Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #165
What's the difference between solo-parenting and solo-entrepreneuring?
My wife was on a trip last week, so I was flying solo on all the parenting work. It reminded me a lot of being a solo startup founder, so I thought I’d share what I learned. You’ll find those lesson’s in this issue’s first article.
I’ve also been getting lots of emails (good and bad) responding to an article I shared a few weeks ago that called Walt Whitman the equivalent of 19th-Century TikToker. Some of the questions in those emails were worth exploring, so I’ve written a follow-up article, which is article #2 below.
Finally — and on a completely unrelated note — I’m currently being harassed by my mother-in-law’s labradoodle puppy, Tosh, whom I’m petsitting. She’s wants to play 24 hours a day, which means she’s staring daggers at me for not throwing the squeaky green ball at my feet. I’d better end this intro blurb and go play with her before she decides to pee all over my house. However, it feels wrong not to share her cuteness with all of you, so here it is:
Hint: It’s the same reason most founders prefer working by themselves. It’s also the same reason why I enjoyed being a solo-parent for a week.
Even if you don’t want to be TikTok famous, good entrepreneurs need to know how to reach more people.
Office Hours Q&A
Me and some friends are working on a startup, and one of my co-founders is trying to convince the rest of the team we should operate in “stealth mode.” He’s worried about people stealing our idea if we’re too public about it.
What’s your opinion of that? Should new startups be in stealth mode? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask this question to, and it’s because I have very strong opinions. I think entrepreneurs who try to hide what they’re working on because they’re worried about other people stealing their ideas are destined to fail. They have to. They’re focused on the wrong thing. Specifically, they think the ultimate success or failure of their hard work is going to be determined by whether or not they have good ideas, but that’s not what’s important.
Nobody is going to steal your idea. That’s not how entrepreneurship works. Because of that, “stealth mode” seems, at best, pointless and, at worst, wildly counterproductive. By not being public about what you’re working on, you’re limiting the amount of feedback you’re going to get, and that lack of feedback is more likely to hinder you than anyone copying your work.
I suppose someone could argue that you should be in “stealth mode” if you’re building an important and valuable new technology, but I’m not so sure that’s true. After all, there are ways to publicly discuss what you’re working on without giving away sensitive IP. For example, I could tell someone I’m trying to develop a cure for colon cancer without divulging the unique and patentable mechanism I’m targething with whatever drug I’ve got in development.
To be fair, I’m sure there are rare cases where “stealth mode” makes sense, I’ve just never encountered any of them. For example, maybe you’ve recently left a company specifically to pursue a competitive product and you don’t want your former employer to know you’re about to start picking off their clients. I guess a scenario like that could make sense for “stealth mode,” but that has nothing to do with whether or not someone is going to steal your idea.
So… yeah… to answer your specific question, I’m going to say going “stealth mode” to prevent someone from stealing your idea just doesn’t make sense. Remember, I’m strongly biased against the idea, but… well… I’m still pretty sure I’m right.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!