Co-Founder of Squarecat.io & LeaveMeAlone.app | Indie Dev 👩‍🎤 Dog Lover 🐶 Nomad 🎒

What does it mean to be an Open Startup?

What is the Open Startup movement? And is it a good thing?

Declaring your company or product an Open Startup is becoming increasingly popular, but what does this mean?

What is an Open Startup?

The Open Startup trend is a transparency and openness movement seemingly initiated by Buffer, quickly adopted by Ghost, capitalised by Baremetrics, and recently popularised in the Indie Maker community by Pieter Levels.
There’s no official definition yet, and the Oxford dictionary weren’t available for comment, so let’s write one; A product or company which operates in the open and shares their statistics publicly.
All a company needs to declare themselves an Open Startup is to share their metrics such as revenue, users, and traffic. This is usually done on a dedicated page with lots of numbers and charts hopefully showcasing growth, and it can sometimes tells a story of the company (like Hacker Noon’s).

What are the benefits?

The benefits of being an Open Startup are the subject of much debate. This Twitter thread touches on some of the controversy.
We’re in a dystopian era in which horrible truths about companies profiting and growing in unethical ways are being reported every day. Many people believe that startups and products being transparent about how they make their money is a positive change, and one that is appreciated by customers.
One positive result from these news stories is that indie development communities are growing. More products are being built by individuals and small companies who have lost trust in large corporate methodologies.
Many of these are Open Startups and it’s encouraging to see a product flourish and grow from the idea to first sale, and show that success is possible as a solo indie maker without funding.
It has been suggested that Open Startup pages are purely a marketing strategy and nothing more. This may have some grains of truth to it for some early stage startups or side projects.
Sharing statistics via an open page or on Twitter does help with promotion and can increase traffic when metrics are shared. It depends on how you measure success, but for recently launched products the metrics don’t show enough data to determine sustained growth.
If an Open Startup has low number of user, sales, or revenue it could have the complete opposite effect and serve as negative social proof, deterring new customers from signing up or purchasing.
Marketing technique or not, launching a successful product is hard. Customers seeking transparency are on the rise, and having a measurement of success and growth is a big source of motivation and satisfaction for the makers or founders to keep working on their startup and providing new features for their loyal customers.

Building in the open

The majority of companies who have joined the Open Startup movement also share their development progress publicly. This is a good way to gain real-time feedback from existing users and potential customers, and means every part of their process is transparent.
Let’s make 2019 the year for more Open Startups, privacy focussed products, and indie made solutions! 🎉

Open Startup pages

Here’s a little list of beautiful Open Startup pages. Contact me if you’d like to be added!
https://www.startengine.com/hackernoon — this is more than an open page. This is an incredible story of growth, challenges, change, and accomplishments.

About me

I am an indie maker with my partner James. If you enjoyed this content you can follow me for more! If you’d like to see our products you can visit our website https://squarecat.io.
Photo by Leyre Labarga on Unsplash



August 23rd, 2019

Hi Dani! I wanted to ask, are you guys #ramenprofitable now? I am thinking of writing a little story, VH1 Behind the Music style (yes I am old!) on the hidden side of the nomad / financially independent life. And also I’m personally just curious, as I love NomadList and the Open Startup community - and thinking of signing up for LeaveMeAlone today. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

We are a worldschooling family, slow traveling in South America, and I totally resonate with your experiences in Part 3! Thank you for all you create!

August 23rd, 2019

Hey! We are not there yet with Leave Me Alone - we are making around $500 a month and we need $1500 to declare ourselves Ramen Profitable. You can always see our stats and progress on our open startup page leavemealone.app/open. It’d be fantastic if you signed up! Let me know if you have any questions or feedback for us :slight_smile:

I am not sure if this comment is showing on the wrong story, but thank you very much for reading my series! I’d love to hear more about your experiences, do you have a blog?

Thanks for reaching out! :slight_smile:

August 26th, 2019

Nice to connect with you! Just to respond to the wrong story thing, I couldn’t find a reply button for your other story. I have no idea why… figured it as a website glitch. (I was working on an iPhone before.)

Have a lovely week!!

August 28th, 2019

I just built a quick open startup page : https://geocode.xyz/open

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