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iStock 12788584092
iStock 12788584092

Step into the light: It’s time for startups to embrace building in public

By Roei Samuel, CEO and Founder ofConnectd

Transparency has become the cornerstone of today’s society. It is now something we expect, value and, in certain cases, demand. Yet there has always been a stigma around businesses ‘going public’ before they’ve ironed out all the kinks.

How many time-lapse videos have we all seen of someone building a complicated model from start to finish, or producing a breathtaking piece of artwork, exposed to every single stage of the development process? The errors, the corrections, the achievements – they’re all on display for us to see. In turn, we become advocates and supporters. So why should building a business in public be any different?

There’s more value in being honest and open from the beginning, and the sooner startups jump on board, the faster they will reap the rewards.

The origins

Part of the challenge for any startup is promotion and content development. The hustle and bustle of product innovation has raised expectations, so businesses often find their MVPs hold more value now as they fight for their place in the market.

We’ve found in our experience that potential consumers and investors respond well to being included in the entrepreneurial journey from start to finish. Founders realised they could start building relationships with the community early on and open a feedback loop that would ultimately assist with the development of the business.

Keeping the doors well and truly closed risks pushing people away. As a network, we’ve often been a little too afraid of letting people see the raw side of the business – the unfinished product. But that’s arguably the most interesting part.

The tangible benefits of building in public

One of the key advantages of building in public is forming a strong potential client base before launching to market. Customer engagement is critical, so actively bringing them on the startup journey – making them a part of the story – will only improve the chances of securing business opportunities from day one. The natural twists and turns of a story ensure an audience’s continued engagement and compels them to see it through to the end. This loyalty is what building in public can deliver.

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There are also the marketing benefits of collaborating and sharing insights with other entrepreneurs within the same space. There is the chance to establish thought leadership and build awareness for your proposition, which is vital for both customer growth and future partnership opportunities. We’re noticing that investors, in particular, are more interested in how the business came about. They want to see the journey, the struggles and how they were overcome, as well as the triumphs and achievements. This process often makes founders feel vulnerable, but it should only be seen as a strength and a driver of future growth.

As a founder, understanding how the business is progressing will be constantly front of mind, but they might not always appreciate the interest of those around them. Building publicly not only records how the company is doing but it also helps establish a fan base of individuals genuinely invested in its success. As with influencers on social media, their fans enjoy watching things grow and develop in front of them. Building in public can deliver early validation, establishing credibility, authenticity, and advocacy along the way.

How to get started?

The key to building in public is storytelling. A powerful tool is being able to turn a founder’s dream – a unique idea – into a marketable narrative that captivates and draws in audiences.

Successful strategies include a blend of LinkedIn and email content, providing either weekly or monthly updates on the latest struggles and achievements. The more your business is seen to be open and founded on honesty, the stronger your market position will be with customers in the future. A great example of building in public is the companyUnplugged and its founder Hector Hughes. By regularly distributing content, whether this includes significant updates or just general discussion points, startups can generate traction with their audiences.

But the most essential task is outlining the goals and objectives. There’s no point in doing something for the sake of it – there has to be genuine benefit.

It’s never too early

Building in public does not mean startups need to feel obliged to share every minute detail of their processes. All it entails is driving value from delivering honest and informative content surrounding the growth of your company. Establishing a business is not easy, so demonstrating the struggles and solutions encountered not only facilitates an early support base, but also offers reassurance for other startups.

There is no specific time when businesses should ‘go public’ – it could be on day one or after a year. There is value at every stage. Starting from the beginning means your audience will be there every step of the way but waiting until you have a bigger team means more manpower with potentially more to offer. The point is that there is value to be found from building in public, no matter how far along the startup journey an organisation finds themselves.

It’s time to banish the phrase ‘behind the scenes’ and encourage businesses in development out into the open. Go ahead and make your own metaphorical time-lapse video by building in public.

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