Radical Transparency: Inviting Your SaaS Audience Behind the Curtain

Victoria Rudi
May 20, 2022
⌚ 13 min read

→ Your growth practice

Build trust* with your audience, prospects, users, customers, community members, and other company stakeholders by embracing the Radical Transparency movement and getting open about the company’s internal processes, revenue, and numbers.

*According to a Forrester report on buyer’s behavior, “Trust will become the new currency.”

→ Quick explanation

In 2014, Baremetrics*, a subscription analysis platform, made its revenue public.

In 2015, Baremetrics launched the Open Startup Initiative, providing a dashboard that allows companies to share revenue metrics such as:

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
  • Annual Run Rate (ARR)
  • Lifetime Value (LTV)
  • Churn, Customers
  • And more

According to Josh Pigford, founder and ex-CEO at Baremetrics:

“Historically, businesses and startups are really tightlipped. Everything is a trade secret.”

But over the years, a handful of companies discovered that being fully transparent can be beneficial.

As Pigford wrote:

“Being open with your company adds humanity to what’s generally thought of as faceless. It keeps your company accountable instead of hiding under the hype that’s so typical in the startup world.”

*Although Baremetrics was sold in 2020, the new executives decided to keep public essential business stats.

We can’t associate Radical Transparency with Baremetrics, though, as the movement exists on its own, inspiring SaaS companies to get open about internal processes, reports, revenue, and more.

Moreover, Radical Transparency isn’t about sharing business numbers only. The movement also includes sharing elements such as:

  • Internal processes
  • How decisions are made
  • OKRs and goals
  • Quarterly reports
  • Salaries
  • Milestones
  • Internal communication
  • Growth experiments
  • Team & company experiments
  • Pitch decks
  • Sales decks
  • Company handbooks
  • And more

► Quick note: Embracing Radical Transparency may expose your brand to competitors, harsh public scrutiny, and haters.

→ Definitions

📓 Open Startups: Companies that share publicly business data, such as monthly recurring revenue, new customers, lifetime value, churn rate, salaries, decision-making processes, and more.

📓 Open Metrics: Publicly shared metrics and business stats. Usually, companies keep these metrics up to date. Some companies use the Baremetrics, ChartMogul, or ProfitWell dashboard to automatically publish and update their business metrics.

📓 Radical Transparency: Being open about various business aspects, such as the company metrics, code source, roadmap, internal operations, and more. Several companies, such as Buffer and Gumroad, are transparent about (almost) every single aspect of their business.

📓 Stealth Startups: Stealth startups avoid public attention. Some founders build stealth startups to hide information from competitors or — as part of a marketing strategy — to manage their public image.

→ Types of transparency

  • Internal Transparency: According to Buffer, “Transparency within companies has been around for ages. Most notably, Whole Foods has made employee salaries available to everyone internally since 1986.” The term refers to sharing internally the company stats, employee salaries, future goals, and more.
  • External Transparency: Sharing externally business-related information, such as the growth stats, OKRs, results, failures, challenges, milestones, employee salaries, and more.

→ Your growth opportunities

By embracing Radical Transparency and by sharing your internal process with a wide audience, you’ll access growth opportunities, such as:

  • Build trust with your leads, prospects, users, customers, and other company stakeholders. According to the #BrandsGetReal survey by Sprout Social, “When asked to reflect on their relationship with brands, two-thirds of consumers equate feeling connected with trust.” The same research found that “86% of Americans say transparency from businesses is more important than ever before.”
  • Differentiate yourself from faceless, stealth-mode, and corporate-focused competitors.
  • Build a likable and relatable brand. When you’re open about your internal processes, highlighting the decisions and the actions that stay behind your growth, you’re strengthening your company’s identity. This level of transparency will make your brand more relatable and help you connect better with your audience.
  • Become the obvious choice for future clients who share the same values as you. The Sprout Social survey indicates that “53% of people say they feel connected when that brand’s values align with their own.” And there’s no other stronger way to showcase your company’s values than being transparent about your internal processes.
  • Generate a content marketing strategy around your company’s identity. During a TradeOff episode, Patrick Campbell, CEO at ProfitWell, talks about his team conducting a study on blog post typology and its impact on website traffic and sharing. The findings showed that transparency-based articles describing company dynamics tend to get from 14% to 19% higher visit volume. Also, these articles have from 8% to 11% higher share rates on different platforms.
  • Ignite engagement with people interested in your company’s culture.
  • Transparency will help build an open culture, foster collaboration, gain your employees’ trust, and keep top talent.

