If they were not remote-only maybe they could have pulled off the CTO's plan of hiring a bunch of traditional managers and "pushing" the company forward (probably enterprise sales), but they'd have restructure the bones of the company at great expense. The great expense part probably doesn't work, because since the sizzle is off the growth, the next VC round would be tough if not impossible to do. It would be very "term-y" and founders are already underwater enough on investor preference.
They probably made the right call of not shooting for the moon, and slowing down into a remote-only company that takes its time. Skype and boxer shorts.
But now the COO and CTO are faced with the decision of A) sitting around and riding it out at $185,000 and $182,089 per year respectively (healthy money no doubt but not DHH buy-a-racing-team like earn outs) or B) move on to the next thing while the market for vc funding is still hot and they can still get some juice from their association with buffer.
Rational decisions all around.
Oh, and Twitter launched scheduled tweets.
Tools like buffer would still exist even if every single social media network offered scheduling capabilities. The fact is, if you're a digital marketer, you're not going to waste your time jumping between networks and multiple accounts scheduling content manually.
If you're scheduling social posts without doing your due diligence on each and every platform within 2-4 hours of a post going live (preferably within 30 minutes before), you're doing it wrong.
If you're using the same post across multiple channels, you're doing it wrong.
If you're re-using the same post multiple times within a few weeks, you're doing it wrong.
The only people I give a free pass too are solo marketers who really just don't have time to do things right and have to keep up a minimum level of noise on social.
Ultimately this is a tool that saves time for, mostly, small companies.
That sounds very interesting. What do you mean by "the businesses"? Where are these stats from?
Well, more a paraphrase than a direct quote, but still. Most companies can't afford to hire the very best. Many companies take a bang-for-the-buck approach, and products like Buffer hit that measure for them better compared to paying much more for a world-class marketing team.
Doesn't mean it's a bad product. Just means you're not the customer.
Most mediocre people we would think suck. Really look at the 50 percentile. Ever interview people with long careers, making decent/good pay, at well known companies, and wonder how in the world they even have a job? That is a an extreme example, but most people treat it like a job, something to get done, provide for themselves and family. That's okay, but they're not that dedicated in being the very best.
Not sure how you're interpreting my comment. It isn't to knock people with other priorities like a family. In fact that's perfectly fine and expected. I used it as an example of why people might not be the best in their field. Your description of the trade off supports that claim, and it's a fine trade off to make as work isn't and arguably shouldn't be the center of ones life.
So I don't think we disagree on anything.
But if your team is big enough to have even one dedicated social media person, then they should be doing their due diligence and maximizing the quality of their content and channels. That almost always means doing a lot of the work manually so you get the biggest bang.
Plus, in reality, we're talking about 3-4 channels. It really isn't that time consuming to manually handle a lot of what Buffer automates.
Don't get me wrong, as products go Buffer is certainly solid and our team uses it sparingly, but I really think too many people get lazy and overly rely on automation.
> "If you're scheduling social posts without doing your due diligence on each and every platform within 2-4 hours of a post going live (preferably within 30 minutes before), you're doing it wrong."
Can you elaborate on this? What type of due diligence do you need?
> "If you're using the same post across multiple channels, you're doing it wrong."
Some posts can be shared as they are across multiple networks, other posts need to be different. We address this by allowing the user to write the post once and customized it for each network before its published. This includes different images, different URLs, different OG tags, keywords, mentions, etc.
> "If you're re-using the same post multiple times within a few weeks, you're doing it wrong."
When you publish something, only a percentage of your audience sees it, which is why it is considered a good strategy to repost every now and then for higher exposure. Just don't do it every few weeks. The way we solved this problem is by allowing the user to create category-based schedules. Basically, we have a content library that organizes posts by categories, and each category can have one or multiple publishing schedules. You can choose to recycle content from specific categories or not, up to you. The more content you have in each recyclable category the less frequent your content will be reposted.
