There is a tipping point all entrepreneurs reach when the amazing idea becomes a public reality. It could be when you publish a mission statement online, send the first tweet from a new handle or launch a surprise product to the masses. There is always the leap, the before and the after.
The question is always when to leap, though, as a poorly executed unveiling can backfire. As I shared in previous columns, for every Elon Musk expertly executing a public plan, there are dozens of Kanye Wests flailing haplessly in the public eye.
Steve Jobs was the master of the perfect reveal. While he confidently took risks, he also made sure that everything was lined up for success: The product partners already lined up behind the scenes, the kinks ironed out of the finished product, the service ready to go live when the announcement was done and the infamous "Oh, and one more thing." And even Jobs had to know when to pull the trigger, though his strategy was obviously the opposite of Musk.
There are excellent reasons to go public early, but a bold, unfinished plan can backfire and wreck your best opportunity to succeed. Here are the strong reasons why you should pause before you throw your rough sketch into the world.
- Plan for success: My rapidly acquired startup Cuddlr was a trial by fire for me and my co-founders, but what I'm most proud of is us planning for success. I led the strategy for if things went big, as in how we would rapidly grow after the initial launch, where would put our energy and the next step in serving our customers. To our surprise, it was Apple's number one app within the first week - and we were ready. Imagine if we rushed our public debut and didn't take the time to plan for the future.
- Get private feedback: Taking your idea to the public stage gives you lots of feedback, but most of it will not be useful (just check the average comment section in a media blog). Worse, it can cloud your ultimate vision of what you intended - it is terribly easy to try to please everyone. Instead, lean on your brain trust as well as people who would ideally use your product or service.
- Reserve the right to change your mind: Yup, once you go public, you lose the ability to privately pivot, adjust or even scrap your idea. As I mentioned recently, I've had many interesting ideas after my startup acquisition. And, to paraphrase (Google) X's Astro Teller, most of our ideas are and should be rubbish. In retrospect, I'm so glad I didn't announce these ideas publicly. We'd be telling a different story otherwise - and I'd now be explaining to you why I decided against going forward, perhaps to your (and my) disappointment.