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Building in public with Arvid Kahl

ProfitWell Nov 22 2022

Privacy is important. Each of us has our own scale of what we consider sacred. You might be listening to this and feel comfortable with sharing your home address with us… or you could be the kind of person who wouldn’t even tell me what you had for breakfast.

On the surface you’d think that operating a SaaS business isn’t personal, right? We all have perfect work-life balance and never feel either side of the scale slip towards the other? Well, in reality operating a SaaS business is completely personal. It’s something that Patrick Campbell has had experience with recently, as most of you know, due to the Paddle acquisition of ProfitWell.

Today’s guest is Arvid Kahl. He’s an entrepreneur and writer extraordinaire who has a lot to share in the realm of what vulnerability-based marketing means. Fortunately, he didn’t keep his thoughts private and shared his conversation with PC, and now with you. We’re thrilled to give you actionable advice on the best practices for working in public.


Listen now 🎧







Admitting failure and admitting experiments going wrong… that is the stuff that actually builds meaningful trust-based, long-term relationships.”    


                                                                                          –Arvid Kahl






Key term:

Building in public (BIP)

Building in public is the practice of, as expressed by Arvid, the “sharing the journey of building your business in front of an audience of your peers, your founder peers, and your prospective customers, your existing customers and your ex customers.” You share the journey as it unfolds through different channels — blog, social media, podcasts, etc. And develop feedback cycles, so that you’re gaining feedback from different subsets of your audience almost immediately.

The purpose of building in public is to inspire and engage with your audience. It’s about demonstrating the decisions you’re making, steps you’re taking, the successes and the failures you’re experiencing, all in real time. It’s not a marketing gimmick, Arvid explains, “It's about opening up [and] sharing things that you, that might in a more traditional sense, be risky to admit.” Arvid also adds that, in his experience, building in public has been about building relationships for the long term.


What to do today: 

  • Follow Arvid Kahl.
  • Schedule a time to meet with your team (if applicable) to discuss whether building in public is right for your startup.

What to do next quarter:

Deciding whether building in public is right for you depends on how you communicate, how well you communicate, and who you communicate with. It's a personal decision and one you should definitely consider and prepare for as it will require consistency, honesty, engagement, and it will entail public criticism (good and bad). 

The core principle of building in public is learning as well as helping others learn from your experience. And though building in public might seem scary, the benefits are well worth it. You’re able to build awareness, connection and trust, vision and product alignment, and so much more, all before officially launching. It’s powerful. 

Our guest, Arvid, knows this firsthand, and is even in the process of writing the book on the Build in Public movement (yep, he’s writing it in public). In the meantime, we’ve included three steps Arvid shared with us to help you get started on building in public.

3 key steps to building in public:

Find your audience

Building in public starts with who your potential audience is. Who it is that you’re trying to serve, empower, and help. Being intentional about who you intend to communicate with is crucial. You need to understand your audience — are they busy, where and how do they consume their content, etc.?

Furthermore, it’s important to understand that building an audience takes time. Don’t expect to gain an audience overnight. Be patient and keep sharing.

Be vulnerable 

People gravitate toward authenticity and connection, especially in a world of technology and infinite consumer options. Building in public is about being open and real about the experience.  

  • What to share: Anything you do could potentially be something you could share. This is where understanding your audience is helpful. But, start by sharing anything of value that your audience can learn from:
    • Your process and anything you add or change about your process, and why
    • New experiments and the decisions and reasoning behind them
    • Things you’ve personally learned
    • Things that are going well and not well
    • Doubts and fears
    • Successes and failures

It’s important to note that being transparent about the negative, just as much as the positive if not more, is super impactful. Sharing your negative experiences builds trust. It makes you relatable because there’s a high possibility that someone has, or is, experiencing something similar, and this in turn, helps build community.

As Arvid explains, “Being honest, being truthful, and sharing negative stuff —which is not necessarily the same, but one is the consequence of the other — that just alleviates the [audience’s] fear of being tricked.”

Build feedback cycles

One of the benefits of building in public is that you're able to get immediate feedback from your audience. They're essentially helping you build. Asking questions and engaging in the feedback helps you create a better and stronger product because you’re pre-validating it through these conversations you’re having directly with your audience. These feedback cycles help you to:

  • Create a better product
  • Bond with the person involved in the conversation
  • Gets the audience invested in the process
  • Shows a collective gain of expertise because we get smarter in the process


What to do within the next year? 

If you've decided that building in public is right for you and understand who your audience is, simply start sharing your journey. Begin with your preferred channel of communication or the one that makes the most sense for your audience. And remember, it takes time for your audience to build. The key is consistency and relevance.


Who should own this? 

The founder/s of the business.


Who's up next week?

Next week, Lars Nilsson talks all things sales development.

Do us a favor?

Part of the way we measure success is by seeing if our content is shareable. If you got value from this episode and write up, we'd appreciate a share on Twitter or LinkedIn.


This is a Paddle production—the first media network dedicated entirely to the SaaS and subscription space.


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