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Should Your Startup Have a Transparent Email Policy?

Posted by Early Growth

May 10, 2013    |     3-minute read (580 words)

By Sarah Khogyani from AffinityLive.

Recently, Stripe co-founder Patrick Collinson revealed to Quora and Inc Magazine their transparent email policy. To put it simply, everyone on their team can read everyone else’s emails and this, he says, allows for better workflows and more opportunities for collaboration.

In a recent blog post, he elaborates,

“We value autonomy, rigorous debate, and avoiding hierarchy to the extent that we can. Startups often pride themselves on having a flat management structure but are eventually forced to put a formal coordination infrastructure in place as the number of actors grows. So far, our experience has been that an ambiently open flow of information helps to provide people with the context they need to choose useful things to work on. It doesn’t eliminate the need for other kinds of structure, but it does make emergent coordination much easier and more likely.”

What Is a Transparent Email Policy?

For companies Stripe and KickIt Digital, email conversations within an individual’s inbox are visible to everyone on their team. In other words, a transparent email policy means that every email sent and received is public to a specific group of people.

In some cases (mostly corporations), a visible email policy might be implemented to spy on employee conversations. However, the objective of transparent emails within the aforementioned startups is to optimize for better collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Benefits of Transparent Emails

A transparent email policy, while potentially controversial is certain interesting and can offer some significant benefits in terms of improved collaboration, smoother workflow, and time saved. Here are some of the highlights of transparent emails:

  • Visibility into company activity
  • Visibility into status of clients and third party contacts
  • Shared contacts and address book
  • Opportunities for collaboration
  • Centralizing company information
  • Eliminating time spent information swapping

Potential Downside of Transparent Email Policy

Of course, tell an employee that their emails are no longer private, and there are bound to be some concerns. The idea of a transparent email policy is certainly a paradigm shift for many employees—and many startups.

Admittedly, privacy and confidentiality are a dark and looming cloud to the transparent email policy. There are always instances in which an email contains sensitive information—and most of the time, it’s impossible to predict when an email received will be sensitive. Privacy is often an afterthought.

This is where the transparent email policy falters. Companies that have undertaken the policy work around privacy by using their personal address at certain times. Privacy concerns can be mitigated with specific privacy controls for certain contacts, but it’s definitely something to consider when choosing to take your startup down this route.

Whether or not a transparent email policy is right for your startup, it certainly raises some interesting points. Improved collaboration and efficiency are goals for all startups so any steps you can take towards achieving those goals are worth considering. Is a transparent email policy right for your startup?

Would you (or have you) implemented a transparent email policy for your startup? Tell us why or why not in comments below.

Sarah Khogyani is the marketing manager at AffinityLive, an all-in-one CRM, project management and time-billing platform. AffinityLive Sync is a shared company email platform designed to combine the power of your team’s inboxes-- and best of all, it’s completely free and syncs with Gmail, Outlook or Office365. If you’d like to sign up and or find out more, check out

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