5 Reasons to Stay in Stealth Mode
Stealth mode is a somewhat contradictory state that many startups find themselves in during the early days. I say contradictory because it’s the normal course of business to try to tell the world about what you’re up to, so it’s ironic when companies shutdown any such attention with a cursory “we’re in stealth mode”.
Why would a perfectly good company want to keep things under the hood? They’ve generated interest (somehow) and then when popped the question in a public forum: “So what does your company do exactly?” you get a rather inane “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to delete you.” Here’s the chance to make some news and gather some fans, but it’s turned down.
So what are the reasons why you might want to stay in stealth? Here’s my top 5, in order of worst to best:
5. Building Buzz
Here’s the most frivolous of reasons to stay in stealth. To build a sense of mystery about what you are doing. This can be expertly managed sometimes to great effect. Most of the time though, nobody cares about you till they know what you’re doing.
4. You’re Never Wrong
Stealth mode is an entrepreneurial utopia of perfect products; grape-fed by milk and honey VC’s as you prepare for the mass hordes of users standing patiently waiting for you to enrich their pitiful lives. When you tell everybody what you’re doing they may (pause for effect) not care! Please, anything but that…
There’s a disclosure requirement under patent law that means basically you can’t go ahead and tell the world the method behind your technology without first applying for a patent on it. This isn’t quite as simple as I’m making it sound, but it can/will make your life harder down the track.
If you have something patentable then you should get an application in before publicly explaining how your idea works. (Also keep in mind that I’m not a patent attorney, so you need to check on your particular status with a good patent lawyer – email for a recommendation if you don’t know anybody good).
2. Competitors Stealing Your Idea
I could devote a few pages to the subject of whether competitors are really going to steal your idea. It really comes down to the stage you’re at, the strength of the concept, and how much competitive advantage you really have. Not giving your close competitors ideas, especially if they are startups looking for funding, is always a good thing. Just don’t be so paranoid that you don’t end up giving your concept the proper exposure to test its viability (probably the greatest single mistake by most young entrepreneurs).
1. You Can Change Your Mind
Now for the only really strong reason: You can change your mind if you want to. In the early days of a concept everything is rosy and simple. But the reality of turning your idea into a practical, fundable, marketable, saleable, feasible application will require significant refinement. In the end, your product may not be anything like what you thought it would be. By staying in stealth you remain free to adapt and change your message, image and model without looking like your flipping all the time. Stay in stealth till you’re sure of what and who you are.