There are many other hard problems that SMM platforms can help you solve including social listening, which if done manually can be very time consuming and silly.
If usernames and hashtags were the same across the different platforms, it might work. But what you should say on Facebook won't translate to Instagram or Twitter so what's the point?
I realize that twitter was a place where I could get a lot of conversions to the website, but not the greatest for engagement. So I created twitter bot using the Wordpress REST API  to just pump out links to my recipes. Instagram, on the other hand, is all hand written and takes me some time. Although instagram barely gets anyone too my website, it has been the best tool for me to build a community around. So much so that I am thinking of abandoning the website.
I can't figure out Facebook for the life of me...
Instagram, I get real actual people reacting, but there's no good way to drive people directly to my site from Instagram. I use it more to engage with the audience and not to drive clicks.
I held off on using Facebook for the longest time, but I've had more engagement there than anywhere else. At this point, 90% of my clicks come from Facebook, and about that much of the social media engagement too. My secret? I have a $1/day ad sitting out there generating about 20 likes per week. Once I hit 500-600 likes from the ad, it because self-sustaining. Enough people would engage with posts that their friends would see it and like or follow as well. Sucks that I had to pay to see any benefit, but I paid Twitter and Instagram too and didn't get squat from it.
So due diligence in this scenario means if you are hoping to just load up a bunch of tweets for example, have them blast out are pre-defined intervals and think that is good enough you are in for a rude shock. You should instead be monitoring it to see what the reaction is and if there are any conversations that you should be a part of based on what you have shared. You need to come across as a real person who is sharing something that you genuinely feel people are going to find useful if you want to have any kind of real "success" with social.
There's a huge amount of value to be gained by participating in a larger conversation at any given moment (thinking mostly of Twitter here). It's not about just jumping on hashtags or Trends, though if relevant that's an opportunity. But if everyone is talking about a big topic, then customizing a post to add value to the conversation can have huge benefits.
Or just interacting on a human level. I've seen my best gains and actual new customers when participating in hashtag chats for my industry. Not selling my product, just trading ideas and opinions. That's how we met some great influencers who have ended up being major magnifiers of our messaging.
Also evaluating the overall tone on a social channel. Did your last post on FB a few hours ago result in a bunch of snarking by readers? Then maybe a humble tone is in order.
It's also about knowing when not to post. An earthquake kills 25,000 people in the Yucatan? Your fluffy happy emoji-laden post looks really out of touch.
Anyways, I just think it's very hard to pre-schedule content that's truly relevant. So instead, as someone mentioned above, people spray and pray with a mix of product/feature advertorials and rarely-clever memes. Noise.
However when your entire team is remote, that makes these companies steer clear of acquiring you since you won't fit into their culture. So they will go for your competitors with a crappier product, but a local team that they can quickly bring in onsite within a few months.
If a company's growth has dramatically slowed, but they are still profitable (even with a down year here or there), are VC's ok letting them chug along without an exit? My guess would be no and they'd push for some sort of private sale.
What's Yahoo's M&A department's phone number?
> We know that we have many untapped opportunities for growth. This time, however, we simply weren’t able to trigger growth fast enough.
It's bothering me that a company has to constantly grow grow grow, or die. What happened to just making a profitable company and riding it for as long as possible while making the life of people around you better (employees, people you buy services and products from, customers, etc...)
I just got back to Lyon after a year in Chicago, and it's refreshing to see more of these companies here. Sure the salaries are way lower, and life is not as crazy, but people seem to have good intentions.
For example, a cafe I just stumbled upon: http://www.dunsiegealautre-lyon.fr/concept
> Nous avons fait le choix de rejoindre le mouvement coopératif en créant une Scop. Cela signifie que nous sommes sociétaires de notre structure, que nous adoptons une gouvernance démocratique et que la répartition des résultats est prioritairement affectée à la pérennité des emplois et du projet.
Which basically means that the goal of this place is to make employment and the place durable.
