When news of ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's resignation broke out in late November 2021, Twitter Software Engineer Rashid fired up the Blind app to see what his coworkers had to say.
“I immediately checked internal Slack channels as well, but I knew Blind would have the real talk, the unfiltered reactions,” said Rashid, who requested his real name be omitted for confidentiality.
Rashid heard about Blind in 2017 when he started his software engineering career at a Canadian-based tech company. “I didn’t use it much at the time. I was already in tune with company happenings through my close work relationships,” he told me.
But when Rashid joined Twitter in early 2021, his work social environment looked different. Opportunities to socialize with colleagues were inorganic and lacked spontaneity. “Everything happened on pre-scheduled team calls or public Slack channels”.
That’s when he turned to Blind again. “I felt that I had a limited perspective of the company and my team. I wanted more. I needed to satisfy my curiosity.”
And he wasn’t the only one.
During the pandemic, many employees — across tenure, seniority, and industry — flocked to Blind, spending an average of 35 minutes on it daily. As working from home became our reality and watercooler run-ins became a distant memory, workers used the app to make up for lost office-gossip and shared camaraderie. Blind’s user base increased 75-100% in the past year and a half alone, totalling 5M+ active users.
The Blind 411
Blind capitalized on that pandemic-fueled growth, recently raising a $37-million Series C in May 2021.
The South Korean app was started in 2013 and eventually found its niche with global tech employees in the likes of MAANG. Since then, high-profile employee outcries like Uber’s sexual harassment claims and Amazon’s employment conditions controversies have all seen early murmurs on the app.
In a nutshell, Blind is best described as a semi-private, anonymous workplace forum. Like Reddit, but for work. Or Glassdoor, but with more anonymity and a wider feature set.
You’ll find two main feeds on Blind. The first is public, containing posts across industries and companies.
The second feed—arguably Blind’s unique selling point — is restricted to employees of an organization. This is where the juicer stuff happens. To access it, you’ll need to verify your work email through Blind, which the app says is to "gauge the professional status of our users." While a contentious methodology, Blind promises anonymity through its “patented, two-way” encrypted verification. “Emails are not connected to accounts,” Blind’s FAQ reads, meaning that a user’s username or app activity cannot be traced to the email it was verified through. A minimum of 30 users must sign up for a company channel to be unlocked.
Spicy, scandalous, safe space
Today, employees from 83,000 companies are registered in the app, operating outside the “big brother” confines of their internal IT department. They’re free to ask, complain, and mobilize without consequence or judgment.
The topics they discuss are far and wide, ranging from compensation to HR issues, company announcements, team restructures, and leadership gossip. Polls are another popular feature. Members are polled on topics like how much vacation they plan to take, how long they plan to stay at the company, and where they predict company growth is headed.
“Slack is a great place to put workplace-appropriate feelings… but what I see on Blind is a whole other level of raw takes,” said Rashid when I asked him about content on the app.
It’s also not uncommon for senior leadership to be named in Blind posts. “It’s more acceptable for higher-ups to be called out… but naming mid-management and individual contributors is frowned upon,” said Cory, a former senior software engineer at Salesforce. Such posts are typically flagged by the community and removed by the app.
Cory, whose name we’ve also omitted for confidentiality reasons, learned about Blind from a coworker 7 years into his 10-year tenure at the company. “I never saw my name on there so that was always good,” he told me with a tone of relief.
TC or GTFO
It doesn’t take much to notice that compensation is Blind’s hottest talking point. At first glance, the emphasis on it veers on obsession. Users talk openly about their pay, often including a breakdown of their base salary and stock options to accompany their “TC,” or “total compensation” number.
“TC or GTFO,” is a commonly observed comment one would read on a post every once in a while. It’s a callout for a user to include their total compensation number with their post. It reinforces an expectation that users mention their job title, level, and pay alongside every post and comment — even when the topic at hand is not relevant to salary. It’s a behavior mostly spearheaded by software engineers. And its frequency and consistency is akin to an email signature: always on, always there. “I don’t know what to make of it. Is it a status symbol or a way to spread information?,” Rashid rhetorically asks.