→ Case examples

>> Buffer, an all-in-one-social media tool

From its launch, Buffer was an outlier in terms of transparency. It all started in 2011 when co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne publicly shared a user-related milestone.

Twitter Screenshot

The company became open about its stats and practices long before the Radical Transparency Movement gained popularity.

According to Buffer:

“At the end of 2011, we raised $450,000 and shared the names of the 19 investors and how we met them.”

In 2012, the company leadership publicly shared the slide deck they used to raise half a million dollars.

Deck Screenshot

Later in 2013, Buffer published its deck on the company values. The presentation included a note called “Default on Transparency,” highlighting actions such as:

  • You take pride in opportunities to share our beliefs, failures, strengths, and decisions.
  • You use transparency as a tool to help others.
  • You always state your thoughts immediately and with honesty.
  • You share early in the decision process to avoid “big revelations.”

The same year, Buffer co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne sent two emails to his team, disclosing first internally (and then externally) the salary formula and later the equity formula.

Email Screenshot
Email Screenshot

In 2014, after Baremetics announced its Open Startup Initiative, Buffer made public its revenue dashboard with real-time revenue numbers.

In 2015, as the Buffer transparency article notes: 

“We shared our first diversity dashboard in June, along with our full diversity stats. We know we did (and still do) have work to do when it came to diversity, and we wanted to share the details that can help us grow as an inclusive and diverse team.”

Also, in 2015, the Buffer team published an article on Transparency Movement.

According to the post

“Buffer started around late-2013 with their Open blog, and as you can see from the graph, that’s when you notice a change in their revenue trajectory. Transparency made Buffer a unicorn in the startup world and brought them a lot of attention, especially from the media.”
Website Traffic Screenshot

Later, the Buffer leadership added a product roadmap, a public Trello board, End of Year reports, Equal Pay reports, and a formula for profit sharing and charitable contributions.

Today, Buffer is sharing things such as:


Buffer Screenshot

Salary calculator

Buffer Screenshot

Revenue dashboard

Buffer Screenshot

Diversity dashboard

Buffer Screenshot

OKRs formula

Notion/Buffer Screenshot

Equal Pay Reports

Buffer Screenshot

Company experiments

In May 2020, Joel Gascoigne wrote: 

“As April comes to a close, and we look ahead to another month where our global team is living in various forms of lockdown and isolation, I decided that for the month of May, Buffer will operate under a 4-day workweek (at full pay) across the whole 89-person team.”

► Side note: Buffer’s 4-day workweek experiment started during the COVID-19 lockdown.

In his article, Joel explained why the company leadership decided to try a 4-day workweek, publishing the results of All Hands surveys, such as:

  • What is your biggest barrier to self or family care at the moment?
  • What would be most helpful from Buffer?

Joel also described what a 4-day workweek schedule looks like for each department.

What’s impressive is how comfortable Joel felt with the lack of certainty about whether the managerial experiment will work or not.

In other words, Buffer’s transparency came hand in hand with a high level of vulnerability, as the 4-day workweek could have ended as a big failure.

As Joel wrote:

“Depending on the results and outcomes, we could possibly see a 4-day workweek continue for another month or longer, or we could return to a more typical workweek.”

If you’re wondering, the 4-day workweek experiment worked out just fine. The results were quite impressive.

