When should you remain stealth?
Shared by zach · 139d ago · 9 comments

I see companies from time to time in "stealth mode". In what scenarios does this give them a better chance of success?

dcg · 135d ago

It would be easy to make the case that being in stealth is a bad idea. “Launch quickly” is such common startup trope it’s almost not worth discussing. But launching does have consequences:

* You’ll alert competitors. GCP famously didn’t invest in itself until AWS “launched” just how profitable it was.
* You lose mystique and allure. Mystery boxes are fun to open.
* You might get sued for trademark or patent infringement.
* You damage your company's brand if the product isn't good enough.
* And many others.

For the most part, these worrywarts are delightful intellectual games. Fun to think about, so we spend time thinking about them. But we’re not paid to solve brain-teasers, and truth is often simple: you are default dead until you come alive. Unless there is an incredibly specific reason why you’re unique, I would encourage you to launch. The world is really overloaded with news right now. The only way you’ll get users, attention, and revenue is if you make a fuss about it.

Remember, you can always launch multiple times, even with different names. Experiment and get out there!

Lankinen.xyz · 131d ago

The brand point is not true with small startups. In Creativity Inc Ed explained how they sold some software first for too much because that the advice someone gave them and then they tried to sell it for less and no one wanted because they already had the image that the software were expensive. Maybe if the markets are so small that there is only handful of companies it might make sense to be sure you don't destroy the brand but when selling ot consumers there are always more people that have never heard of the company.

true stealth is generally over-rated unless you're filing some patents; we're in semi-stealth, i.e., there are public demos on https://heyjingle.com/ -- in general, the more interaction you can drive the better, and only very few can do that via stealth

Lankinen.xyz · 138d ago

I think almost all good ideas fall into two categories: 1. something that became possible lately 2. something that sounds so bad that no one wants to try it. In the second case it doesn't matter how many people you tell about the idea because they don't want to take any action. The idea sounds impossible, stupid, or other ways something they don't want to touch. In the first case people might also realize that "oh yeah that's actually pretty good idea". But very rarely these people then take any kind of action towards executing the idea. They copied it from you so they don't probably share the same passion and without it in most of the cases they fail. That said maybe 0.1% of the people you tell really might cause compeition but it's such a small chance compared to how much help you can get by talking that it's not worth it to keep the idea stealth.

hugomontenegro · 138d ago

I agree with Lankinen. Unless your idea is truly groundbreaking, don't keep it secret. People aren't going to copy you, they have enough on their plates already. On the other hand, making your project public/semi-public grants you access to feedback, makes it possible to grow an audience, gauge interest, and in general will make the execution of your idea much better.

gavinyue · 138d ago

When you have no satisfying product, staying visible does not help.

zach · 137d ago

Seems the consensus here is the only benefit it "may" provide is patent defense. Any others to consider? I'm not considering it with my startup, just curious where it's lead to a more successful outcome for a company than if they went public.

AndyDent-Touchgram · 128d ago

Touchgram has an international patent granted and in progress in various countries. According to my patent lawyer, in some jurisdictions it is important to have filed somewhere prior to public disclosure. We took that to an extreme filing an Australian "provisional patent" prior to the public graduation demo day from the Founder Institute.

You don't have to go into much detail with provisional patents so the stealth argument doesn't hold great sway there. Big companies file patents in other countries all the time for this relative secrecy.

adi · 137d ago

My philosophy on stealth has always been that if someone can build it a lot better than you and has the capacity to drive you out of market, it's perhaps better to know about it first. It's too little a risk for too high a benefit. However, if you're talking about intellectual property, things change. I don't think you can file for a patent if your design is already publicly known. If IP is something you're exploring, it could perhaps be a better idea to do some research and maybe talk to lawyers or your mentors.