Stealth Mode in Startups
What It Means and When to Emerge
Many companies choose to stay away from the public before the actual launch of their product. The are several reasons for this, but is it worth it, should you do it, and when you should go out to the public?
A Little History
Most of us have heard of these startups that operate in "stealth" mode, and I don't think that it really needs explanation. But for the sake of the new entrepreneurs, basically, stealth mode enables you to stay hidden from the public. Say, you are not ready to engage with people just yet, or your product is not ready and you have nothing to show. That is when you go into the stealth mode.
This allows you to spend more time preparing for the launch, and it may become the first step to your big success. Companies spend months trying to figure out the best way to emerge, and most of them do so within 6 month.
I also must mention that there are two types of stealth:
- Full Stealth Mode. It means that everything about the company and what they are doing is hidden from the public and won't be disclosed until they decide to launch. Some even go as far as creating a fake name and logo. And even more, a full fake identity may be created just to confuse the curious viewers, while all the company info stays carefully hidden within the startup itself.
- Internal Stealth Mode. This mode is used by existing companies to hide their new products. A great. A great example would be Microsoft's Windows: XP was codenamed Whistler, and we all remember Vista being called Longhorn. What this does is conceals the product in its entirety, because there is no comprehensible information about it in the codename.
People obviously wouldn't do it if there were no real advantages to going in a stealth mode.
The first and the biggest advantage is Intellectual Property Security. If you have a one million idea that was never used before, you want to go stealth so nobody steals and launches it before you do. Apart from that, you will get more time to test the product, do more research and give all your best to put out the best thing ever.
The second advantage is having no pressure from the public. Having no judgment on your actions is particularly helpful when you've still got a lot of work to do.
The third advantage is having no distractions. Again, this is about public. More focus on the tasks at hand!
Done with the good stuff. Now it is time to shed some light on the bad side of stealth.
The first major disadvantage is that you lose the opportunity to gain public's interest. Remember Cyberpunk 2077? Yeah, that kind of thing: everybody is talking about the thing that is about to get released, public is excited, and everyone have their wallets open.
Some people oversee the power of that "pre-buzz" and how it can affect your launch, but there are two sides to it: yes, it can generate a lot of revenue on the start, but it fades away quickly. Yes, people are excited, but their excitement gives them too much expectations, and that means if you fail at something, there will be hell to pay.
The second major disadvantage is feedback. It's absence, to be precise. Nothing can help you better hone your product than tons of feedback from tons of people: be it overly negative or positive one. The truth is, in the endless stream of what would seem useless comments, there will be one that you should really listen to, because the person actually made a good point!
The third downside is being unable to determine the right market fit for your company. Without proper feedback, you won't be able to find just the right spot easily.
The fourth downside is in the very essence of stealth. You simply can't talk to people about what you are doing and why, and it includes some folks that can actually contribute to faster maturity of your company.
It would be fair to say that even in public mode, you should be really careful about who you speak to and what details you disclose to them. But it still can't be compared to full secrecy.
When to Emerge?
Now that's a good question. There are some looking that you should take into account before going public:
- You've got one shot only and it better be a banger. That is why people spend so much time planning: you have to be ready to storm the market and take everything that you can while the fire is still going.
- You have to time it right. There is no universal tip for this one because of the uniqueness of every situation. Generally, you should be looking at some red flags and be ready to take action.
- You have to be able to deal with the fact that the first revenue spike will be short. People quickly lose interest, and because of that, you should be ready to follow up them with another deal shortly after.
From my point of view, starting a business is hard as it is, and being secretive about it only adds another layer of complex mind games to it. Mind the pros and cons, weigh them out, and choose what do you want to do for yourself.