Recently Dan Frommer over at the Silicon Alley Insider wrote about the reemergence of “stealth mode”. While I’d argue that it never really went away in the first place, it seems that more people are seeing the virtues of staying under the radar as they build the basics of their business (despite TechCrunch’s declaration that stealth was stupid…). After some hazing from my Foundry partners about several of the companies that I work with remaining silent about their operations (and in some cases off of our website so as not to attract attention to the fact that they’ve been funded) I wrote a post on the topic here.
With one of our portfolio companies, Trada, recently emerging from 18 months of quiet operations, we’re taking the subject up once again (very timely if Frommer’s post is any indication). In the case of Trada, staying quiet about the expert SEM marketplace they were building allowed the company the room to develop their platform in relative quiet and without tipping off any actual or potential competitor to what they were doing. To be clear, we weren’t completely secret about it. We launched with a large number of customers and an active marketplace – we were just selective about who we told what we were up to. This allowed us to both work out the kinks in the system before we put it under the load of the public eye and to be able to launch and talk about not just what we were planning on doing, but what we were actually doing (and had been for some time) for many advertisers who had been users of the company’s platform for months.
Niel Robertson, the CEO of Trada, wrote one of the best articles that I think I’ve read on the subject of stealth on the Trada blog that further describes our thought process around operating the business stealthfully for a number of months. I’d strongly suggest you take a look at it.
And with all this discussion of “stealth” I think Niel and I may have won over at least one of my partners. Brad put up a post yesterday talking about how a number of companies in the Foundry Portfolio have benefitted from keeping all or parts of what they were working on under wraps and then announcing with a bang what they were up to (AdMeld, Oblong, Zynga as well as at least one more that still hasn’t announced it’s existence).
Perhaps all this conversation leads to the conclusion that stealth isn’t the problem – it’s how companies use it.