Joel Gascoigne

Co-founder/CEO, Buffer

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON December 21, 2015


Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
Hi everyone! I’m Joel, Co-founder and CEO of Buffer. Buffer is a Social Media SaaS product company with 47,000 paying customers and $8m in Annual Revenue. This year we’ve grown from 30 at the start of the year to now be a 70 person distributed team spread across 45 cities, 5 continents: We’ve raised only $4m and have taken a slightly different path than a lot of startups: we’ve been profitable for over a year. At the same time, we’re highly ambitious and are striving to have a big impact. We’ve become known for some of the unusual things we do: full transparency of our numbers (, salaries (, and many other things ( Alongside Buffer, I have a personal passion for travel (I’ve lived all over the world in the last 5 years: and have had an interesting experience being part of the digital nomad movement. Ask me anything about Buffer, entrepreneurship, startup transparency, travel or anything else that pops to mind! Super excited to be here on Product Hunt Live.
Kalina Zografska@kzograf · Product fella @trygigster & @publitas
Hey @joelgascoigne, congrats on adjoining Respondly to Buffer! Do you see Respond as a product growing multiplatform like Buffer, for example supporting answering customer messages for FB Pages/profiles?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
Thanks so much @kzograf, I’m so excited about the new path we’re on now with the acquisition of Respondly! Great question. There’s a great team focused within Buffer on making Respond awesome and a key part of that is customer development to understand what people need the most. We’ve already heard a number of times that customers would like support for more channels, and it’s amazing to hear you ask for it too. It’s definitely in our plans. I’m also very excited to follow closely the evolution of Facebook Messenger as an awesome customer service channel, and perhaps that’s something we can think about integrating too.
Ab Ed@abkaumi · i am a college student
@kzograf @joelgascoigne Did you know that regular people are getting paid from $250 to $750 for a few minutes of their time just by recording their voice in a computer?You can make that money online just by using your voice even if you are complete beginner.Check this out here:
@joelgascoigne I wanted to ask; over the years which is your favourite city that you have worked from? and why?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@asmiler this is so hard to answer Ali! I'm not sure I can say say just one city - there are so many good ones and every city is different. I've also been lucky to live in many different places. I absolutely loved spending 4 months in Hawaii earlier this year. And I'm writing this from New York City, I'm coming up to almost 5 months here now and have enjoyed it too. Completely contrasting of course. I love the outdoors and the weather and how easy it is to be healthy in Hawaii. I enjoyed actually having a hobby (I surfed 3-4 times a week). I really like the energy and ambition of New York and the incredible food here. I lived in Hong Kong for 6 months, that was incredible too.
Ab Ed@abkaumi · i am a college student
@asmiler @joelgascoigne Did you know that regular people are getting paid from $250 to $750 for a few minutes of their time just by recording their voice in a computer?You can make that money online just by using your voice even if you are complete beginner.Check this out here:
Adhi@adhiwie · Designer
@joelgascoigne Hello Joel, I am always in awe with the value and culture at Buffer. How could you come up with the idea of implementing such culture in the early days of Buffer and how to make the employees at Buffer understand the culture? Thanks!
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@adhiwie Great question, thanks Adhi. I didn't know what culture and values were when I started Buffer. It's something that I learned about over time. A lot of things have happened like that for me - I think there's a right time for everything. There are many books I've read and they've not sunk in or resonated with me. Many of those same books I read later and they became books that changed my life. When we hit around 9 or 10 people at Buffer, I started to experience first-hand the impact of team dynamics. It was only then that I started to learn about company culture and tried to read as much as I could and watch presentations about it. By that point, a few parts of the culture had started to become clear: transparency, a focus on self-improvement, etc. But we hadn't put this in to words. It was right around then that I watched an interview that Tony Hsieh from Zappos had. I can't remember exactly which one it was, but he was asked by the interviewer: if you could go back and start Zappos again, what would you do differently? He said that they had waited until they were more than 100 people before they put values into words and documented their company culture. If he were to start again, he'd do that from day 1. Zappos was the key company we looked up to for having such a strong company culture, so we had no choice: we had to put our values into words as soon as possible. After we did so, it really moved us from the company culture being ad-hoc and left to fate, to us deliberately shaping it.