As Nicole Miller, Director of People, notes:

  • 91% of team members are happier and more productive.
  • 73% of Buffer teammates are only working a four-day workweek.
  • For 84% of people, 4 days a week was enough to get the work done.

Two years later, Buffer’s team is still working a 4-day workweek.

And that’s not all. If you want to learn more about transparency at Buffer, check out these articles:

  • How We Offer Async Training To Our Fully-Distributed Customer Advocacy Team [article link]
  • Why We Increase Our Team’s Salaries Every Year [article link]
  • How We Decide What To Pay Our Team: Our Salary Formula and Compensation Philosophy [article link]
  • Everything We Know About Remote Work [article link]
  • 2021 Pay Analysis: How We’ve Lowered Our Gender Pay Gap From 15% to 5.5% [article link]
  • How We Serve Our Customers While Working a 4-Day Work Week [article link]
  • When Taking Fridays Off Can Help Our Team Get More Done: An AMA on the 4-Day Work Week [article link]
  • An Honest Look into our Engineering Team Engagement Survey [article link]

>> Bannerbear, an automated and video generation platform

The Bannerbear open stats are updated automatically.

Bannerbear Screenshot

Jon Yongfook, the Bannerbear founder and CEO, is sharing the following metrics:

  • Subscribers
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Annual Run Rate
  • GitHub Commit Activity
  • Marketing Site Daily Pageviews
  • Trials

Apart from that, Bannerbear also provides data on the last six months’ performance, including signups, new customers, and conversion rate.

Bannerber Screenshot

Moreover, to make things more fun, the Bannerbear CEO decided to transform the company’s equaled MRR progress into his favorite motorcycles.

Bannerbear Screenshot

>> Cal, open scheduling infrastructure

According to Peer Richelsen, co-founder and co-CEO at Cal: 

“From the very first days of the project, we’ve actively built out our /open page. I believe it was the third page we’ve built internally but haven’t publicly announced its existence before today.”

The Cal founders are sharing data such as:

  • Team members and salaries
  • Team Gender Ratio
  • Team Location Ration
  • Ethnicity of Applicants
  • Gender of all Applicants
  • Gender of Software Engineers
  • Residence of Applicants
  • Weekly Bookings
  • Weekly Active Users
  • Weekly New Customers
  • Cumulative Customer Count
  • Daily Search Impressions
  • GitHub Stars
  • Monthly Burn
  • And more
Cal Screenshot

>> Friendly, marketing automation software

The Friendly founders are sharing a wide variety of data, such as:

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Net Revenue
  • Fees
  • Average Revenue Per User
  • Annual Run Rate
  • Lifetime Value
  • MRR Growth Rate
  • User Churn
  • Revenue Churn
  • Quick Ratio
  • Active Customers
  • New Customers
  • Reactivations
  • New Subscriptions
  • Active Subscriptions
  • Upgrades
  • Downgrades
  • Churned Customers
  • Coupons Redeemed
  • Failed Charges
  • Refunds
Friendly Screenshot

The company also shares its web analytics, roadmap, and source code.

The Friendly team is sharing website metrics, such as:

  • Unique Visitors
  • Average Visit Duration
  • Bounced Visits
  • Actions
  • Pageviews
  • Total Searches on Website
  • Downloads
  • And more
Friendly Screenshot

The dashboard is also showing visits in real-time.

As founder Stefan Vetter highlights, Friendly is the first and only Open Startup in Switzerland.

Twitter Screenshot

>> Mailbrew, a personal email digest & Typefully, a Twitter thread maker and analytics

The Mailbrew and Tyepfully co-founder, Fabrizio Rinaldi, created an Open Startup minisite to display company data.

Twitter Screenshot

The Mailbrew and Typefully founders feel comfortable sharing metrics on:

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Number of Subscribers

The graph shows the growth evolution for 1, 3, and 6 months.

