Building In Public: Is This a Good Idea or Not?

I asked a group of founders their opinion about building in public, and everyone had different things to say about the concept.

I’m not here to give you an outright answer. Rather, I’ll provide you with a general overview and you can decide what the answer is for you.

In this article, we will be looking at: 

  1. What it means to build in public,
  2. The benefits of building in public
  3. Real-life examples of companies that did this.

Let’s dive right in.

What is Building in Public?

The concept of building in public just like the name suggests is the idea of building a company, a product, or anything and sharing a lot of the  "behind the scenes information" with the public.

It is about creating content and sharing your company or product’s story as it unfolds with openness and vulnerability.

In the past, most founders and business owners worked and built their businesses with so much secrecy. Everything from ideas to operating procedures, to how much money they were making was a secret.

This was probably done out of fear of:

  • exposing too much information, 
  • not wanting to see their vulnerability, or 
  • being judged by others.

Another reason could be to prevent other people from copying and stealing their ideas.

Currently, the internet has changed how ideas are seen. Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, and starting a business has become easier, making competition more fierce.

In cases where ideas are copied, a lot of focus is now placed on execution and things that aren't easy to be copied.

The result of all this is that competition is now higher than ever! Different businesses now compete for the same audience, so as a founder, you need a way to stand out. One way to do this is by “building in public”.

With the idea of “building in public”, founders share their entrepreneurial journey publicly via their favourite channels. This may include sharing their struggles,  learnings, anecdotes, and even key business metrics, to build authenticity and trust with their audience.

Now that you know what building in public means, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of building in public.

Benefits of Building in Public

1. An Avenue for Immediate Feedback

Building in public helps founders get instant and real-time feedback from their audience. This helps them make informed decisions and adjustments early on in the product development process.

2. Establish Transparency and Trust

When founders openly discuss their successes and setbacks, this helps to establish trust with the audience. When users see the journey and the work behind the product, they see themselves as part of the process and it rubs off on how the audience perceives the brand.

3. Community Building

When founders engage with their followers and enthusiasts, this can foster a dedicated community around their product or idea. This community can provide support, share insights, and even become early adopters or evangelists of the brand.

4. Organic Growth and Marketing

Regularly sharing updates on the process and progress can help draw attention and interest from those who find value in the founder’s journey. This can lead to organic growth and a broader audience or user base over time.

5. Validation and Affirmation

Receiving positive feedback and encouragement from the public can be a significant morale boost. This is even more encouraging when there's a genuine interest or demand for what is being built, as it can help validate the efforts and direction of founders.

Examples of Startups that have built-in public

  1. Fullgap 

If you are active on Nigeria's Twitter Tech space, you should know Victor Fatanmi, who is one of the co-founders of Fullgap.

Fullgap is a platform for freelancers, where they can onboard clients, manage projects and automate their processes. 

Victor used his Twitter handle to singlehandedly lead marketing efforts for the startup by publicly sharing information about what they were building, their challenges and their product development journey.

Fullgap acquired over 4,000 users, managing 400+ projects valued at over $100,000.

2. Pieter Levels (Nomad List, Remote OK):

Pieter Levels is an entrepreneur who has built several projects, like Nomad List and Remote OK, in public. He regularly shared progress on Twitter, posted metrics, and gathered feedback.

Result: By building in public, Pieter rapidly grew a dedicated following, and his projects gained traction quickly. His open approach also allowed him to identify and respond to user needs effectively. Nomad List, for instance, quickly became one of the top online resources for digital nomads.

It is important to note that, while building in public comes with some benefits as outlined above, there are some potential drawbacks as well, part of which include:

  • privacy concerns,
  • managing audience expectations, and 
  • the potential for increased scrutiny from the public.

Therefore, it's vital that you weigh your options to determine whether building in public aligns with your project's goals, values, and target audience.

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