The Rise of Open Startups

Can you guess the monthly revenue run rate for the online publishing platform, Ghost?

The answer is $143,931. I’d ask if you guessed right, but if I’m honest you didn’t need to guess, you could have just visited Ghost’s website to find out!

Ghost is one of a growing number of startups that are operating transparently — sharing company data that previously would have been limited to employees and investors. They refer to themselves as an Open Startup, but what does this mean and why would you run a company publicly?

What’s An Open Startup

An open startup is a company that has chosen to publicly share metrics about their company. Normally they share revenue, users, and traffic numbers but in some cases they will even share, logs and dashboards too.

The trend for transparency and openness appears to have been started by Buffer, but now has been adopted by several other companies like ConvertKitGhost and Nomad List.

Ghost’s Annual Run Rate

Why Run An Open Startup

Marketing: It’s been demonstrated by NomadList and Baremetrics that publicly sharing statistics can be used for promotion and to increase traffic. Equally sharing a growing user base is ideal social proof for potential customers. That said, being open can work both ways. Low user numbers or revenue could have the complete opposite effect and deter customers from purchasing.

Feedback: Sharing development progress and roadmaps is an excellent way to gain real-time feedback from existing users and potential customers. Monzo has done this very effectively with its public roadmap.

Education: Being transparent about how a company is gaining customers, building a product and making money provides an excellent opportunity to dispel the myths around startups for customers, investors and founders. More public information can also help the industry progress, encouraging others to launch independent companies.

Whether you agree with the Open Startup movement or not, it’s undeniably intriguing to be able to see how companies like Ghost are growing. 

I believe opening information previously restricted to a privileged few plays a part in democratising the startup world. I hope to see more companies open their data as I’m sure it can benefit us all.

How Jurgen Klopp Transformed Liverpool’s Culture

Image from Sky Sports

I’ve long been fascinated by the parallels between sport and business, especially how activities off the field can dramatically impact the results on it. Over the last few years, I’ve been watching the change at Liverpool Football Club with interest. It’s not so much the success that intrigues me but more the change in culture that began with the arrival of manager Jurgen Klopp.

Over the weekend, I listened to a great analysis of Klopp’s leadership on the podcast Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat. After listening to the show I think there are two critical elements that have supported change at Liverpool and I want to share these with you today.

Inclusiveness

When he joined Liverpool, Klopp made the point of learning the names of all eighty employees at Melwood the clubs training ground. He lined them all up in the dining hall and introduced them to the players. Klopp explained to the whole group that they all had a responsibility to help each other achieve their best.

Creating a sense of inclusivity and family is critical to the Klopp approach. He works hard to make the players and staff feel valued, which creates inclusive energy that can sustainably engage people.

A study found that 74% of engaged employees believed senior leaders had a sincere interest in their well-being. While in a similar sample of disengaged employees, only 18% felt their managers genuinely cared about their well-being. The study suggests that leaders can increase employee engagement by expressing emotion and creating bonds that unlock better performance in colleagues.

This raises the question of whether engagement is Klopp’s secret weapon to delivering better results on the pitch?

In an analysis of 50 global companies, consulting firm Towers Watson found that companies with low engagement scores had an average profit margin of just under 10 percent. But those firms with high engagement had a slightly higher margin of 14 percent. The superstar firms with the highest engagement scores had an average profit margin of 27 percent.

I think the same is happening at Liverpool. By Klopp expressing interest in employees, he is dragging up their engagement and connection to the cause, giving everyone a sense of shared purpose.

Psychological Safety

We’ve seen how creating connection, engagement and shared purpose can lead to greater success, but this benefit could be quickly eroded without creating psychological safety.

Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. It’s characterised by mutual honesty, honesty of the team with the boss and the boss with the team.

Klopp creates safety by encouraging his team to take chances. He would tell his players he would rather see them shoot and miss, than not try at all. He famously will not criticise technical errors and instead consoles and then encourages players when these are made. Ultimately psychological safety is about letting players know they won’t be blamed for giving everything they’ve got.

Klopp also reinforces psychological safety by how he deals with mistakes. In 2018 Liverpool were beaten 3-1 in the Champions League final after two shocking mistakes made by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius. However, in an interview after the game, Klopp never blamed the goalkeeper. In contrast he complimented him, saying he was a fantastic individual who would recognise the errors.

Although Karius left Liverpool shortly afterward, the way Klopp treated him as a person is to be admired. It demonstrated to others they would always be respected and treated fairly at Liverpool.

If we want our teams to be creative, we can’t punish them for mistakes. Klopp goes out of his way to show that no one will pay the price for making mistakes.


It will be interesting to see if Liverpool can repeat their successes in the coming seasons. Building a self-sustaining organisational culture is a challenge that has eclipsed all but the best leaders. It will be interesting to see if Klopp can prevent the burnout seen at other clubs who have gone through a shift in culture.

Whatever happens in the future, I think Klopp’s success is best measured not by football results but how he is seen as a human. I will leave you with this quote from defender Virgil van Dijk which I think encapsulates Klopp’s success best.

“He is a fantastic manager first and foremost, but he is also a fantastic human being as well. How he handles us as players at the games and outside the games is outstanding. It’s a pleasure to work with him and with all the staff that work at Melwood. It’s an amazing environment to be in. I’m very proud and very glad that he wanted me to play at this beautiful club.”

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Between September 20 and 27, a record 7.6 million people took to the streets and went on strike for climate action. It was the most significant climate mobilisation in history involving 186 countries, 73 trade unions and 3024 businesses.

It’s these businesses that I want to focus on in this post. It was amazing to see companies like Ben & Jerrys, Patagonia and others closing their offices and stores around the world, to support their employees in striking. It was good to see them putting their money where their mouth was and taking a short term financial hit, for doing what was right.

That said there were a lot of companies that didn’t do the same. These companies are keen to talk about climate action and social responsibility in their marketing, and many even paid lip service to how they supported global climate strikes. But they continue to operate their businesses as usual, not willing to bear the financial cost of practising what they preach.

While I do care about the issue of climate change, I am not arguing in this piece that you or your company should care as well. However, I find it highly hypocritical that companies who advocate for social change in their mission statements and marketing activities refuse to make the difficult decisions required to make the change they claim to desire.

For many of these companies, doing social good is a significant component of their brands. It helps them sell their products and recruit talented employees. They reap the financial rewards that come with standing for more than just economic enrichment. Isn’t it time they also put their money where their mouth is and invest in the change they claim to want?