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Tomer Barnea for novu

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at novu.co

Building an open-source company in public

One of the main core values of Novu is transparency with our community, team members, partners, and the industry around us.

Transparency isn’t something new, we’ve seen other companies do it such as Gitlab. The motion of building in public, Open Startup, and Open Telemetry is a part of a fresh movement, trying to make the world better by allowing more observability, accountability, and trust between companies and their surroundings.

What does it mean to build in public and how to do it?

Roughly speaking, you are trying to share everything that you can. That can be roadmaps, KPIs, revenue, or anything you choose.

While it’s not easy to become fully transparent, you can choose how transparent you want to be. Something is better than nothing. Even sharing a little makes you more accountable, keeps everything measurable gives you more confidence and allows you to communicate better with the world around you.

You could start by announcing that you're building in public, letting the community know. For example, some companies give daily or weekly updates about their numbers. Some take a more comprehensive approach, which means they're sharing their employees' salaries.

In Novu’s case, it means sharing our handbook. Also, we share all our repositories, our main product, websites, CMS, and many others. We keep most of our team channels and communication public to ensure the community has the full context of what we are working on. Writing this blog post is also a significant part of sharing our process publicly for everyone to know.

Ask a different question

Instead of asking the standard question: should we make this public? We ask, should we make it private?

We need to find a reason to make something private because we are trying to build with the community. It’s a lot harder to work with the community and have them be a part of something if they lack context or information.

One of the contributors we recruited already had a context on what we are doing as he already checked Novu’s code, roadmap, and team conversations. He did the complete engineering onboarding in under four hours and even suggested some new things. This is just one small win.

Here are some tips for becoming transparent

1). Shifting communication from private to public
In Novu we used to have a slack channel for our internal team and a discord channel for our contributors and community, it cause our community to lack context about the decisions we have made. Furthermore, if we decided to share the decisions with the community we had to copy the conversation from slack to discord. As a result, we have decided to move our slack channel and move everything into discord.

2). Expose your internal information
Like almost every company, we have our internal Notion, as part of being open, we have decided to make it public. The team had a lot of concerns, There's so much stuff there, meetings, our advisors, investors, and many more private stuff.

And like I said before, we couldn’t share everything, so we have started Project GlassWing to make our information public and share every possible thing. You can even go to our Notion and see what we offer our employees for their home offices.

We chose the name Project GlassWing because it’s the only butterfly on earth whose wings are actually transparent. You can find our handbook here:
https://handbook.novu.co

3). Stay Humble and expose your vulnerabilities and lack of knowledge
I've been doing the whole entrepreneurship thing for a few years now, and the only thing I can say for sure is that I know nothing about what I'm doing. I'm just putting my emphasis on learning every single day. Don’t try to emphasize how great you are and sweep the bad stuff under the rug. When you expose your vulnerabilities to everybody, you speed up your learning progress and make yourself open to more feedback.

4). Cut the fluff
Engineers can detect fluff from miles away. Founders who “hide” their progress/roadmap or are not really transparent with their community will hit the wall quickly because most engineers will tackle them with many hard questions they tried to avoid. I think that one of the reasons open-source is that big is because when I want to implement something, I want to see the code, know the company’s roadmap and be a part of the company discussion. Our community invests a lot of time writing code, creating discussions, and improving Novu. If they don’t know what will happen next, how can they trust us?

We have talked about it here!

Do you want to learn more about building in public? Join our discord!

https://discord.gg/8zfPkuAdA3

Also check out the first open-source notification infrastructure - Novu
https://github.com/novuhq/novu

Discussion (15)

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phlash profile image
Phil Ashby

Really interesting approach, and one that seems to work for some organisations - I have one question though: what are your investors expecting in return for their money & time, and what plans have they seen that provide confidence they will get it?

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combarnea profile image
Tomer Barnea Author

That is a good question Phil, first thing first Novu is a COSS (commercial open source software), so we do plan to monetize parts of our offering, and we are going to learn what would be the best to do so while keep on working with our community. So the simple answer to this question is thy plan to see money in return for their money & time. Now about the plans, Dima and I are working together as entrepreneurs for the past 9 years, so a good connection is a safe assumption, this is one of the biggest issues for companies. Other this statement they have seen our Open Source library adoption at the time around 2K stars and a couple of hundreds people talking to us, as well as a 2 years business plan, investors deck, and a the advisors who are working with us.

Is that helpful?

If this might interest you, you can check the deck on our handbook handbook-novu.super.site/open-star...

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tnir profile image
T "@tnir" N

GitLab No.1 community developer as a Core team member of it here. 👋 Amazing product! I just missed github.com/novuhq/novu in the text 😭

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combarnea profile image
Tomer Barnea Author

Hey Hey, Nice to meet you :)

What do you mean? Why are we on Github vs Gitlab? :) If so, let's jump on a call :)

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tnir profile image
T "@tnir" N

No, I just meant you did not put the URL for your open-source repo and why not? 🤔

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combarnea profile image
Tomer Barnea Author

Oh no, you are right😱, I'll add that, thanks! Regardless, I am happy to meet :)

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tnir profile image
T "@tnir" N • Edited on

Nice to meet you too, @combarnea!

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goncalorodrigues profile image
Gonçalo Rodrigues

Oh wow! We have thought about doing this, but haven't pulled the trigger yet. We are open source and have our roadmap public - but we don't have our Notion pages public and we use Slack.

Do you use your public discord channel as the main channel for internal discussions or do you still use a private channel? I can imagine there's always things you don't want to share too soon.

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combarnea profile image
Tomer Barnea Author

Hey Gonçalo!

That is a great question! So the answer is, it depends on the topic, our product, engineering discussions are all on public channels, but as a company we have other topic like team meetings, happy hours, business related subjects that are talked over private channels over at Discord. It took us some time to get where we are, and I am fairly happy with the situation, with that in mind we still update our Discord channels and try and mitigate internal discussions if those can be done publicly. You can ask more about that @iampearceman as he leads the community and Discord efforts.

Hopefully this can help you :)

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murtuzaalisurti profile image
Murtuzaali Surti

Open Source FTW 🚀

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combarnea profile image
Tomer Barnea Author

🚀

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iampearceman profile image
Pearceman

I really like the Emil guy..

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combarnea profile image
Tomer Barnea Author

He is pretty popular nowdays ❤️

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gamerseo profile image
Gamerseo

It might be a good idea.

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combarnea profile image
Tomer Barnea Author

Thank you, Gamerseo 🚀