Courtney Seiter@courtneyseiter · Content Crafter, Buffer
@joelgascoigne @adhiwie Here's a look at the history of Buffer's values, including a link to that Tony Hseih talk!
June Swatzell@june_swatzell
@joelgascoigne @adhiwie I just started using buffer, very easy and dependable.
Amanda Tessier@amanda_tessier · Marketer at Altisource
Happy Monday, Joel. Glad to see you're doing this. What surprises you about the experience of leading a successful startup team? Also, what are your top 3 travel recommendations? You certainly have experience living all over the world!
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@amanda_tessier great to see you here Amanda! I think one surprise is how big we can grow and still need to grow more. We're 70 people now and if you'd told me a few years ago we'd be that many people I would have dismissed it. Every single person in the team is awesome and completely necessary and not only that, we have another 20 roles we're looking for people to join us to help us to do better! (feels like I've naturally come to a place where I should plug that we're hiring: Another surprise is how necessary structure is when you grow beyond a certain point, and how hard it is to get structure right. We've tried a lot of different things and we keep going with our efforts there. Top 3 travel recommendations: Tokyo (it's just so different to any other place in the world), Sydney (it's beautiful, check out the walk from Bondi to Coogee) and Iceland (a gem I didn't really know about until this year, so many awesome things to do there).
Inês Silva@isss111 · Entrepreneurship | Future of Work
@joelgascoigne I've been a long time Buffer's fan and what I'm most excited about is your consistency. Year after year you guys have always delivered top notch content and when everyone thought you had reached the limit of your transparency strategy, you managed to take it one step further. What's your secret? How do you keep challenging yourselves?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@isss111 I think the key is to remember that you can change everything. As we grow, it can be harder to remember that, but it's always true. Earlier this year, we fully embraced experimenting with self-management, and then it didn't quite work out as we expected. We were completely transparent about it, and it was hard to come back and say "we're moving away from some of those ideas", but I think that's the key to continuing to grow. It reminds me of this quote from Jeff Bezos, which is kind of ironic since you asked me about consistency: > People who are right a lot of the time, are people who often change their mind. Consistency of thought is not a particularly positive trait.
Inês Silva@isss111 · Entrepreneurship | Future of Work
@joelgascoigne Thanks Joel for the answer. As you mentioned it should be all about experimenting and learning as much as possible along the way. I know that consistency can mean different things, but in your case, Buffer has been able to be on the top of game year after year, month after month. You may change what you believe or what you do as long as you learn and make the necessary adjustments. That's key in my opinion!
Mike Hammar@mikehammarceo
@joelgascoigne @isss111 Excellent Joel, love your transparency. Michelle Wetzler of Keen recently wrote about Permission To Fail This willingness to be open, vulnerable, transparent at the highest levels of an organization is awesome.
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@mikehammarceo @isss111 Loved Michelle's post! :)
Howdy, @joelgascoigne! Big fan of both Buffer & how you've built it. I've got 2 questions here: 1. Are there any chances of you and/or the entire Buffer team coming to India? Would love to catch up someday! :D 2. Buffer blog is popularly known for the social media posts and for Buffer's transparency. Is there any chance that you could introduce another category for Product Management? You guys have been taking some amazing decisions. It would be great if you could share your thought process. If not another category, would it be possible for you to write on your personal blog? Thanks a ton for taking the time out to do this. :-)
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@svikashk hi Vikash! Thanks for chiming in, awesome questions! :) 1. Yes, I think that's highly possible! In fact, I know @sunils34 visits India from time to time, and others in the team have too (I believe @rdutel also). Now that we're 70 people and have a strong culture of travel within the team (anyone can travel while working anytime), it's hard for even me to keep track of where in the world everyone is. I personally have India high on my list now having traveled to many other places in the world. And who knows, maybe we could do a retreat in India sometime too! The other thing - we're always looking for awesome people to join the team, and I'd love for us to have a presence in India. 2. Love that you asked this - Product is one of my personal passions and key focuses within the team. We have an amazing team of product people (@jimhitch, @marc_rosa, @kymorrow) and we're all planning to write more about product on the Open Blog ( Also - thanks for the nudge for me to write on my personal blog - I plan to get back into a better flow there in 2016!
