Launch day for a startup is a major milestone for the entire team – founders, investors, customers, partners, suppliers, employees and their families.
In the world of technology, launch day is typically when a startup steps out “officially” (out of stealth, out of beta) to make its product or service widely available. Launch says the startup is ready to stand up to public evaluation and scrutiny of its product and value; it is also when favorable press coverage is expected to garner visibility that can turn into new business.
But sometimes a startup wants to have a “soft launch.” So what is a “soft launch” and why do it?
A soft launch is usually phase one of a two-phase launch that involves a greater focus on the company than on the product. It may focus primarily on the founding team, its space and the funding it has received. It may also involve a “limited” release of the product but without significant details.
Here are four other noteworthy reasons for a soft launch:
Recruiting – startups, especially in the super-heated and super-competitive job market of Silicon Valley, will often “soft launch” in order to use the visibility it generates to be able to recruit top talent to build out their team.
Competition – with an ear to the ground, a startup may believe that a competitor is going to beat it to market. In order to be first – to define the market need on their terms and to set the stage for why their technology is superior – many startups will launch in two phases, with a soft launch intended to blunt the competition and relegate them to followers.
Buzz-building – to be the shiny new thing in tech – even in a less sexy, geeky market segment – can be a very valuable, momentum-building period. Social media and press buzz can help a startup accelerate recruiting, fundraising and customer development.
Enterprise-ready – large enterprises are more sophisticated these days about the value of new technology from young startups. But that doesn’t mean they want to risk a vital portion of their IT operation and budget on a product from a newly minted startup. But, the market validation and favorable coverage by analysts and press of a soft-launch can convey a great deal of legitimacy to a young startup that can help it close pivotal deals with early-adopter, brand-name enterprise customers.