Why we choose to "build in public"

March 08, 2021

Author image.

José Gonçalves, Co-founder

Getting better by putting it all out there.

Online community building

Many companies work as secretly as they can until their final products are ready for mass release, often making employees sign NDA’s and hiding specific decisions they make from the public. While this may be a wise decision for specific industries and products, most small startups and personal projects lose more than they gain from this secrecy.

To say that at Hunchat we are “building in public” means that we deliberately choose to share our decisions, approaches, and “whys” with a large audience composed of anyone who finds our project interesting enough for them to read this kind of blog post.

Why would we do this? There are many reasons.

The first and most obvious is instant feedback. Quickly understanding what our potential customers think about the direction we are taking is invaluable and allows us to iterate quickly avoiding costly, deeper changes further down the line.

Related to this notion of feedback is the importance of growing an audience. Notice that I mention “our potential customers”, but who will these people be if nobody knows about this thing that you are building? Building in public is, to our knowledge, the best way for people like us (who have very small personal audiences and few resources available) to gather the attention of people who are into our project. It was this notion of engaging with people online that started this company in the first place.

Building in public is also relatively easy. While I am obviously spending my time writing this blog post when I could be doing something else, documenting our journey is still far easier and less time-consuming than coming up with fancy marketing material.

Knowing that someone is watching helps us make better decisions. It facilitates the process of creating empathy for the people with whom we communicate about Hunchat. When thinking about a change to our landing page, for example, we can ask “What will Tijs, Jordan, and Aziz think about this change?” instead of fantasizing about the “general user”. Solve for one, extend to many.

Sharing makes us move fast. People expect updates from us and the last thing we want is to let them down. This constant feeling that you have an audience to feed is an incredible source of motivation for those inevitable days when we are struggling to produce good work. There is also this daunting idea that someone else might be copying us. We are aware that being so open eases the process of copying us, but we also know that a successful project comes down to a great idea, timing, luck, speed, and great execution. As much as our idea and approach might help a competitor, internal inefficiencies can kill us before any competitor comes along if we don’t focus enough. We optimize for the things we can control.

Just like in any other practice, there are pros and cons to this approach and we believe that the pros far outweigh the cons.

Is this the right decision for Hunchat? Stick around to find out.

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