Building in Public to Build Loyalty

Being transparent as you develop your business is a great way to build a base of loyal supporters. By discussing your challenges, you generate empathy. By sharing ordinarily confidential data, you gain trust and respect. By asking for feedback on undeveloped projects, you give people a sense of ownership of what you're building. Overall, you can obtain an audience that will route for you, and who will be more willing to buy your product or join your community.

To realize these benefits, however, your transparency efforts must be meaningful and sustained. One-off attempts generally don't cut it. Ryan Hoover (Product Hunt), Danielle Morrill (Mattermark), and Joel Gascoigne (Buffer) have all been incredibly transparent as they develop their companies. And the group deserves credit for popularizing the current build-in-public movement. Two other founders, who I would like to highlight, are the latest to join them.

  • Alex Blumberg—NPR legend Alex Blumberg is documenting his journey towards creating a podcast company via a podcast series called StartUp. Alex knows little about starting a business, so it's incredibly interesting to hear him articulate the challenges he faces. You hear him struggle while pitching investors. You hear his intimate conversations with his wife as he questions his abilities as an entrepreneur. And you hear gut wrenching negotiations over equity splits with a potential co-founder. Alex's podcasts make the empathy pour out of you, and you can't help but want to support him and his company.
  • Zack Shapiro—Zack recently sold his company Luna. Now, he's exploring new startup ideas and sharing his journey through Built in Public, a Medium collection and newsletter. While less dramatic and introspective than Alex's StartUp, Zack's writing provides an inside look at how a successful entrepreneur finds a viable startup idea that he would be happy working on. He openly discusses his influences and passions, and he provides sharp analysis of the ideas he is considering. Zack's approach is less intense than Alex's professionally produced podcast series, but you still feel as though you're apart of Zack's journey, and you can't help but root for him.