Buffer is Lost, Time for a Change.

It's time to add the word "results" to the word "transparency."

· Startups,Buffer,Buffer company

This is a response to a recent Twitter/X Post by Joel Gascoigne and the continued decline of Joel's company, Buffer.


@buffer is stagnant. It will keep declining unless something major corrects this tainted path. My recommendations may seem direct. But, many in the startup community tire of excuses and inaction. This is especially true when a startup becomes a lifestyle company. Such a shift has little upside for its original believers (read: investors).

To be clear, Buffer is not my biggest startup investment. But, I took a keen interest and became an evangelist for the company for years as an investor, and customer of Buffer. I even wrote about Buffer in articles. I promoted it to my startups. I said it was a useful tool for their social media presence and distribution. That's why I'm writing today. You deserve to hear this feedback. You want to do something great for the great employees who shaped Buffer. Many of them still retain equity.

Here are my recommendations to turn this company around:

1) Cut your headcount by 10 to 15% (or more). Without growth or innovation that shows any signs of growth, you are running a tight ship that will sink. Cutting your headcount will let your company reprioritize. It will refocus on the rise of AI and its fast growth. If Buffer did not improve metrics for 4+ years, some inefficiencies need correcting.

2) Salaries should not just be transparent, they should be comparable to competitors. Public salaries are cool. But, the ones I'm seeing for certain roles at 120k+ are insane. It's mind-blowing that you have so many customer advocates. By now, someone should have automated the product. It is your product offering. You could use client-side ChatGPT to cut roles by 50% in this department. Look at what Klarna just did - not perfect, but this can be done at Buffer. This is not to say your Customer Advocates are not great. But, technology is rapid and these roles are not what they used to be. If you want to keep these salaries as they are, then add a new component to their daily work: outbound sales. Get leads of all small and mid-sized businesses that incorporate. Then, reach out to them, proactively. Don't just rely on SEO to grow Buffer's presence. Have these advocates become outbound wizards who increase the organic outreach of your product. I know only this about Buffer: you rely on marketing, content, and SEO to grow customers. But, few people interact with the posts I've seen on Instagram, Facebook, and others. Yes, your old blog posts are solid, but these are 5% of the overall growth strategy for a SaaS business. If you want to keep salaries so high and inflated (and geographically-specific) then there should be an outbound sales component to earn these salaries.

3) Strategic Acquisitions: Acquire other companies in this space, or innovate faster. You have many social media schedulers. You could acquire one and grow your EBITDA. Take the savings from inflated salaries and pump this into $1 to $5 MM acquisitions or merge into something bigger. Add new product offerings from these acquisitions. Take capital and grow the business into something greater.

4) Leadership changes: Change the top-level leaders. Joel, I'm sure you're great. But, someone has to be held accountable. Your "learnings" shared, aren't actual learnings unless you do something about them. Buffer could lead in AI and join millions of sites and small/mid-size businesses. But, it continues to lag. Something has to give here. The buck stops with you. No offense, but when investors are on board, it's a numbers story. And the numbers don't add up when your SaaS model is declining, not improving. This should be a 10x Revenue valued company, but it's likely 2x at most.

5) Free Plans kill SaaS companies. And product changes and improvements, won't solve the key issues. Most of your post is focused on enhancing your product, but there is little to no mention of an outbound or revised strategy. You focus too much on free plans, and these plans end up costing your team time, energy, and valuable resources. As a SaaS CEO, the big picture doesn't come from small or free plans that could kill your company completely. Every plan should be lifetime access (one-time) or meaningful - $95 or higher per month. Let me repeat: free plans will destroy Buffer and you should immediately transition all plans to paid plans so that your valued team can use its valued resources, wisely.

Lastly, I am also disappointed because I knew this would happen. As soon as I realized you had made this a nice lifestyle company, I asked that you buy my shares from the earlier round of angel/seed investors. It became clear this was a lifestyle company, not a growth company. I always invest in growth companies, not lifestyle businesses that enrich the Founders and few supporters (or employees). Why do an angel round and tell us all sorts of promises, when it's clear 8+ years later that there's no upside? I was planning to invest in other startups. They wanted to grow and listened to feedback. But, I got stuck with an illiquid and likely declining investment, like many others. Many employees who I know do a great job, will make very little in the event of an acquisition because this is now a declining lifestyle business. So yes, these recommendations above for Buffer, help them too.

We are at the beginning of an AI revolution, and it's time for Buffer to step up and make substantive changes. You still have an inkling of a chance to grow into something beyond a lifestyle company, but you took investor funds for a reason... so do something about it.

My offer for you to buy back shares is still on the table if you guys don't see this vision or realize where Buffer's missing out. You know my email.

And yes, of course, I wish you all the best and success... but to get there start adding the word "results" next to the word "transparency."