Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Never thought I’d intern in a stealth-mode start-up

“We’re afraid to not have our brilliant ideas stolen, so we’ll just go in stealth mode.”

I used to think that this is the immature reason why many entrepreneurs decide to “go stealth.” In a world in which ideas are abundant and great execution is scarce, such a strategy seemed useless, if not counterproductive.

On that note, this summer I started working on a pervasive perceptual computing start-up in Silicon Valley. Ironically, it’s a stealth-mode start-up.

I started working here two weeks ago. I still remember the first day in the office – a large garage with a futuristic, slightly nerdy design, plus a bunch of incredibly smart engineers who were writing code and collaborating non-stop. In terms of what they were working on, I can’t say much (hey, it’s stealth mode). Still… results and traction? Quiet impressive. Highly advanced technology ready to deploy? Pretty much.

But wait! No media interviews? No online presence? No hype? No ego stroke?

Nopes. Only a bunch of hackers who are patient and modest, though they would have many reasons not to. They greatly enjoy their anonymity and see it as an opportunity to experiment without being watched by others, having the conviction that the market will eventually decide whether they are truly successful, without craving for attention or false positives. They just do their work, while at the same time getting relevant feedback from potential users and partners.

This strategy might succeed or fail. However, so far it’s proven to work well for them.

Thus, I’ve learned a lesson – stealth mode might mean wisdom. After all, keeping quiet is not that easy.