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Build in Public Inspiration for Transparent Founders

We announced our $6.5M seed round for Heyday earlier this summer. When we were drafting our press release, we hoped that coverage by a large tech publication would generate five hundred new trials. It led to fewer than twenty.

On the day we announced our funding, we decided to share our Seed pitch deck on Twitter. 300,000+ people saw our thread, hundreds signed up for a trial of Heyday, and dozens of founders reached out to for feedback on their own pitch decks.

The response to our deck inspired us to share more of the “behind the scenes” of Heyday. But what else should we share?

When we couldn’t find a resource of inspiring examples from companies building in public, we decided to create it ourselves.

Why build in public?

Kevin Cheung, creator of Build in Public Mastery, defines building in public as the process of “building a company, a product, or anything and sharing a lot of the "behind the scenes" with a public audience.”

The goal of people who build public is typically one of the following (or all three!):

  1. acquire customers
  2. grow your brand
  3. improve your product

The response to our pitch deck on Twitter showed us that we can interact with a large audience by sharing our inner workings — not buttoned-up material.

Is building in public a fad?

It might come as a surprise, but the concept of building in public isn’t a new one.

Back in 2014, Ryan Hoover, the co-founder of Product Hunt, wrote about the benefits of building in public. And one year before that, Buffer shared one of the most awesome examples of building in public to date with their open salaries.

We think building in public will last because of the benefits it offers to both audiences and creators.

  • Building in public engages people on their terms. People who build in public successfully understand that most people are on social media to be entertained — not sold a product or service.
  • People are more invested when they feel involved. Would you be more likely to use a buggy product built by a stranger? Or one built by a founder you care about and want to succeed? By sharing the inner workings of your creation, you’ll make people feel more involved in your project.
  • The content is unique. People create repetitive, uninteresting content when they write about subjects they know little about. People building publicly create unique content because they share their specific experiences creating something they know well.

Can building in public work for you?

A quick search on reddit for building in public turns up many questions along the lines of ”what if I fail?”

It’s normal to be filled with doubt at the beginning of any new project, but Nathan Barry, the founder of ConvertKit, believes it’s impossible to fail when building in public because it benefits both the creator and her audience.

A few questions before you start:

  • Who are you building for? Your target audience informs which parts of your story to share, the channels and communities where you share, and the medium of your content.
  • What are you creating? A newsletter about the Parisian tech ecosystem? A rocketship that delivers supplies to the International Space Station? A chrome extension that improves memory? A documentary about an Australian comedy group? You can create standout content by leaning into things that make you and your product/service special.
  • Where does your audience hang out? It’s possible for too few people to see what you’re building, even if you’re doing it publicly. Instead of trying to build a new community from scratch, try to find places where your audience is already gathering. That could be in an online community like a subreddit or a hashtag on Twitter. It could be at industry events or writer groups.
  • How much will you share? There is a spectrum of building in public. People and companies on the most transparent end of the spectrum will share things like revenue metrics and internal company strategies. On the other end, you’ll see exclusively positive customer testimonials. Your answer depends on what you’re comfortable sharing and what you think your audience will like to see.
  • How will you measure performance? What is most important to you? Signups? Subscribers? Followers? Bugs identified? New features suggested? Set a goal tied to your most important metric to keep yourself honest and focused while you experiment.

And finally, what content will you share?

Don’t worry if nothing comes to mind. We’ve collected dozens of examples from people building in public to get your creative juices flowing.

Building in Public Examples

Internal Process

Product Development

Personal Growth

Customer Communication

  • Shooting My Shot at Gary Vaynerchuk - Community builder and Build in Public evangelist KP tries to get Gary Vee on his podcast, all in public tweets.
  • Typeform Breach - Monzo CEO Tom Blomfield shares a full breakdown of customers that were affected by a data breach.

Customer Feedback

Goals

Metrics

Stakeholder Updates

Year in Review

  • A Not Boring Adventure, One Year In - investor and newsletter creator Packy McCormick shares from behind the scenes of the “wildest and most rewarding year of [his] life.”
  • 🥳 Feeling '22 - Startup ROI creator Kyle O’Brien reflects on the steady climb of building the audience for his newsletter.

What did we miss?

There are many more inspiring examples of building public than we grabbed for this piece. If you have an example of building your own project in public, or you’ve seen another example that inspires you, ping @samdebrule on Twitter.

We’ll add your suggestion to this post and give you a shoutout too.

Building Heyday in Public

We’re early in our building in our public process. We’re experimenting with the type of content and channels that we can make our journey most interesting to our audience. Here are a few of our examples so far:

Doing research before you start to build in public?

Heyday will save you time and help you retain more of what you learn.