Customer #000001

When 37signals released Basecamp in 2004, they set a goal of generating $5,000 in sales per month. They reached that goal by the end of their sixth week. The rest is startup history.

Like many of us, I followed Basecamp’s story religiously during its first few years. The product became the aspirational model for successfully bootstrapping a web-based app — back in a time when you had to qualify that your app was web-based. Their story became the dream that many small web shops wanted to live themselves.

We launched our web-based issue tracker on Saturday, April 15th, 2009. I remember absolutely nothing about the day itself. However, I do remember that sinking feeling that settled in my stomach in the days and weeks after we launched.

In our first two weeks, a few dozen customers signed up. But, not a single person had entered in their credit card during their trial period. We knew the billing system was working because we had a few of our own credit cards in process already. Few startup experiences feel as lonely as watching only your own credit cards process through your billing system.

Awaiting customer number one.

A few weeks later, more crickets. We did receive a phone call about DoneDone from a fellow in the Chicago suburbs inquiring about our product. We got him to sign up for a trial. That trial also expired. We never heard from him again.

By the end of our sixth week, we had the same number of paid customers as the number of perfect games I’ve personally thrown in a Major League baseball game.

And then it happened.

Announcing our first paid DoneDone customer six weeks after launch in Basecamp

We didn’t hit the $5,000/month mark until the end of our third year. It took less than half that time to get to $10,000/month and about half of that time to get to $15,000/month. With enough persistence and a little bit of faith, revenue eventually started accelerating the way we had hoped. But, sometimes it takes awhile to get the rudder to start.

Thanks for helping us start it, Gordon.

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