How crazy am I?
10 successful examples of building in public
Why would any entrepreneur be crazy enough to build their company in public? Risking the exposure of trade secrets, setting themselves up to hit—or miss—public revenue targets...sounds like a calamity waiting to happen, doesn't it?
But for those who dare to defy conventional wisdom, the rewards have been nothing short of spectacular. In today's post, we'll go over the journeys of 10 entrepreneurs who found massive success by building their ventures in full view of the public.
1. Sahil Lavingia - Gumroad
Take Sahil Lavingia, the brain behind Gumroad. This platform aims to simplify selling for creators, enabling them to market their digital products directly to consumers. Sahil didn't just keep everyone updated with annual reports; he shared all the highs and lows, from funding rounds to layoffs. And the outcome? A staggering millions in annual revenue and a crowdfunded $5 million from the community itself.
2. Pieter Levels - Nomad List, Remote OK
Then there's Pieter Levels, the solo entrepreneur behind Nomad List and Remote OK. These platforms rank cities for digital nomads and host job listings for remote work, respectively. Pieter pulled back the curtain by live-streaming his coding sessions and transparently sharing monthly revenue stats. His companies now generate roughly $250k in monthly recurring revenue.
3. Bryce Roberts - Indie.vc
Bryce Roberts of Indie.vc brings transparency into the often opaque venture capital world. By sharing key details about his firm's investment strategies and fund structures, Bryce has attracted a wide range of entrepreneurs interested in an alternative to traditional VC models.
4. DHH & Jason Fried - Basecamp
Co-founders DHH and Jason Fried of Basecamp have long been advocates of a transparent work culture. Their project management tool has grown to generate tens of millions in annual revenue, largely because they've been vocally sharing their business philosophies through various channels, including books, blogs, and podcasts.
5. Ryan Hoover - Product Hunt
Ryan Hoover, the founder of Product Hunt, a platform for discovering new products, took to Twitter to share everything from early mockups to user metrics. His approach helped create a strong community of early adopters that played a significant role in Product Hunt's acquisition by AngelList.
6. Courtland Allen - Indie Hackers
Courtland Allen’s Indie Hackers is a community platform that helps entrepreneurs to achieve financial independence. The community didn’t just appear overnight; it grew rapidly because Courtland was committed to sharing his own entrepreneurial journey—revenue, vision, setbacks, and all.
7. Joel Gascoigne - Buffer
Buffer’s Joel Gascoigne took radical transparency to the next level. He publicly disclosed everything about his social media management company—from salaries and equity breakdowns to real-time revenue metrics. Today, Buffer is pulling in over $20 million in annual revenue with a user base of over 70,000 paying customers.
8. Rand Fishkin - Moz, SparkToro
In the SEO and digital marketing world, Rand Fishkin is a household name. Through his popular "Whiteboard Friday" sessions and brutally honest blog posts, he's shared insights and challenges that have helped Moz generate over $47 million in annual revenue.
9. Justin Jackson - Transistor.fm
Justin Jackson of Transistor.fm is another entrepreneur who's leveraged transparency for success. By sharing the nuts and bolts of building a SaaS company, he's built a following that's been critical in making Transistor.fm profitable in a relatively short time.
10. Alex Turnbull - Groove HQ
Alex Turnbull, the CEO and founder of Groove HQ, a customer service platform, is another entrepreneur who's leveraged building in public for his advantage. He started a blog that transparently shared everything from monthly revenue figures to the challenges faced in customer development and product management. The Groove Journey blog became a cornerstone of their content marketing strategy, attracting millions of readers and significantly boosting customer acquisition. The level of transparency has garnered both customer and investor trust, setting Groove HQ on a fast track to over $4M in annual recurring revenue.
Clearly, building in public isn't for the faint-hearted, but the payoff can be immense.
For me personally, I’ve decided that there are very few downsides to the experiment…
If I succeed like the entrepreneurs above, I’ll have achieved my dream.
If I fail, I’ll at least have a very large amount of proof documenting my skills, experience, and work ethic that I can take with me to whatever journey lies ahead.
Don't miss out on these insights—remember, I'm building in public, and you won't want to miss a beat. Until next time, keep defying the odds.