While pay transparency has always been a hot topic (Levels.fyi and Glassdoor ring a bell, anyone?), Blind takes salary talk to another level. Blind users are anything but shy about comparing incomes or sharing stories about coworkers who increased it by jumping ship to another employer.
“Though people could easily be making shit up, so you have to take those numbers—or anything on Blind, really—with a grain of salt,” Rashid cautioned.
Negative snark or invaluable insights?
Historically, tech companies have openly challenged traditional work environments, proudly stewarding values like ‘radical transparency’ and ‘open communication’. They’ve gone extra lengths to implement the hallmarks of open corporate culture we know today: weekly all-hands, open-concept offices, and AMAs.
To that end, many tech workers consider Blind an extra tool to facilitate this open communication. Though some think of it as a toxic space, riddled with disgruntled employees.
Lisa Madokoro, a director of people research and analytics at Wealthsimple, gets Blind’s appeal. “Ideally companies create environments where employees feel psychologically safe to discuss things like compensation and work-life balance at work,” she said. “But that’s not everyone’s experience, so I understand the desire to have an anonymous space.”
Lisa has spent a good chunk of her career researching — and thinking about — employee sentiment. She doesn’t rule out the app as a source of input, but cautions about relying on it. “Blind should never replace an internal employee listening strategy,” she said. “Blind comments should only reinforce insights you know through reliable tools like surveys and attrition data.”
Blind believes it has a better pulse on how employees are feeling, citing their users’ “voluntary'' app usage and anonymity features as a reason why people are more honest on the platform. To position itself beyond social networking capabilities, it even launched employee surveys to sell to HR teams as a new product offering.
Despite those efforts, it’s hard for the app to shake off its gossipy reputation. When I spoke with Cory, he compared it to internet reviews. “You get the really bad or the really good. The middle-ground doesn’t make it,” he said. “Blind has a lot of the bad, and it’s not good to be exposed to that extreme all the time. It just makes you more negative.” he added, explaining his on-and-off usage of the app.
“If you overly rely on Blind as a source of truth, you end up over-indexing on certain topics,” she said. “It’s also hard to get a nuanced understanding of employee sentiment because you’re only hearing from a small subset of them. And when you do surface a pain point, you can’t dig deeper because of the anonymity.”
If a tree falls in a forest…
Blind’s barrage of grievances and pay cheque comparisons may carry a cautionary flag, but they are not reason to discount other views on the app. In a minefield of dark humor and deprecation, you’ll spot the oddly earnest, meaningful post. “Sometimes people write about important topics, like internal mismanagement or diversity issues,” remembered Cory.
In such threads, employees ask for tips on leveling up, draw attention to team culture issues, and matter-of-factly discuss upcoming product launches. They’re thoughtful, neutral, and most importantly, constructive. They are seemingly deserving of attention, but whether they get it — alongside a resolution — is a low likelihood.
In its mission statement, Blind touts itself as “a platform for change.” It views the radical transparency it enables as a way of “empowering informed decisions and inspiring productive change in the workplace.”
What the company’s mission overlooks is Blind’s existence outside an organization's official employee listening toolstack.
Unless an employer purchases data from Blind’s newly launched HR survey tools, no official feedback loops exist between the app and companies registered on there. HR teams could easily dismiss Blind complaints as hearsay, citing the app’s hallmark anonymity feature as a limitation and making the app a negative echo chamber in the process. This raises the inevitable question: how valuable are insights if they are never actioned on?
But even if companies dismiss Blind for input, they would at least be smart to learn from its success by building their own spaces where workers can air grievances internally. Like Blind, these mediums should be free of repercussions. Doing this, Lisa believes, is key to establishing company-worker trust.
“Make this happen by first building solid team ethics, internal data sharing policies, and a data governance model,” said Lisa. “And any time you collect data from employees, you absolutely need to openly share what you’ve learned and what you're going to do about it. Without this, you will damage their trust and they’ll engage less with you in the future.”
There’s no better time to take Lisa’s advice. The app’s rise comes at the apex of overlapping realities: remote work, the Big Resignation, and a competitive hiring landscape. The collective workforce is redefining its relationship with labor—and it’s neither shy nor demure about its expectations. It’s a new era for professional social networking. LinkedIn’s banality is out. Blind’s brazen candor is in.