Why Stealth Mode Can Hurt Startups

In most cases, sharing your ideas for feedback helps you quickly create must-have solutions and find authentic demand.

A.T. Gimbel
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June 18, 2024

I sometimes come across startups who reach out for funding/help but don’t like to disclose much of what they are doing because they are in “stealth mode.” While there may be a valid reason, I would say 99%+ of the time this is not helpful and decreases your chances of success.

Harder and slower to learn

The most important thing early on in a startup is rapid learning. You never have the perfect idea out of the gate. It takes many iterations to evolve your understanding of the market, problem, and solution. When you are in stealth mode it is much harder to get feedback from potential customers, teammates, and industry experts. Without that feedback, you will evolve your idea much slower and be at risk of building too much too soon.

Not unique

One of the common reasons I hear people say they are in stealth is because they have such a special idea they don’t want someone to copy it. Trust me, someone somewhere else in the world has the same idea. A successful startup is about the execution way more than the idea

Perceptions for hiring and fundraising

One thing that stealth mode implies is you don’t trust the person you are asking to speak with. If you don’t trust a person you are interviewing to try and hire, why would they join you? If you don’t trust an investor, why would they fund you? Again you can apply some common sense on what you share with whom, but be careful coming across the wrong way.

There may be some special circumstances for types of businesses that more caution is required, but that is not the norm. In most cases, put your ideas out there for feedback and iterate quickly into a must-have problem and find authentic demand. Entrepreneurs that do that will be more successful than keeping things insulated and not quickly getting the feedback you need to iterate the business before you are too far down the wrong path.

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