your plans and get the traction and proof you need before “launching” officially to the rest of the world. By the time the rest of the world takes notice (and you want them to) you’re cruising. That’s quiet mode. Strategic, lean and focused.
One caveat to this is for recruiting. I’ve argued before that you need to make a lot of noise and build a recruiting magnet if you want to attract people. The press and community buzz can help with this, but very early on, it’s probably not worth the effort. Network, build relationships, and speak with people about what you’re doing in one-on-one sessions. But stay focused. Don’t get into the hype machine for the sake of recruiting and then get caught up in it for everything else. Quiet mode means being strategic about how you recruit. In stealth mode, when you choose not to speak to anyone whatsoever, you have no chance (unless you’re already extremely well connected.)