But as a Silicon Valley tech investor, you're not incentivized to fund companies that grow slowly over time. You're incentivized to fund moonshots that rapidly explode, take over the world, and get you the highest ROI in the shortest period of time.
So, if a company isn't growing exponentially every year--and as an investor--my salary/job-evaluations are dependent on successfully funding companies that grow exponentially, I'd have no incentive to invest.
And as a result, if the company needs a constant cash-infusion to stay alive--it needs to grow exponentially.
It's either: (A) get cash, grow fast; or (B) no need for new cash, grow slow.
(A) is the SV way.
(B) is more common in other industries/sectors, parts of the world.
Neither is inherently/morally better (my opinion only), but both are a functional result of the systems and incentives in their respective professional ecosystems.
Sigh. No need to guess, the other co-founder wrote his own account on Medium .
The relevant part:
> Another reason emerged after Joel and I had a candid conversation on how we’re structured as CEO and COO over the last 6 months or so and recognized some challenges in it. Joel shared this article  with me, which I thought explains some of the struggles well of what’s been going on.
Scheduled tweets was launched like 4 years back - https://blog.twitter.com/2013/now-available-scheduled-tweets
I've also seen that remote companies make acquisition more difficult - unless the company is being bought for the product and they plan on dumping the team.
Maybe I'm an old guy but I don't really understand why this blog post exists, it's like hundreds of words of emotive rambling and vague talk of journeys and values and euphemisms for simple concepts.
Would it like have ruined anything to write something like "A couple key early people are moving on but we're doing pretty good, we make social media software and have revenue ok hey thanks for listening I'm going to get back to that now have a great Friday" and then hit save?
I think I would've felt a bit more comfortable with this sort of transparency, although I agree that ultimately it's still fairly vague and feels a bit rambling. I think most likely Buffer is just beginning a slow decline that will be drawn out for several years leading to either more downsizing or eventual death, and the two cofounders who left decided to get out now rather than ride that out. I don't see a major company acquiring Buffer's 100% remote team, but I could be wrong.
"We will be a long-term, sustainable, fully remote team that works hard on mission-driven work. We will be the most reliable social media tool in the market. And we will continue to push the boundaries of transparency, culture and freedom in the team."
The first and last sentence has nothing to do with the product, and the product statement doesn't even hint at what it does... just that it does it well!
For some companies, they buy software because they like the sales guy who took them out for a steak dinner.
For other companies, they buy software because they like the culture and philosophy of people making it. This is why companies like Basecamp, Buffer, etc. can keep operating the way that they do.
So companies get the checkboxes in features, then when I'm deciding between the finalists, stuff like this is a tie-break.
In other words, company culture is a differentiator, especially in a commodity product market.
I don't buy a product because their CEO's salary is public and I can see what I'd make there in a hugely arbitrary / convoluted form based salary metric. I buy because the product is good and support is good.
PS hi Ethan
You can learn from bitter experience, and you also can learn from the detailed accounts written by others. Don't begrudge the youngins the chance to learn from other people's experience (and mistakes).
It's a ton of work to manage these kind of leadership changes, so the incremental cost of also writing about it for an hour or two isn't much.
So no, to answer your question, it wouldn't have ruined anything to write something short and sweet like your example.
And yeah, if he had taken more time he could have made the post shorter.
Joel clearly wants to be transparent about this, but the core of you the reader wants know is glossed right over. But full transparency around a personal disagreement would be really inappropriate. It'd make everyone & the company look terrible. If you want to be transparent, c'mon, let it fly - who's the egomaniac, who's the alcoholic, whose vision is going to burn the company to the ground etc. etc.? (ofc please don't)
Good luck to 'em, we're paying customers, but I totally agree a buttoned-up, terse post would be more transparent than this eye-rolling "incredible journey".
You might, perhaps, say "a case of differing visions - neither known to be better than the other", because at this point they really don't know which approach will work best. But I don't see anything insincere in this post. They need to fully commit to a single vision. The former cofounder did the right thing by leaving and making space for someone else who does share the vision to step in.
