“Our company fails the real world test in all kinds of ways.”
In the late 90s, a web designer called Jason Fried started a company with two friends in Chicago. The company’s name was 37Signals and like many others at the time, the trio redesigned people’s websites. But unlike their peers, the way they went about getting clients was distinctly odd. If you visited their website back then, you’d be at least mildly baffled by its plain, barren look and you’d search in vain for a portfolio of previous projects or client testimonials or anything in the way of bragging rights. In their place you’d find impassioned manifestos and articles in which the three designers spoke about everything they thought was wrong with business and how it should be done instead. Their views were bizarre and contrarian and people browsing noticed them, some stopped and listened, many became clients.
By 2003 the designers at 37Signals could barely keep up with all the client work. Things began to slip through the cracks and they decided to look for a dedicated project management tool. But back then most such tools were clunky and complex, wasting more time than they saved, and so the year after, in 2004, Jason hired a Danish programmer called David Heinemeier Hanson to develop their own application in house. When clients saw the finished product, many of them liked it so much they asked to license it.
This is the origin story of Basecamp, one of the most popular web applications for project management and team collaboration. It’s been used by 16 million people worldwide and still continues to bring in several thousand new signups every week, more than a decade after it first launched. The company, which changed its name to Basecamp in 2014, has been valued at $100 billion dollars and has annual profits in the millions of dollars. David, the original…