@joelgascoigne oh wow! So exciting to read this! 😀
Klajdi Turlla@klajdi_kl · Product Manager, MPAY Albania
@joelgascoigne @svikashk It would be great to hear more about products from you guys.
@joelgascoigne I remember having the opportunity to have a chat with @sunils34 earlier this year. It definitely is one of the highlights of this year for me. I'll make sure to check with @rdutel of his further plans and have an eye on the team's retreat plans. 😁 Oh amazing! Can't wait for it. So glad to hear that you'll soon be writing more on your personal blog. I definitely have missed reading posts by you. 😊
Sunil Sadasivan@sunils34 · CTO, Buffer
@svikashk It was a ton of fun chatting with you Vikash! :)
Chris Joyce@thejoycething · Digital Media Analyst
@joelgascoigne Hi Joel, Apologies if I misquote you on this, in a video about the Buffer team size tripling you said something (to paraphrase) along the lines of hiring the right people if you see someone with the necessary skills and more importantly glows with the Buffer culture. With this in mind, I was curious to know how many people have been head-hunted by buffer, compared to those who have applied through a job listing? I came across someone through my media monitoring, after further observation I suggested to my workplace that we hire that person, before they graduate. The persons skills and what I perceive to be her ethos will be hard to find in another person, and I believe she would be a great fit, so it'll be good to see if she's a good fit before she accepts any offers elsewhere. Keep up the excellent work, Until next time, Chris
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@thejoycething amazing question Chris - something I'm thinking a lot about right now. We've had such a strong focus on culture-fit, and we've also been lucky to have created a strong brand around both the product and our company values and culture. As a result, we receive 1,500-2,000 applications per month. Many many people apply to be part of the team and know a massive amount about us before we start talking with them. We've been lucky to find a way to make fully inbound hiring work super well for us, and we've actually struggled a lot with outbound hiring. I think there might only be 1 or 2 people in the team we've hired that way, if even that. I think this might need to change as we progress further, especially if we need to find people with a lot more experience to join the team and be leaders of areas. We're thinking a lot about that challenge, whether to focus on fully on nurturing people or whether to try to hire more senior people. I think right now we're leaning towards building a culture of learning and nurturing leaders.
@joelgascoigne @thejoycething "I think right now we're leaning towards building a culture of learning and nurturing leaders." This sentence sums up why I've followed Buffer since early 2012 continue to love 'em! 😍
Chris Joyce@thejoycething · Digital Media Analyst
@joelgascoigne Amazing reply Joel, thanks for taking the time to type it out. 😊 I love that your leaning towards finding people who sit well within Buffer's values and culture. I learn through observation, and one of the things I've picked up is that a person with a great ethos, who can learn the necessary skills needed, are always worth more in the long run. To the team, the company and the individuals they have contact with.
Chris Joyce@thejoycething · Digital Media Analyst
@svikashk Certainly a great way of thinking, and must certainly be awesome when you look at peoples progress and realize that while they've done a lot of great things, you helped them along the way by providing a good atmosphere and amazing people.
