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 more
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
2016 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!