– Mark Suster is a former serial entrepreneur and a partner at Los Angeles-based venture capital firm GRP Partners. This article originally appeared on Suster’s blog “Both Sides of the Table”. The views expressed are his own. –
I made every textbook mistake at my first startup, which is why I believe I was much more effective at my second one. I have adopted the motto “good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment.” We need to learn from doing, by trial and error.
If I can help you avoid some of my first-time mistakes it would be a victory. The following are some lessons I learned about early-stage startup marketing. Because market is such a broad topic, I’m restricting these lessons to PR marketing (as opposed SEO, SEM, product marketing, etc.).
1. Where Stealth is Good – There’s a lot of discussions on the Web about whether startups should be stealthy before they launch or not. The truth is there isn’t a “right” answer for your company. You need some guidelines to make decisions. My general rule is that it’s good to be stealth in the early days while you’re building your product and testing your market. Stealth does not mean constipated, paranoid and totally untrusting of others. It does mean not telling more people your future plans than is necessary. It means avoiding drinking too much at cocktail parties with other tech people and bragging about your plans. It means not over-sharing your deal with VCs or other investors.
The truth is that we work in a very small, tight-knit industry and news and plans spread fast. In the early days you don’t really want three extra teams hearing your ideas and gearing up to compete before you feel you’ve got a solid head start. Most people totally advise against stealth. They think that only by being open and testing your ideas in an open marketplace can you be successful. Be careful about this advice.