Stay Tuned! We Are Being Purposefully Vague Right Now

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 2 Open for Business Stage, skmurphy

I came across an interesting tool this week in the collaboration area. The web page invited me to apply for membership, prompting me to enter my e-mail, twitter handle, blog, and a brief bio. But they were “purposefully vague’ about who they were. It wasn’t exactly stealth mode, more like maintaining deniability if it failed mode.

Purposefully Vague

There was no about page, no physical address or phone number, and none of the founders were listed. I read through a few blog posts and one listed a generic e-mail address I could use to contact the team in lieu of the application form. I sent in the following e-mail:

Subj: You need an about page and team bios

It looks like an interesting service but it’s difficult to determine where you are headed or the basis for your commitment to collaboration and collaborative problem solving.  I am on the fence as to whether I should take the time to apply since it’s difficult to judge your pricing model.  If you are looking for folks to come forward and participate–beyond those who already know you–then you need to turn over some cards.

I got the following reply in about 30 minutes.

Thanks for reaching out.

We are being purposefully vague right now.

But you are completely right that we’re going to need to be more clear and forthcoming when we are ready to grow.

Stay tuned!

It’s an interesting response on a number of levels.

  1. They are not in stealth mode, they have working examples of what the workspace looks like (but no pricing or business model so it’s difficult to determine their real intent and future vector).
  2. As a startup you should be ready to grow from the instant that you open your application up to outside users. They spent some amount of time trying to create a viral loop (for example I could tweet the fact that I applied to join) so they are trying to add users.
  3. “Stay tuned!” implies they have something so revolutionary that I should bookmark the site or setup a Google Alert so that I don’t miss their real launch or next major announcement. I think it’s a mistake when you have someone’s attention to tell them to come back later.

Related Blog Posts

  • Startups Should Sign Their Work
  • In “Stealth Mode, Schmealth Mode: The Real Reasons Why Startups Don’t Talk” Dharmesh Shah outlines some reasons why startups say, “We’re not talking about our plans just yet.”
    • Lack of Direction
    • Lack of Focus
    • Lack of Commitment
    • Lack of A Solution
    • They Have A Secret
  • NuSym De-Cloaks 3 which highlights  some guidelines for improving the credibility of a website from the  Captology team at Stanford;  here are the first four:
    1. Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
      You can build web site credibility by providing third-party support (citations, references, source material) for information you present, especially if you link to this evidence. Even if people don’t follow these links, you’ve shown confidence in your material.
    2. Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
    3. Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.
    4. Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
  • Elad Gil offers a balanced view in “Is Stealth Mode Stupid?
    • If something is working at scale and you do not have any competition, and your expansion does not depend on PR/broad awareness, you should stay more stealthy.  Or, you can chose Google-style, to be stealthy about how well the business model is working, while hyping up the consumer side of the product which will benefit from all the attention without necessarily creating more competitors.
    • In contrast, if your growth depends on PR/awareness, the market is already competitive, and you are trying to break away from the pack, tooting your own horn and talking about your success can help a lot.

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