Parting ways with Buffer

Reflections and gratitude for an incredible four and a half years

When I started to learn to code in the first year of undergrad, I never truly understood what life opportunities those skills would provide me. After graduating, I had built router software, I had worked with incredibly talented engineers on every layer of the computing stack building a “Kindle for textbooks,” and I had failed to obtain traction founding my first startup with Fancite — a visual Reddit for sports and celebrity fans. Those experiences and string of learning through failures paved a pathway for me to find Buffer.

Shortly after saying goodbye to Fancite, I emailed Joel in 2012 in hopes to simply help Buffer out wherever it was needed. I wanted to learn how Joel and Leo were able to attain Product/Market fit, when I wasn’t able to. I came on board to help them build their first native Android app, which was launched within two months. A couple months after that, due to a bit of a team shake up — I was moved into the CTO position.

I’ve had many firsts at Buffer. It was the first time I worked on a complex product at scale with several hundred thousand active customers. It was the first time I’ve hired and managed a team — then several teams. Buffer is now made up of 27 incredible engineers, whose top-tier work and no-ego culture I’m incredibly proud of. I led the forensic investigation of a sophisticated hack, something I’m forever shaped by. I helped acquire a product and built and coached a team to relaunch it. I’ve learned what it takes to grow to 13 million annual recurring revenue. All the while, I’ve travelled the world with this incredible team on our retreats and have made lifelong friends with co-workers spread across 55 different cities worldwide. Growing a team from five to eighty people is an opportunity not many people experience and I’m forever indebted to Buffer and to Joel for trusting me all these years. Buffer has given me an opportunity to expand my worldview in a way I would have never dreamed possible.

Embracing change

Every startup is on its own individual journey, and growth brings on newer challenges. The challenges faced with a team of 80 are completely different than what’s experienced when it’s 10 people. As the challenges become more complex, so do the routes to resolution. There ends up being multiple viable solutions and because of that, it becomes harder to achieve alignment among senior leadership. Therefore, all along the journey of growing a startup, people enter and leave, and this is something to embrace. There is no such thing as permanent alignment. It was with that recognition that I’ve seen the fork in the road between my personal path and Buffer’s direction.

It was one of the hardest decisions of my life to say goodbye to a team I love, and a product mission I believe in. After much reflection and introspection, the timing was right for me to listen to my heart as it’s been pulling me on a different path. Leo had come to a similar recognition and we’ll both be leaving together.

I’m excited for the future, for both the next chapter of my personal journey and of Buffer’s. While this news is a bit of a shake-up in Buffer’s leadership, it presents an opportunity for us to see Buffer go farther with a greater sense of unity, alignment and purpose. Buffer is in great hands with an incredible group of people and I expect only the best from them.

I’m incredibly grateful and proud of everyone at Buffer — especially all of the great engineers and leaders who are stepping in to fill the gaps Leo and I may leave.

Looking forward

Since sharing the news with Joel and the team, I’ve had some time to reflect on what I’d like to be doing next. I’m excited to take the experiments and learnings I’ve had at Buffer to enrich the next organization I’m involved with.

I’ve decided to go back to building from the ground up for a time. I’ll be spending the next few months with Leo to experiment on some product ideas to help companies build diverse and inclusive teams. You can follow along what we’re up to here.

Now that I have a bit more free time, I’m also excited to share more of the lessons I’ve learned through blogging and mentorship. If you’d like to chat, do reach out to me: @sunils34.

I am the result of the countless mentorship sessions, advice and opportunities I’ve received. I recognize that wholeheartedly, and I’m obliged to pay that forward.

Joel has written more about my decision to move on and the transition on Buffer’s blog.

Here are some of my favorite memories with Buffer and the team.

August 2013, San Francisco — The very first team retreat
August 2013, Lake Tahoe
November 2013, Bangkok — On a roof for the team dinner. Grateful for Niel for spending much of the evening explaining the intricacies of cryptocurrency.
April 2014, Cape Town — Team photo on the foothills of the 12 Apostles
September 2014, NYC — Being silly atop the Rockefeller center
February 2015, Sydney — Architecture discussion with the engineers
July 2015, Iceland — Right after whitewater rafting. I’d soon realize I had two phones completely soaked in my pocket the entire time.
January 2016, Hawaii — At the NFL Probowl
January 2016, Hawaii — Being silly in the elevator
January 2016, Hawaii — At the 7th Team Retreat Kickoff