It's also the values, conversations and content that their typical customer (social media, influencers, mavens, etc, etc) loves to engage in.
They live that through the company, their values - which manifests in content and transparency like this.
Makes total sense to me. Perhaps not right in other contexts (likely the ones you value or are used to) -- but in general aligning your company culture, values, brand and approach to your market makes a lot of sense.
Like here is what everyone working there earns:
I think for the new generation, vague emotional rhetoric has replaced old school business gibberish like "We need a paradigm shift" and so on. People like the idea of appearing to be open and honest without actually making themselves vulnerable by revealing their true thoughts and feelings.
A customer might think, 'Wow the company is falling apart and the remaining founder seems lost in his own world. I should find another vendor.'
ICYMI, the departing executives in question did post about their plans, and (similarly to the OP) with a bit of reflection on their part:
There doesn't seem to be any reason for customers to be concerned, and the contemplative style of the post is by no means new. On the contrary, it would be a matter of concern if the post wasn't primarily concerned with a retrospective on how they got to where they are today as well as individual styles, goals, personalities, and emotional fulfilment.
If you are going to throw all of your professional energy into creating and growing a company can't you find something more meaningful than just building a social media spam engine?
Being a plumber may not be "meaningful" to some, but it's definitely possible to be successful and make a lot of money doing it.
Take these posts with a grain of salt. If everything were hunky-dory, there wouldn't be a senior level departure at all.
There are a couple of different ways of running a business, and a lot of them can be captured in what kind of growth you expect. Buffer did 50% growth last year. Great for what it is, but it's not the same culture and company as one that can sustain 100% YoY growth.
2 of the 3 founders wanted a 100%+ YoY growth company. The CEO didn't. Notwithstanding the realities of cash and organic growth, the CEO always wins these disagreements, so the other 2 founders left.
There are a lot of ways you can grade a business. Against the VC-rocket-ship metric, Buffer is mediocre and small. Against cash and stability, they're rock-solid and large. In the mind of the departing founders, the business was in trouble, because it was failing to achieve the metrics necessary to be graded well against that first yardstick. And they're right, but it doesn't mean Buffer is going to collapse today, tomorrow, or ever.
I have a free plan and I'm completely OK with keeping it that way. It helps me schedule posts 10 per network at a time and not knowing any better I'm perfectly happy with this little convenience it offers and they are doing very little to break me out of this routine.
There is very little messaging to the user in terms of missed opportunities that a paid plan opens up. Actually even with a free plan they could do more messaging to bring me back to their product outside of my "go to schedule some tweets" routine. How about sending me an email when a Twitter account with more than 10K followers re-tweets me. Perhaps it's worth something to me to know that this has in fact happened and suggest some follow-up actions that might maximize this opportunity.
That's just a small example but there are tons of other growth tactics that would communicate to marketers that Buffer can help them become not just "more efficient" marketers, but better marketers overall. I think that's where the true value of most marketing technology lies.
This stage of their company evolution is notably harder and perhaps arguably more boring so it's not surprising to see people leaving. After working on the core product for a while and squeezing out all the potential growth from that, it takes hundreds if not thousands of tactics adjustments, product optimizations and management changes to fine-tune the company engine for slower but steadier growth from then on. And even then it's not an exciting roller-coaster ride anymore but a slow long-haul freight train journey. It takes a markedly different kind of employee to thrive in that kind of environment and this is what they have to optimize for going forward.
ADDENDUM: There's also the added risk of Buffer's success being tied to all the individual social networks, some of which are thriving, others which may not be here tomorrow, so it would be in Buffer's interest to develop their relationships with their users outside of their interaction with those platforms they have no control over. I mean marketers will always have to find the best way to do their job regardless of whether Twitter exists or not. This is probably pretty common sense advice considering how many times we've seen the rug pulled out from under smaller tech companies who built their business around some platform created by Google, Facebook, Microsoft or one of the other big companies.
