So, I’m currently doing some work with a startup and the CEO sent me a link to this blog post:

http://trada.com/blog/2010/03/31/the-stealth-mode-trada’s-position-on-staying-stealth/

Basically, the blogger from a startup called Trada is writing about the benefits of keeping their company in “Stealth Mode” until they were ready to open their doors to the public.  Interesting blog post, and although I can see where he is going with all this, I tend to not agree.

“Stealth Mode” only really makes sense to me when you are dealing with a product that is: #1 Easily replicated and #2 Is in a space where there are lots of people who will want to and will have the ability to replicate it quickly and #3 Will be unveiled and launched with a big bang that will generate massive awareness very quickly so as to capitalize on the first mover advantage.

Stealth Mode makes much less sense to me when you are dealing with a product that will depend on building a slow and steady groundswell that will grow into positive momentum.  When in a situation such as that, Stealth Mode only means that you are delaying the starting point for creating the groundswell.  And the reality is, the more secretive and exclusive you are, the less likely it is that the exact folks you will need to help you build the groundswell will just be waiting around to spring into action when you want them to…

Essentially, if you’ve got big big budgets and can drive massive awareness and trial via mass marketing, Stealth Mode is just fine.  If you’ve got small budgets and will rely on buzz, social media, and word of mouth, then it seems more prudent to be out there talking to anybody who will listen…WHEN they will listen.

Now, granted, you don’t want to get too far over your tips where you don’t have anything real to show anyone and you are just wasting your contact points.  But, I think the general rule should be to get out there and open up the doors and let folks come in and kick the tires as soon as possible.

The points in the aforementioned blog about being ready to give the proper level of customer service and being able to carry on the necessary conversations are all seemingly valid on paper – but let’s be honest, the only time that becomes a problem is if you are a huge success and people are super interested in you.  And, if that’s the case, you figure out how to adapt to it, because it is a good problem to have.  Being afraid of being able to handle all the success you are going to have is typically the result of misplace confidence/arrogance and rarely materializes.  The heaps of failed startup stories are not overflowing with those who ultimately failed because they were TOO successful!