Metrics Screenshot

>> Leave Me Alone, an email unsubscribing platform

The Leave Me Alone founders created several metric categories. Let’s take them one by one:


  • Current MRR
  • All Time Subscription Revenue
  • Company Expenses
  • Rent
  • Living Expenses


  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Active Customers
  • Current MRR
  • Annual Run Rate (ARR)
  • Total Subscription Revenue
  • Monthly Profit
  • Net Profit Margin
  • Total Expenses
  • Total Donations
  • Total Profit
  • Daily Revenue
  • Revenue Last Month
  • Revenue This Month
  • Revenue This Year
  • Total Revenue
  • Sales Last Month
  • Sales This Month
  • Sales This Year
  • Total Sales
  • Revenue Per User
  • Revenue Per Subscriber
  • Total Premium Pass Sales
  • Premium Pass Conversion Rate
  • Expenses, including Domains, Emails, Hosting, Payment Processing Fees, Climate Contributions
  • Advertising


  • New Signups
  • Signups Last Month
  • Signups This Year
  • Total Signups
  • Onboarding Funnel
  • Daily Emails Stats
  • Total Emails Unsubscribed
  • Total Emails Rolled Up
  • Total Emails Blocked
  • Total Emails Scanned

Our Forest

The stats show data such as:

  • Carbon Saved by Unsubscribing
  • Carbon Offset by Planting Trees
  • Total Trees Planted
Leave Me Alone Screenshot

>> Growsurf, referral program software for tech companies

The Growsurf team is sharing the company goals publicly:

  • Ramen Profitability
  • $1 Million ARR

Also, the company shares via ProfitWell dashboard the following data:

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Annual Recurring Revenue
  • Total Active Customers
  • Total Trials
  • Growth Rate (This Month)
  • New Trials (This Month)
  • New Customers (This Month)
  • Customer Churn Rate (This Month)

Moreover, Growsurf shares product analytics, such as:

  • Total Referrals
  • Total Impressions
  • Total Participants
  • Total Invites
  • Total Shares
  • And more.

Growsurf is also open about the website traffic, sharing stats such as:

  • New Users (This Month, Last Month, 2 Months Ago)
  • Users (This Month, Last Month, 2 Months Ago)
  • Pageviews (This Month, Last Month, 2 Months Ago)
  • Goal Conversion Rate (This Month, Last Month, 2 Months Ago)
Growthsurf Screenshot

>> ConvertKit, a marketing platform for creators

As Nathan Barry, founder and CEO at ConvertKit, notes: 

“When we crossed $1m in monthly recurring revenue (MRR), ConvertKit’s open metrics dashboard received a wave of attention.”
ConvertKit Screenshot

>> Ghost, an open-source, professional publishing platform

The Ghost team is sharing data such as:

  • Annual Run Rate
  • Monthly Run Rate
  • Net Churn
  • Active Customers
  • Installs
  • GitHub Stars
  • And more
Ghost Screenshot

>> Simple Analytics, a privacy-friendly website analytics platform

According to the Simple Analytics team, “Simple Analytics is an Open Startup™, which means it operates fully transparent and shares its metrics, including revenue, costs, users and traffic.”

The company is sharing data, such as:

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Customer Happiness (NPS)
  • Visits
  • Customers
  • And more
Simple Analytics Screenshot

The company is also making use of its platform to present the website traffic stats, which include:

  • Visitors
  • Page Views
  • Time on Page
  • Live Visitors
  • Referrals
  • Pages
  • Devices
  • Countries
Simple Analytics Screenshot

>> Wild Audience, ActiveCampaign analytics add-on

Wild Audience is publishing quarterly transparency reports, which include detailed data and videos on topics such as:

  • Revenue
  • Expenses
  • Customer Success
  • Product
  • Marketing
  • Culture
  • What’s next?
Wild Audience Screenshot

>> Gumroad, a self-publishing digital marketplace platform

Sahil Lavingia, the founder and CEO at Gumroad, usually publishes the company’s quarterly board meetings on YouTube.

YouTube Screenshot

During these meetings, the team usually discusses the metrics, the new features, and the next steps.

