Transparency is a way of life for us at Buffer.
This wasn’t always the case.
In fact, long before this was one of our core values, it was simply a personal commitment by our cofounders to help provide more data for other startups that would come after them.
After realizing that there were many blog posts on how to measure, track, and analyze certain business metrics but not as many actual data points, they decided that Buffer would serve as one data point for any other startups who had questions such as, “How do you measure churn and monthly recurring revenue?” or “What’s a reasonable burn rate for a company with this many team members?” or “How much do you pay a customer service team member in London?”
From that beginning, transparency evolved into a central piece of our culture. It’s fundamental to how we communicate with each other, with customers, and with other businesses.
Transparency became an official part of our values, with the guiding principles below, in 2013.
We’ve been lucky to hear from many folks who feel excited about transparency but can’t quite see the path from where they are now. If you happen to be in this boat, it might help to know that radical transparency doesn’t happen overnight. Every stop along the journey has been the result of an idea and much discussion!
Here’s a timeline of the last five years of Buffer’s transparency triumphs, missteps and experiments.
Buffer’s Transparency Timeline
2011: Business strategy, roadmap
Transparent business strategy: Idea to Paying Customers in 7 Weeks: How We Did It
First fundraising round: The 19 Awesome Investors In Our $450,000 Seed Round And How We Met Them
2012: Distributed team decision
2013: Values, salaries, equity
Beginning to define our values (the full story on this is here):
Internally open salaries (click to enlarge):
Internally open equity (click to enlarge):
Public values: Sharing the very first version of Buffer’s then-8 core values.
Fundraising pitch deck: We shared the deck that we used to raise half a million dollars from angel investors.
Internal conversation about public salaries (click to enlarge):
First public investors update: Buffer September Update: $2,088,000 run rate, 1,046,000 users
Buffer is hacked! We live blog the experience, giving as much detail as we can.
Public salaries and first salary formula: Introducing Open Salaries at Buffer: Our Transparent Formula and All Individual Salaries
2014: Revenue, pricing, fundraising
First public hiring report: Insights into the Hiring Process at Buffer in January: 3,864 Candidates, 13 Interviews, 3 Offers made
Public customer happiness reports: How Buffer’s Happiness Team Translates Customer Emails Into Engineering Team To-dos: The April Happiness Report
Public list of all the books we’re reading:
Series A funding round with transparent full term sheet: We’re Raising $3.5m in Funding: Here is the Valuation, Term Sheet and Why We’re Doing It
Public Pricing Breakdown: Introducing Transparent Pricing: What Your Money is Used for When you Purchase a Buffer Subscription
2015: Feedback, diversity and an acquisition
Transparent feedback on the team (click to enlarge):
Public diversity stats: Building a More Inclusive Startup: Introducing the Diversity Dashboard
Decision to move to private feedback between teammates: When We Took Transparency Too Far: The Transparent Feedback Experiment
Updated salary formula and public salary calculator: Introducing the New Buffer Salary Formula, Calculate-Your-Salary App and The Whole Team’s New Salaries
Buffer’s first ever acquisition and the whole story about exactly how it came to be was shared with the world: Buffer Has Acquired Social Media Customer Service Tool Respondly! Here’s the Full Story
2016: Product roadmap, cash flow crisis, minimum vacation, and our first end of year report
Product roadmap was shared in a public Trello board: Building in the Open: Introducing Buffer’s Transparent Product Roadmap
Cash flow crisis and layoffs happened at Buffer and were shared in the open. This is what we mean by transparent even when it hurts: Tough News: We’ve Made 10 Layoffs. How We Got Here, the Financial Details and How We’re Moving Forward
The move away from unlimited vacation and towards minimum vacation was shared (plus exactly how much vacation we’ve been taking at Buffer.) When Unlimited is Limiting: Why We’re Experimenting with Minimum Vacation Recommendations
Buffer’s first End of Year report went live, transparently sharing numbers like the following: paying customers, posts sent through Buffer, pieces of swag sent to our community, and updates made to our codebase for the year. Buffer’s 2016 Year in Review (and the 8 Year-End Reflections That Inspired Us)
2017: Equal pay, and more to come!
We released exactly what men and women earn at Buffer for Equal Pay Day. On The Journey to Equal Pay: Here’s Exactly What Men and Women Earn at Buffer
2017, 2018, and beyond: What do you think?
We’re excited to keep going with transparency as a way to help others and grow and evolve ourselves. We’ve committed to default to transparency—both in good times and when it hurts!
What else can we share openly with you about how Buffer thinks and works?
We’d love to hear all your suggestions in the comments!