Building in Public vs. Building in Stealth

And a way to get the best of both worlds

One of the largest and fastest growing company pages on LinkedIn isn’t a real company, but you probably know someone who “works” there:

Maybe you’ve even considered joining “the company” yourself (hilariously, it does have a Glassdoor page too) and building your startup in stealth.

At the same time the “build in public” movement has grown to the point of spawning its own fellowship program.

Why are both of these very different paths for startups growing in popularity? Shouldn’t it be clear at this point which is better? What are the tradeoffs you make with each?

This week I compared the two philosophies and highlighted a third approach that gets the best of both worlds 👇

Build in Public vs. Build in Stealth


Building in stealth → Keeping your startup’s plans, product, and vision private. Only sharing outside of your team on a need to know basis (i.e. partnerships).

Building in public → Sharing your startup’s progress and challenges very transparently in public, often through content.

Differences & Tradeoffs

It’s common to downplay the risks of building in public.

Just sharing your idea is not a big deal — execution is the hard part. But it’s a lot easier for someone to execute well against you else when you hand them information about your business.

Not only can someone learn what worked well for you and copy it (that’s actually less of a risk), but they can also see where you’re struggling and in some cases how fast your revenue is growing and how much cash you have.

Information is the currency that drives strategic decisions. You can’t outflank someone if they know where your troops are positioned but you don’t know where theirs are.

Like life, startups aren’t about being a knight on horseback — each one is a fight for a knife in the mud.

More practically, building in public isn’t useful if your customers aren’t frequently making purchase decisions from social media. Or you’re unable to quickly grow your following. Then you’re just shouting into the void and getting a low ROI on your time.

With that said, building in stealth has many issues.

First and more importantly: your product will not sell itself.

Founders underestimate how much time they’ll need to spend selling, and how hard it will be even with a good product.

If it’s impossible for prospective customers to find out any information about your product until you tell them yourself, you’ve 10x’d the difficultly level of the challenge for yourself.

Building in stealth makes growth, hiring, partnerships, and general serendipitous connections much more challenging because people won’t just come across your startup and see what you’re doing. You actually have to tell them yourself. But you won’t know who already scrolled past you on social media, and people aren’t going to mention it to their friends.

Also it’s extremely hard to keep knowledge of what you’re doing away from your competitors anyway. It’s more likely than you think that they’ll hear about you and be able to get some details about what you’re working on.

Both systems are flawed. But there’s a better way.

Best of Both Worlds

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