Cody Cares@thecodycares · Positivity Captain @ Splash Media
@thejoycething solid question! @joelgascoigne with there being such a high volume of applicants, I can imagine it is mere patience a candidate must rely on before hearing any feedback. With that being said, is there anything an applicant can do to go beyond the application to show additional value and interest? P.S. Regardless, content knowing "it’s safe and sound here in our inbox."! :)
Ashley Lewis@ashley_n_lewis · Freelance Graphic Designer
@joelgascoigne Hi Joel, My question is what is the number one thing you look for when considering possible new employees and which one of your 10 Buffer values do you strive to implement the most?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@ashley_n_lewis hi Ashley - thanks for asking a question! The key thing we look for when hiring is, as you've already mentioned, great culture-fit with our values. That is the hardest thing for us to find, and whilst skill/expertise is important, that is something we are less focused on than culture-fit, since we believe that is something that can be taught and practiced, moreso than culture-fit. The way we view the Buffer culture is, we're really looking for people who are already living their lives by these values, and happen to find Buffer which aligns very well with their personal values. It's a red flag for us if, during the first few weeks of someone joining the team, it feels like they are trying too hard to "fit in" with the values, in an unnatural way. Lots more on how we hire in this article: For myself, I personally strive to work the most on the Choose Positivity and Happiness value. It's one that I feel has made my life immeasurably better, and made me happier. It's one that I think can bring positivity to other people, and one which I feel makes me a better teammate too.
Ashley Lewis@ashley_n_lewis · Freelance Graphic Designer
@joelgascoigne @ashley_n_lewis Thank you Joel for taking the time to answer my question! I love Buffers values and It's inspiring to see a company that upholds these standards. Keep up the good work Buffer! :)
Hi @joelgascoigne How will you spend your time if you've got one hour to solve a user problem/need? Thanks!
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@juniusfree Love this one Junius, thanks for asking. My key focus would be on fully understanding the problem/need. I think a lot of us as entrepreneurs jump straight to the solution. It’s hard to actually go out there and ask about the problems people have, and stay focused on the problem rather than jumping to solutions. As soon as you jump to a solution, you’re making assumptions. That’s why my focus would be on customer development, on asking as much about the problem as I can without getting to solution. Ideally, you want to understand the user’s problems so well that the solution presents itself. This is really difficult, I’m not that great at it and that’s why within Buffer we’ve made it a key focus and have several people in the team full-time working on doing customer development. If that sounds interesting to anyone, we’re looking for more people to be part of the team to do that: Also, I can’t recommend highly enough Cindy Alvarez’s book on customer development:
Leo Bassam@leobassam · Founder, CEO at
@joelgascoigne, before starting Buffer, you were trying to build another startup. You mentioned that "assuming what people wanted" was one of the main mistakes led the start-up to fail. If you had another chance, how would you go about validating your idea? I am launching early 2016 - received over 500 early access signups in 2 weeks and great feedback. But, does this count as an idea validation? does this count as "okay, people want this"? Really keen to hear your thoughts :)
Ran@ranlearns · Founder, Peekaboo Studios
@loaibassam nice landing page for Pluto. Video/gif/sign-up. Good luck!
Leo Bassam@leobassam · Founder, CEO at
@ranlearns Thank you Ran! :)
Swapnil Shetty@heyswapnil · Printbee
@loaibassam really awesome page, I signed up too :).
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@loaibassam love it Leo - the fact you have a landing page up is already amazing progress. I think you're very much on the right track :) 500 signups is absolutely fantastic, it is some validation, but I wouldn't think of it as full validation. I wrote a bit about this here: The key is to focus on validated learning. And the best way to do that is through conversations with those 500 signups. That's what I'd start trying to do right away.
