Distributed teams, extreme transparency and buying out your investors

Product Hunt Radio



May 22, 2019, 6 a.m.

On this episode Ryan is joined by Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer, a simple tool manage all your social media accounts. We've been avid users, big fans, and paying customers for years.

In this episode Ryan and Joel talk about...

Joel's roundabout journey from the UK to the US via Hong Kong and Israel

Joel started Buffer with his co-founder in the UK. They lived only thirty minutes away from one another but worked remotely most of the time, preferring Skype calls and chats. After moving to the Bay Area, they ended up having to leave the US because they weren't able to get visas. He tells the story of how they decided where to go next.

“We were unable to get our visas, so we had to leave the US. I remember the three of us in an apartment in San Francisco looking at Google Maps, thinking ‘where should we go?’ We ended up going to Hong Kong for six months and then to Israel for three months.”

What it's like to manage an 85-person completely distributed team

“David Cancel, who’s at Drift now gave me really good advice. He said either go fully remote or have an office with everyone in the same place. He said it’s hard to make it work when you’re in between those two scenarios.”

Joel talks about the advantages of a distributed team, including why distributed workers tend to have more loyalty and retention with a company than Bay Area employees. He also gives his advice for setting up and running a distributed team.

“We actually went out of our way to hire the next few people outside the Bay Area just to makes sure we were really distributed and not ending up with people who felt like second-class citizens.”

Buffer's extreme transparency and how that endears the company to its customers

Joel is one of the most vulnerable and open CEOs you'll find. He talks about how he started writing on the company blog about all the highs and lows that Buffer was experiencing and how it benefitted the company in ways that you might not expect. Buffer also publicly shares their formula for determining salaries as well as the salaries of every individual in the company. Joel explains how this is empowering to employees.

“It’s just fulfilling and liberating to open up and share. I feel like it keeps us honest and doing the right things.”

He says that transparency made the company more human and that both customers and non-customers felt like they were “along for the ride” when they could learn about the interior workings of the company.

[When facing scaling challenges and angry customers] “...we would try to be very responsive on social media and email. When you’re sharing things transparently, you’re building up that trust with customers and very quickly those situations turned around into overwhelming support from customers — and even non-customers, just people cheering us on as a company.”

Why (in a very unorthodox move) Buffer bought out their investors last year

Joel explains their unique approach to company-building. He talks about how they broached the topic with their investors that Buffer might not be seeking the typical VC exit — and how they found VCs willing to partner with them on those terms.

“We shared in the negotiations that there was a good chance that we might never want to sell the company or go public.”

Of course, Joel also talks about some of his favorite products as well.

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Big thanks to Pilot and Monday.com for their support. 😸

Companies and Products Mentioned In This Episode

Discourse — Civilized discussion for your community.

Superhuman — The fastest email experience ever made.

Threads — Empower your team to discuss and make decisions at scale.