I took a look at his new project(https://www.matterapp.io/) and wonder what people think about the method of social proof he is using by showing logos of companies that are not customers but that are transparent about their diversity. Seems like a great shortcut but feels slightly misleading to me.
I've just been in intensive care with my 4 week old son for 3 days while he has been on a ventilator. Watching the doctors and nurses work does make you realise how unimportant all this social media and startup stuff mostly is.
At least your son has doctors and a hospital to go to. Watching people die of starvation makes you realize how unimportant all this stuff mostly is.
Today I was surprised to look at Crunchbase and see Buffer's total raised is just $3.9M between a Seed and Series A. Very few startups could make that money last 5+ years, but very few startups also occupy this unique space of being profitable so early.
I imagine choosing between the two paths was difficult and it's great to see clarity around the decision and future direction.
But you're absolutely right. If they've only raised $3.9, it's an impressive run.
It's definitely possible that Crunchbase is out of date but companies are also generally pretty incomplete in listing investors past the leads for each round. People don't list so and so's dad that put $50k in, etc. I'm thinking the dollar amount is right since the lead for the A matches what Joel wrote.
Honestly, anything other than paying market salaries +/- some relatively small error term is probably not sustainable in the long run.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with pricing yourself out of the most expensive market, unless attracting the most in-demand employees (who are concentrated in the most expensive markets) is an existential matter for your company. This actually would let you pay generously compared to tier-2 markets and attract employees that want to leave the most expensive market or who would not even consider relocating to that market.
It is worth noting that the requirements for successfully working remotely preclude most of the lowest cost-of-living locations. eg. it is hard to get decent broadband in the boonies of the desert southwest, or in rural Appalachia.
Also, remote workers can be more productive, since the average office is full of distractions. (I work with some very productive remote co-workers.)
Price for a week in the office in sf: $500-ish flight, 4 hotel nights $1100, $90 per diem $450, taxis/ubers $30/day = $2k - $2.5k. Throw in a $500 team lunch or two.
I agree remote workers can be more productive; I certainly was. However, I used most of those productivity gains to work fewer hours.
So long as there's an empty seat in the office, it really doesn't cost much to have someone sit there every day. Yeah, there are some free drinks but it's really in the noise and might well be dwarfed by some additional travel for the remotee to come into the office now and then.
However, at some point, having a significant number of remote workers may mean you don't take out a lease on an additional floor or move to a bigger building or construct a new campus, which can be huge costs.
The productivity debate has been done to death and I won't repeat it here :-)
EDIT: And from my experience, 30% of people work more productively remote, 40% about the same, 30% are less productive. That said, there are also productivity losses to in-office people when a smaller percentage work remote, especially if their jobs require frequent team interactions.
For developers it is certainly doable. For other teams it takes a lot of effort for everything to even out. Some companies have figured it out, some have not.
You chose to move, it's your responsibility to cover your travel expenses when you need to be in the office.
Now, if you already live in City B when the company hires you, or the company asked you to relocate to City B, then they should cover your travel expenses when you need to travel to City A.
Your choice to leave, your financial burden. Sure, you can negotiate this as if it were a raise, but be advised that most companies will then simply deny your request to move.
Location is also not really a lifestyle choice in the vein of driving an older car. People have partners, family obligations, etc. in area. It's often not as simple as packing up and moving.
One of the most important pieces in that negotiation is the employee's opportunity cost. "What would companies in your city pay you?" is a very relevant question, especially when most good tech jobs are not remote friendly.
If we see remote take off in a big way, I expect "you live in a cheap city, we'll give you less money" to stop working as remote companies do away with it to attract better talent. That is, unless the best talent stays in the most expensive cities, and like to use that as an excuse for "fairly" getting more salary :)
Anecdotally, I heard this is what Google and Uber did in Pittsburgh.
No need to speculate.
Buffer publically posts their actual revenue.
You can review their sales performance and come to your own conclusion.