Leo Bassam@leobassam · Founder, CEO at
Glad you loved the idea behind Plutio! @joelgascoigne. I have just read the Medium article, thanks for sharing. That is exactly what I started doing with the first few signups, funnily enough, I had Skype calls with few after having conversations over email, just like you did! But when the numbers started to grow, I couldn't keep up! I was overwhelmed and been trying to find a way to start a conversation with everyone. As an attempt to talk to everyone, I set-up Intercom ( on the landing page. But then, said to myself. Now what? How do I get everyone on there... Shall I send them an email telling them that we can talk on the landing page? What do you think I should do Joel? Once again, thank you muchly for the time to answer my questions :)
Jason Thompson@nosaj_jason · Business Systems Analyst
@joelgascoigne What would you be doing as a career if Buffer didn't exist?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@nosaj_jason Love this one :) Thanks Jason. That's a tough one to answer - I several projects before Buffer that I considered startups, it was something I wanted to make happen real bad. A key turning point for me was when I realized it was more about making something work than the specific idea. In that sense, I think if Buffer didn't exist then I might have found something else that would work. That would be my hope! Before Buffer, I was a developer for about 10 years, that really was my identity. It's been an interesting transition I've enjoyed to make the switch from developer to running a company and being more of a manager. I guess there's a chance that my career could have stayed more technical and closer to the craft of programming. I do miss coding sometimes, but for me coding was always a means to creating something, so I love where I've ended up and wouldn't change a thing.
Jason Thompson@nosaj_jason · Business Systems Analyst
@joelgascoigne Well, all of us are very happy that Buffer exists today since we rely on it everyday. Thank you.
Chris Doner@chrisd008 · UX Lead, ForeSee
Hi Joel! Thanks for doing this AMA :) Buffer has become widely known for its culture, transparency, and overall progressive nature. In fact I would say that the company is more widely known for this as opposed to the product itself. I'm sure this has benefits (such as finding amazing employees), but wonder if it gives you any challenges as well...
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@chrisd008 thanks Chris! I think it can create some challenges also. One is that I think sometimes we end up focusing on the "non-product" side of things too much, when we really need to make sure that is balanced. Another challenge that comes to mind is that we have created a higher bar for ourselves in terms of how much we share about everything, and that can in some ways slow us down. A final challenge is that when we share so much, if we then change our minds, we end up with a lot of content out there that might be out of date or worse, might completely contradict our current views.
Jenn Cochlin@jenncochlin
Hello Joel, thank you for taking the time to answer all these great questions! I recently stumbled across Buffer through an article I read and became instantly hooked. Since then, I have spent time exploring the Buffer product, company values, and blog posts; kudos to you, Leo and your team for hitting such huge milestones! Having said that, I've noticed that one of the criterion for applicants states: "You have used Buffer consistently for at least 3 months." With such extreme volumes of applicants, is it likely that an aspirant with slightly less than 3 months under their belt has a chance?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@jenncochlin My pleasure Jenn - thanks so much for taking the time to write a question for me :) Thanks so much for your kind words - it's been a real fun journey for all of us! Great question on our 3 months of usage ask. I will say it is one of the requirements which we have relaxed slightly. However, I do feel it's super key and sets us up for ongoing success. If someone hasn't signed up, then it's definitely something we'd call out and ask them to try the product. If you've used it for 1 or 2 months rather than 3, then you definitely have a chance! :-)
Alessandro Avagliano@alex_avagliano
@joelgascoigne I have to say thank to you and Buffer for inspiring me and taught with Buffer Open a new model of work. How many people did they say thank you for this?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@alex_avagliano Thanks so much Alessandro! I have a ton of people I have to thank too for inspiring me. I feel very lucky to say that I think I may have lost count of how many people have said thank you to us for our openness. I definitely don't take it for granted and try to reflect on it regularly :) Thanks again!
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
@joelgascoigne Hi Joel, what are some unexpected benefits of tracking your metrics so closely and transparently?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@kingsongchen a key one is that we've opened ourselves up to getting incredible advice from people. People have literally written 2,000 word critiques on our salary formula, or on how we do product, or being a distributed team. It's super valuable and holds us to a higher standard.