Also, Gumroad has an open Wiki, listing all the internal processes, from the roadmap to how the team decides what to work on next.

Notion/Gumroad Screenshot

→ What to consider?


  • Do I feel comfortable with embracing the Radical Transparency Movement?
  • What’s the main goal behind becoming an Open Startup?
  • How will I deal with public scrutiny?
  • What do I want to share with my audience?
  • What company information do I not want to share publicly?


  • There are no specific requirements to become an Open Startup or embrace the Radical Transparency movement.

► Quick note: Patrick Campbell, founder and CEO at ProfitWell, published an interesting post on Twitter, asking if anyone knows a company doing $20M+ in ARR and building in public or being transparent with their financials. The conversation revealed that no other $20M+ ARR company, apart from ConverKit and Buffer, is open about its internal processes.

Twitter Screenshot

→ Your action framework

There’s no “right” way to build an Open Startup. You’ll discover a plurality of transparency practices and examples. The variety of approaches focuses on what to share, how to share, and when to share. Let’s take them one by one:

👉 What to share

‍Some founders feel comfortable with publishing the company’s $MRR. Others may be OK with sharing the product roadmap only. There’s a wide variety of elements one can share publicly:

Business stats

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Net Revenue
  • Average Revenue Per User
  • Annual Run Rate
  • Lifetime Value
  • MRR Growth Rate
  • User Churn
  • Revenue Churn
  • Active Customers
  • New Customers
  • Reactivations
  • New Subscriptions
  • Active Subscriptions
  • Upgrades
  • Downgrades
  • Churned Customers
  • Coupons Redeemed
  • Failed Charges
  • Refunds

Marketing stats

  • Website traffic
  • Average time on the website
  • Bounce rate
  • New newsletter subscribers
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Asset downloads

Company stats

  • Salaries
  • Salary calculator
  • Diversity Dashboard
  • Tech stack
  • Work management (practices)
  • Equal pay reports


  • Roadmap
  • Open source code


  • Struggles & challenges
  • Growth goals
  • Personal goals
  • Milestones
  • Learned lessons
  • And more

Some may share a few business stats along with the roadmap. Others may share their personal lessons only.  

👉 How to share

‍Considering the multitude of channels, founders have to choose where they want to share their open metrics and personal notes:

  • Personal blog
  • Personal Twitter
  • Personal Instagram
  • Personal LinkedIn
  • Personal YouTube channel
  • Company blog
  • Company Twitter
  • Company YouTube channel
  • Recurring newsletter
  • Annual reports
  • The dashboard provided by Baremetrics, ChartMogul or ProfitWell
  • Traffic dashboards provided by Fathom Analytics, Plausible, or Simple Analytics
  • Internally created Metrics dashboard
  • And more

👉 When to share

‍Founders start sharing business data at different levels of company growth. For example, some may choose to launch an Open Startup from the beginning. Others may open up after the company reaches an important milestone.

Also, some founders may struggle with deciding the sharing frequency. Again, there are no rules. It can happen:

  • Daily (especially when using the dashboards provided by Baremetrics, ChartMogul, or ProfitWell)
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • Quarterly
  • Annually

Each founder will decide what, how, and when to share depending on what feels comfortable and makes the most sense, strategically speaking. It’s also worth mentioning that some founders may initially share everything openly, only to discover that they aren’t fully aligned with this approach. As a result, they’ll stop being part of the transparency movement, going back to less open communication.

💥 To remember: There are no “rules” or “standards” on embracing Radical Transparency or building an Open Startup. However, before joining the Transparency Movement, founders must decide what to share (company metrics, personal stories), how to share (raw data, videos, articles, reports), and when to share (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and/or annually). Even if you didn’t embrace the Transparency Movement, you have to build internal transparency, building trust inside your company. Finally, if you don’t feel comfortable, you’re free to stop sharing your company’s metrics or personal stories. Embracing Radical Transparency isn’t a prerequisite for success.