How To Get Started With "Build in Public"
What is the big deal, who is it for, and how to get started
In today’s edition of The Discourse, I’m covering the topic of Build in Public. I was fortunate to host a meetup this past week with KP, the 'Build in Public guy'. In case you weren't able to join, the video from the meetup will be available on YouTube soon. Subscribe to be the first to know when that drops. Let’s explore this topic with excerpts from the meetup.
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What is ‘Build in Public’?
There's no one accepted definition.
Build in Public to me is sharing pieces of your work and learnings in public to help others and build a sense of community.
Why is it important now?
It's been a movement, many years in the making. It has been pioneered by Joel Gascoigne of Buffer, Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt, and Pieter Levels of Nomadlist starting in the mid-2010s.
One reason is why it’s important now is that with less reliance on media, PR agencies, and paid ads for distribution, founders and makers have turned to build their own audience and distribution.
Building in public encourages founders and makers to be vulnerable and authentic, as they share their struggles along the way. You bring your community along with you on the journey.
Who should be doing it?
KP had an interesting backstory that made him gravitate towards building in public.
Build in public helps me interact with other interesting people around the world. I just wanted to build whatever that I was building in a way that it would expose me to other ambitious and interesting people outside of Atlanta. And for me, that was happening through Twitter.
For me, I decided to build a startup in 2017, in stealth with the intention of announcing only once I launched. It took many months to build the product and by the end, I didn’t have any audience to get feedback from or sell to. This demoralized me, I stopped working on the startup and took up a job.
I knew that I needed to find a new way to operate. That’s when I read this book called ‘Show your Work’ by Austin Kleon (link to book summary) in 2019, which resonated strongly with me. It served as a playbook on how to leverage the internet through tweets, stories, blogs, podcasts, videos to productize yourself and become a lighthouse for like-minded people.
Getting back to who should be doing it — the common theme here is that Build in Public is for you if you're an indie maker, early-stage founder, operator, or a VC.
What are the upsides?
The upsides are plenty, especially if you're in the target demographic for this. KP articulates this really well:
Building in public is fascinating because it's one part sales and you're kind of selling the vision. It's one part marketing too, because you're constantly staying on top of mind. And it's one part product development, which means you're keeping an ear on the pulse of what people are thinking about your product. And the last one is customer service, or sort of building in community.
What are the by-products of Building in Public?
Build an audience
Give 10, ask for 1
Build a brand
Learn from the crowd
How do you guard against copycat risk when you Build in Public?
The biggest gripe people seem to have with this method is, "If you share everything, won't you just be copied?" KP has some insightful philosophical and tactical answers to this concern.
The philosophical answer is that if you're afraid that someone's going to copy you, then you are not ready for sh*t. If you're the CEO, or the founder of McDonald's, and you say you don’t want to go public, because Burger King is going to copy me — you won't accomplish much. No one's going to join your company if you're so afraid of the competition. And after a certain level, all ideas are much less about the actual idea, but more about the execution.
The tactical answer is that there are a couple of ways in which you can protect yourself, especially if it's a if it's something that's very core to your business. Understand the IP laws and cease and desist.
If you're building in public, you’ll have a public timestamp of what you're doing — like a launch on Product Hunt or even post about it on Twitter. And then, if someone copies, you know you can go back and see which one was the original and which one was the copy.
According to Paul Graham of YC, startups are rarely killed by competition. They’re more likely killed by lack of a market need. And people can copy ideas, but they can’t copy execution very easily. Derek Sivers, in his blog in 2005, eloquently says that ideas are just a multiplier of execution.
How do you get comfortable sharing successes and failures?
I think it first has to do with your mental framing of failure. Twitter works tremendously well for people with thick skin. So when something happens, like an average person might look at it and be like, Oh, my God, it's a failure; I had a goal of 30 sign-ups in a week. But after I launched my landing page, I got 27. I lost. But you also got 27 people to give you their trust.
Who are your inspirations?
I follow people like Ryan Hoover and Courtland Allen, the founder of Indie Hackers, and I noticed that they're prolific and very fearless about sharing their work on Twitter. And watching their insights and learnings from that, than any traditional class that I went to in college or university in the US. So, I just wanted to continue the tradition.
For me, it's been - Sahil Lavingia with his public board meetings; Jack Butcher from Visualize Value by sharing Gumroad and Twitter Analytics screenshots; and Lenny Rachitsky for open-sourcing his playbook for his paid newsletter.
How to get started?
Like the book Show your Work says, start by sharing small snippets of your work in progress and ask for feedback on it. Always strive to add value to the other person, while doing so.
The Building in Public How to Guide - Gaby Goldberg
That's it for today, thanks for reading! Press the ♥️ button if you liked this edition. Have any questions? Leave a comment below, and I'll be happy to answer them.
Talk to you soon!
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