Andrew So@andrewdixonso
@joelgascoigne Hi Joel, I deeply enjoyed this Buffer post about giving/receiving feedback: What's been the biggest challenge balancing a positive culture and necessary critical feedback?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@andrewdixonso I think that itself has been the biggest challenge: to balance the positivity value with being truly honest and giving appropriate feedback. I think for me it comes down to the difference between complaining/criticizing and being honest with necessary feedback. There's a quote from Eckharte Tolle's A New Earth that helped me to find the line between these things: "Complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right, and to refrain from complaining doesn't necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There's no ego in telling the waiter that your soup is cold and needs to be heated up, if you stick to the facts, which are always neutral. "How dare you serve me cold soup!" - that's complaining. There's a "me" here that loves to feel personally offended by the cold soup and is going to make the most of it. A "me" that enjoys making someone wrong. The complaining we are talking about is in the service of the ego, not of change." This what I try to aim for - it's really hard!
Wilbert Liu@wilbertliu · I ❤️ building products & telling 📃.
Hi @joelgascoigne! Thanks for doing this 😀 If I'm not mistaken, before you start Buffer, you were a freelancer with several clients. How did you manage your time to do freelancing while working on the early stage of Buffer? Did you code Buffer by yourself back then? What is the unique competitive advantage that you could think upon your success running Buffer?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@wilbertliu my pleasure :) That's absolutely right. When I started Buffer, I was working full-time for several clients and I was building Buffer on the side. Here are a few key things I did: - I originally was working on Buffer in my evenings, I found over time that it was not too effective. I was often tired at the end of the day. So, I switched to sleeping early, rising early and then working on Buffer for several hours before doing client work. It was much, much better and I think might be one of the keys to me actually getting Buffer off the ground. - When I was a freelancer, I had many friends who were also freelancers or had their own agencies. I saw that path could work for me. The hard part is, when you're doing a startup you don't see progress as fast as if you have a service business. There's a period of learning and trying and failing. That time was tough for me, but the key was that I decided I wanted to try to make a startup work. I sought out freelance opportunities that would make it easy for me to drop freelancing once I had made something work, without disappointing clients. A key part of that was doing work for other agencies, to help them when they had too much work. - I was lucky enough to end up with a setup where in the first few months of Buffer, as it started to work, I could gradually slow down my freelance work and transition over.
Rohan Vijay@vijay_rohan
Hi Joel, I had this question that Buffer as I mainly perceived is more of a customer centric company and most of its users are individual users and small companies. But are there any plans to expand Buffer to B2B business, something what Sprinklr or Percolate are doing ?
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@vijay_rohan Great question Rohan. This has certainly shifted over time as we've grown. In the first few years we were entirely focused on the individual super small business market. I think now we're still very much focused on small business, but also moving into the SMB space a little too. We're big enough as a team now to focus on both, and we're excited about the idea of democratizing the market through bringing some of the powerful solutions only offered to enterprises to individuals and small businesses. We launched Buffer for Business 2 years ago, and today it is around 40% of our revenue, a number which I expect to continue growing. I'm not sure we'll ever be a full enterprise product, but we do aim for Buffer to become a full-solution product that can be used by large companies and microbusiness alike. One thing I love about having 47,000 customers is that I can sleep at night knowing that if we lose one, it doesn't have a huge impact on us.
Matti Heubner@mattiheubner · Marketing at Iris Health
Hey Joel, I am one of the first employees in a remote startup and recently we started thinking about our culture and how to definite it. Would you be up for sharing some lessons or experiences you had when you started this process at buffer? So glad you at doing this and kudos to you and your team for building such a great product! I'm a huge admirer of your company ❤️👌
Joel Gascoigne@joelgascoigne · Co-founder/CEO, Buffer
@mattiheubner Thanks Matti! I think the key is to make it collaborative, to include people within the team. When we sat down to create our values, we took the approach that Buffer already had a culture, the job we were doing was just to put it into words. We created a short survey and asked people to write 3 phrases that for them described the culture we had. After that, me and my co-founder Leo worked on drafting something and we had a few iterations showing the team what we'd come up with before we had something we felt could be a good first version. There's also a great blog post on our Open Blog about how UserTesting created theirs: Good luck!