Stealth Mode: Is it worth it?

Norval Scott
May 23, 2023
Stealth Mode: Is it worth it?


Back in 2015, we started CloudNC with a single mission – to accelerate the pace of human progress by enabling anyone to instantly manufacture anything at any scale.

Since then we’ve been building the company to meet that promise, and now (in mid-2023) we’re launching our first-ever software solution, CAM Assist, which will greatly accelerate how quickly manufacturers can program CNC machines to produce components.

However, we’ve only been visible as a company since our Series A round became known in 2018, and only really actively talking publicly about what we’re doing for about a year – since we secured our Series B funding round.

Before then, we were in ‘stealth mode’ – ie, basically building the company in secret. For example, for quite some time at the start of the company’s journey, our website literally had no information on it about CloudNC at all, except an email address.

So… why were we in stealth? And given the same circumstances, would I make the same choice again? Let’s find out.


First, let’s address question one: why were we in stealth in the first place?

Usually, a tech company enters stealth because they have a good idea, but at that point that’s all they have – they haven’t built it into a working product yet.

And from that relatively weak position comes the fear: what’s to stop anyone else with greater resources taking your idea and building it instead? So, the logical step for many is to keep it a secret until you’re more confident that you have a lead or edge that others can’t easily copy or replicate.

That’s exactly where we were at CloudNC – we were certain we’d found a problem (how quickly CNC machines can be programmed) that we could greatly accelerate with technology, and that people would pay for our solution. But at that point we didn’t have a product or any proof of our expertise, and we knew that building one would be challenging.

So, we entered stealth. We hired a team and set about building our solutions, all without telling the world what we were up to and why…

…Except that’s not strictly true! For although while you’re building the product you can avoid talking to certain groups (like customers and corporations), you can’t avoid talking to others (investors and potential hires) as you need what they offer (funding and talent) in order to grow and scale.

So in reality, stealth mode isn’t a case of keeping total secrecy – it’s more like Chinese whispers. You do have to tell some people, and they’ll tell others, and the word will get out anyway – just not in a way you control.


So from the CloudNC perspective, did being in stealth mode work?

In a sense, yes:

  • No-one ‘stole’ our idea and built it instead
  • We were still able to hire and get the investment we needed to scale
  • Having people spread rumours about what we were up to probably helped in terms of encouraging FOMO and hype

But there were also some downsides:

  • We didn’t engage with corporate partners earlier, which would probably have saved us time, both in terms of fundraising and getting our products to market
  • Having no other companies copying us meant investors sometimes saw us as an outlier – why would they fund something that only we were doing? Is what we’re solving a real problem?
  • Once we came out of stealth, our messaging wasn’t especially sharp as it had never come into contact with its audience

Ultimately, I’m now not sure whether anyone would have ‘stolen’ our idea whether we were in stealth or not. What CloudNC is trying to do is extremely challenging – almost punishingly so – and it’s not the kind of thing a major corporation decides to spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing on a whim.

As a result, I now think that in most cases, stealth mode is broadly a bad idea. If the only protection your business concept has is that you came up with it first, then your company likely isn’t very defensible at all. Being in stealth or not doesn’t really change that fact – it’s still possible for someone else to steal your lunch.

Instead of entering stealth, my guidance to any founders now would be as follows:

  • The important thing isn’t keeping your secret. It’s executing on it better and faster than anyone else. You need to put competitors off by running at the solution so quickly that no-one else can feasibly catch you, no matter what they do.
  • What will actually help you run as quickly as you need to is sharing your idea, not hiding it. Tell as many people as possible what you are building, and they’ll help you iterate it, position it, build it and sell it – and they’ll tell you when you’re on the right track. Feedback is critical.

I’m happy where CloudNC is now – about to bring the results of many people’s hard work to the market. But I’m not convinced that being in stealth was hugely helpful to that journey, and in some respects it may have held us back.

Going forward, I’m keen now to talk to anyone about our solutions – starting with CAM Assist. If you’d like to know more, get in touch at and we’ll get back to you to arrange early access or a demo!

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