The easiest rebuttal to this might be that times are changing and that the concept is too new to accurately reflect future outcomes. Or further that "our team is happy" and we don't want to change interfere with these freedoms. Perhaps you're correct. But let me suggest a perfect combination - a hybrid model - that will promote your workforce and bring together the brilliant minds at Buffer:
Introducing... The new Buffer Incubator.
- All team members have at least a three-month stay at a new location each year. I would recommend an Olympics-style selection process (but keep it fair and legit, ok?) where at least 33% of the Buffer team is in one building, one place, at one time of the year.
- During this Buffer Incubator process, you'd hear the voices, ideas, and product suggestions flowing. You could also invite companies who want to build on top of your ecosystem like Quuu to join your team.
- The new incubator would be a natural extension of your model of once-per-year meeting in cool places. But as your team grows to 50+, I predict you're going to hit a breaking point where it's impossible to fit enough people in a Slack messaging forum, or video conference, to get things done.
I would recommend going t0 the top-fastest growing cities for Buffer each year. Tapping into the local startup ecosystem, and meeting with new entrepreneurs who share Buffer's enthusiasm for getting things done. You could also partner with Y-Combinator, 500 Startups, or other incubators during the first year as a way to save precious overhead expenses.
I do support the move from the Buffer HQ, but believe at some point this distributed work flow model will hit a breaking point and you'll need to be ready to adapt. Be pro-active about this and consider an "incubator-meets-talent-model" that will bring these minds together in one place. Could be pretty amazing!
Now... Buffer Should Raise $20 Million to Pay for This Expansion:
To pay for potentially free accounts, the first big recommendation, and any additional costs of hiring, I would recommend raising a $20 million dollar round in 2016 at a $200 million post-valuation. With a frugal burn rate, added revenue streams mentioned, and continued growth, Buffer has more than doubled its valuation from last year's raise.
I believe the massive potential, the ecosystem, and continued growth rate merits a large up round. By raising $20 million dollars and not having to give up too much equity (only give up 10%), you will show you're ready for the big leagues. Plus, the $20 million dollars will support hiring more sales, support, and happiness heroes to continue growing your business. I would say as a side note to this equity round, you should aim to have a per employee revenue model that is higher than Twitter and closer to Facebook's per employee, at $1,000,000, by the time you too go Public or have a 2.5 billion + exit.
Raising $20 Million should support up 75 employees and continued product expansion until the billion dollar valuation is crossed.
Remember, always be raising... and let's get started before those unicorns without wings fall from the sky and valuations start dropping.
Why $2.5 Billion+ Valuation?
Buffer — the Next Billion Dollar Startup.
As you can tell, I’ve done quite a bit of research on the potential of Buffer to make it into unicorn/mega-startup territory. This won’t be easy, and frankly to get to this level you’ll have to become an acquirer… and not the acquired.
After adding the additional revenue streams mentioned above, then raising $20 million dollars next year at a higher up round valuation, you should have at least $25MM in ARR, cash in the bank, and a higher equity multiple. Therefore, your stock will be worth much more.
Options for Buffer, post-raise:
Become the Acquirer…