There's been a lot of discussion about being anti-stealth. A stealth startup is one that isn't telling anyone what they're building and being very protective about the idea. Anti-stealth is the polar opposite - broadcasting everything, from your long-term vision, project status, and even financials. Anti-stealth is, in its purest form, about complete transparency in the business.

Being "stealth mode" was in part about protecting the idea, but also gives the impression that the idea itself is revolutionary. In a sense, it's At one point this might have worked, but we realized more and more that many of these companies in "stealth mode" had average ideas at best.

Being "anti-stealth" has its own pros and cons. The real value in broadcasting your message is that you'll get feedback and opportunities that would otherwise go undiscovered, as Charlie discovered. There are many benefits I can see being completely transparent. Of course, you actually have to execute better because your idea - and your vision and strategy and status - is out there.

I think Charlie has been successful with his anti-stealth because, if you know him, you'll know that it's a natural style for him, but also because no one else was doing it. In a world where everyone was being over-protective, Charlie got a lot of attention for Path101 in part because he was doing something completely different in the execution of the business.

Of course, neither strategy really makes or breaks a company. We all know "it's not the idea, it's the execution", but as Hank Williams astutely observed on the nextNY list there's a lot more nuance than we're admitting here. You have to consider the nature of the business you're building, the competitive landscape, your place in that landscape, whether you're the market leader or trying to be the disruptive player. Like most things in life, there's really a lot of gray area. Strategy is not, and should not be, prescriptive. A strategy that works for one company and one personality may or may not work for someone else.

The "Anti-Stealth" movement has been extremely positive because, among other things, it has shown that the strategy of openness can be good. On the other hand, Apple has done pretty well by being "stealthy" about its product releases and strategy. 

Corey and I are both bloggers, and we certainly understand the value in being open. I think it's fair to say that, generally speaking, we're both going to tend towards being more open than closed. That said, we haven't gotten on the bandwagon because don't think it quite makes sense for us to be "anti-stealth" with Notches yet. Now, we're not a "stealth mode" company by any means - we're more than willing to talk to anyone about what we're doing and where we're going - we just don't think there's value in broadcasting it yet.

We first started talking about our vision nearly 2 years ago. As you might expect, the strategy and vision is probably the furthest along. Because we're building a platform, we've focused most of our development time to this point on designing a back-end system that is scalable and flexible. Unfortunately, our implementation on the "visible" portions of the project is not up to par with the strategy and backend yet.

We want to be in a position to actually have people use the platform and actually act on the feedback. Since launching in this state only captures a small part of the vision, much of the actual feedback is going to lag behind where we want to be anyway. We don't want to get feedback about things we have planned already, we want people to help us drive the platform forward. This is the real value for us in being transparent.

Hank also outlines a few other reasons for not being completely free and open with the idea, which I think apply in different degrees to Notches.

Do you have what you need to do the idea? Is the idea more easily copyable than you would like and yet not in the market so that by telling others before you get your idea out there you are jeopardizing an early lead potential? Also, there are times when you have a good idea in an established company's market. If they were to hear about it too early, they might start copying, eliminating them as a potential acquirer. Also, if you have a patentable idea, going public before filing at least a provisional patent application means that you *cannot* file for any international patents.

In our case, we're dealing with existing market leaders that might be in a better position to implement certain portions of the idea today, or at least destroy the "novelty" of those elements. It's one thing if they come up with what see as being obvious on their own, but we're struggling with putting this out there entirely and tipping them off. The cost / benefit just doesn't seem to make sense for us right now.

Furthermore, there's the issue of attention fatigue. We don't want to get people excited about a vision before we're in a position to quickly follow up on the vision and deliver on the feedback. We don't want to be vaporware.

Cross-posted to the Notches blog


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