Building In Public, The Perfect Recession-Proof Marketing Strategy

Published: December 21st, 2022

Below is a guest post from KP, writer of KP’s Column, a fast-growing newsletter that guides founders who want to build in public with plenty of resources and actionable tips.

No marketing budget? No problem. Try building in public.

Building in public is the practice of developing a product or company in public with openness and transparency.

In the simplest form, building in public is just sharing as you go.

Done well, it builds credibility, as well as buzz and loyalty amongst the customer base - sometimes, even before a product launch.

Here are several ways in which early-stage founders are building in public (BIP).

#1. Their first-ever jacket sold out in minutes, all thanks to BIP

In their quest to create the perfect jacket, this founder duo shared the whole creative journey on Instagram.

In the nine months leading up to the launch, they outlined all aspects of the business - the glamorous and the not-so-glamorous.

Engagement was high, with followers even voting on what color jackets they liked best.

By the time the first launch arrived, they had 600 followers, and the jackets were snapped up within minutes.

Today, the waitlists for their jackets are in the thousands.

👉 Wanna know everything about starting a clothing brand? Check how this dude turned a silly idea into a $1.2M/year business.

#2. App looking to connect 1 billion people by 2031, while being completely transparent in their operations wants to be the next big scheduling tool, is styled as an open startup.

They are completely open source on the tech front, with consumers contributing suggestions to improve it.

More interestingly, they employ an open salary policy. Most salaries, right from the Junior devs to the CEO, are public.

Contrary to traditional paradigms, the employees view this change as incredibly positive.

👉 Ready to start your SaaS business?  Learn how these founders got their first 10,000 paying customers.

#3. This indie founder created, grew, and successfully exited his startup - all in public

Inspired by a tweet, Shoutout’s founder Sharath Kuruganty created a quick MVP  within 24 hours using no-code tools and shared it publicly.

The response was tremendous, with over 200 people signing up for the waitlist  within day one and one person offering to become a paid customer right away.

Over the next 2 years, everything - including incorporation, improving the product, and figuring out pricing - was done in view of a supportive public audience.

Building in public was how this non-technical founder also found their technical co-founder. The announcement of the company’s acquisition via Tweet was apt, considering the earlier BIP focus.

👉 Are you a non-tech person worried if you'd be able to start a tech business? Read how this marketing person created a $180K/year online tool.

#4. Ideating, building, and making $10,000 in public - all in under a week

The last week of October 2022 saw the results of an exciting race between Pieter Levels and Danny Postma.

The genesis of this race was a publicly available project called Dreambooth, which used AI to create images with text input. Both of them wanted to get a commercial photorealistic avatar product released. Who doesn’t like funny and creative avatars?

Pieter Levels ideated and built in public within a week.

All the buzz generated from BIP, translated to over $10,000 in sales on its first day.

👉 Another great example of this approach? This founder built an online tool that generated $60K in its first year, inspired by Pieter Levels' philosophy.

#5. This startup wants to rebrand personal finance - while spending $0 on traditional marketing

Ocho is a fintech company that seeks to modernize the retirement account and teach creators, freelancers and entrepreneurs about managing wealth.

However, instead of traditional marketing approaches to acquire customers, the founder uses building in public via Twitter and a newsletter.

Right from validating the idea via Tweet and using surveys to determine a price point, to posting inside stories about how employees were hired.

The BIP approach clearly worked for them. Ocho already has $5M+ in seed money and over 100 startup founders using the platform.

👉 Interested in more $0 marketing examples? This online job board makes over $1M per year and never spent a dollar on ads.

#6. How this founder uses BIP so others can learn from their journey

Gumroad was founded on the premise that creators should be able to sell their products without the need for a storefront.

Over a decade, Gumroad has successfully raised over  $178 million for creators with just $10 million of investor capital.

Experimenting with more transparency, the founder has been publishing monthly revenue figures on Twitter.

There was initial concern that the ‘small’ nature of the figures might alarm some creators. In contrast, all creators have embraced transparency and are now more vocal about the company and what it has done for them.

👉 Wanna launch an online marketplace?  This platform reached $20M/Year by helping people buy and sell websites.

#7 This very website you’re reading has been built in public.

Starter Story’s growth from launching with just three interviews to 1.4 million monthly visitors and $500,000 in annual revenue is nothing short of phenomenal.

Pat Walls, the founder, has always been transparent about the business.

What worked, what didn’t - plans for future growth. Screenshots of cold emails to sponsors.

Being open builds trust and earns long-term credibility with both consumers and sponsors.