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VV Show #17 - Jason Fried of 37signals

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Jason Fried

The business world seems to keep getting more complicated, but Jason Fried is all about keeping things simple. When founding 37signals, Jason and his two partners staked their careers on simplicity. They wrote a manifesto to convince others of their philosophy of keeping design on the Web simple. Their project management software, Basecamp, has become a hit for its ease of use. Their blog is intently followed by thousands of (mostly) admiring readers, and has led to a book. Jason tells how he’s grown his business simply, too, without taking on any venture capital or debt despite many offers. He also drops a couple hints about the next few products his company will launch.

Show notes:

1:45 Start of career

  • Graduated college in 1996 with degree in finance.
  • Started career doing freelance Web design.
  • Started 37signals with and Ernest Kim and Carlos Segura.

3:10 Start of 37signals

7:50 Building Basecamp
  • “It happened by accident.”

10:00 Making Basecamp into a business

12:10 Getting the word out

  • Blogs at Signals vs. Noise.
  • Blogging “offers a great opportunity to communicate with likeminded people, and also people who hate us -- that seems to be growing, which is good I think. Shows that you’re saying something.”

15:30 Philosophy and vision
  • “Your customers will give you thousands of requests, and if you listen to each one of those, you’re dead.”

22:00 Economics of 37signals

22:45 Launching other products

25:45 New products in development

27:00 37signals changes

  • Currently five employees.
  • “We’re really big into being small.”
  • “We make sure it hurts before we expand.”

28:30 Startup style

30:50 Funding

  • “We’re not looking for investment.”

34:15 Business development and customer service
  • Recommends the book The E-Myth.
  • “You need to be annoyed when [your customers] are annoyed.”

40:25 Exit plan
  • “We’re not building this company to sell this company.”

41:45 Ambition

44:30 Other thoughts

Posted by Greg at October 17, 2005 10:00 PM

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Great discussion - I really enjoyed it.

I wonder... much of the planning and formalisation we have in business, programming and so on have evolved over the last 150 years of so of industry. Did we go to far? Is that why 37signal's simplicity is so attractive?

I don't believe so. I think people like Jason Fried have internalised enough of the basic rules and procedures that they don't need to do them explicitly any more. But I'm sure that for many, as he hints, doing it their way isn't going to work.


Posted by: Jason Kitcat at October 18, 2005 02:55 PM

Interesting stuff but this is so annoying to listen to.

Jason sounds like he's talking at double speed and never needs to pause for a breath. Natural pauses in speech are OK, there's no need to edit them all out!

Posted by: audioguy at October 18, 2005 03:37 PM

I agree -- the editing to remove pauses is excessive and doesn't sound natural.

Posted by: Jon at October 18, 2005 04:47 PM

Nice interview. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Yannick at October 18, 2005 10:19 PM

Great to experience Jason's vision in his own words. Quite inspiring! Eagerly waiting for the new products and the PDF/book!

Posted by: Reinier at October 19, 2005 04:15 AM

Greg - another great interview. Thanks for tracking down 37 signals.

Posted by: Mike at October 19, 2005 02:55 PM

I agree with leaving some of the pauses in - would be easier to listen to.

But on the plus - this is a great insight into how 37 Signals think.

We're starting to build a few web-based apps and what stuck me the most was his example of the builder who might have several different hammers, aside from all the other tools he might use.

We've had people say, "You should include yada yada" but now I'm thinking we should take a close look at each request and see if it makes things easier or harder.

I tend to think that a lot of feature requests will have the latter effect.


Posted by: Jason at October 28, 2005 08:11 PM

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