Charting Your Own Course as a Founder with Jason Fried of Basecamp

Episode #105

Jason Fried (@jasonfried) doesn't intend to be controversial or to change people's minds, but he seems to end up doing both of these regardless. Since launching Basecamp in 2004, he's grown the business to tens of millions of dollars in annual profit, and gathered a collection of strong and often counterintuitive beliefs along the way. In this episode we discuss how to take advantage of building an independent company, when to focus on a product and when to let it go, how to learn from the past without fooling telling yourself a false narrative, and the importance of blazing your own path as a founder instead of blindly imitating others.

  1. 13

    🙀You've finally got Jason on IH. Oh man, congratz. Up next, DHH 💪🏼

  2. 5

    So glad you got to interview Jason! 😍

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      This comment was deleted 2 years ago.

  3. 4

    @csallen this has to be one of my favorite episodes. I sure hope you get to interview him again.

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    My Main Takeaways:

    • Don’t try to change anybody’s mind: Jason has learned that it’s better to just communicate the truth clearly, than to try to persuade people about things.
    • Only write to share an idea: Jason knows that when writing, people will agree and people will disagree, but you cannot be swayed by this. Instead he focuses on writing to share an idea, and that’s it.
    • Fund your business from profits, not investors
    • External funding comes later, not as the first step: Getting external funding is not bad, but it should come after the business has proven itself to be viable, and is ready to use external funding for growth.
    • Bootstrapping gives you more freedom: Basecamp has been able to do things that they may not otherwise have been able to do if they had investors.
    • Build sustainable practices: If you want to be around for a long time, you have to build sustainable processes.
    • Treat your company as a product and constantly iterate the internal processes: Constantly iterating the internal processes of your company will enable your company to get better as it ages, since it will be improving based on feedback.
    • Learn from people that are closer to your own level: Learn from people 2 steps ahead of you, instead of people 100 steps ahead of you. (This includes not learning from Jason Fried if you’re just starting out!)
    • Build products and learn from them: Building different products will teach you lessons that you can take into future or past products you will build or have built.
    • Building things is easy, but maintaining things is hard: Don’t build something new until what you have already built is being maintained well.
    • You will never finish making everything you want to make: All makers have a long list of things that they want to make, but there simply is not enough time to make it all, so it’s better to focus on a few things and do them very well.
    • You don’t need to be able to dominate an entire market to succeed: You just need to cater to a small subset of a market very well, in order to succeed.
    • Build a few great features, instead of many mediocre features: Doing one thing very well, is better than doing lots of things poorly.
    • Timing and Luck: Jason says that Timing and Luck were big factors in the success of Basecamp. He says that if they had released Basecamp now in 2020, it likely wouldn’t have been as successful due to the amount of options in the market.
    • Increase your prices to attract more financially able customers: Low prices attract less financially able customers who are also likely to give the most complaints.
    • Happiness is preferable to money: Jason and his team created a wildly successful product in 3 days, called We Work Remotely. It ended up doing $40,000/month in revenue. But they decided to sell it because working on Job Boards wasn’t anywhere near as fun as working on Basecamp.
    • Go deep on a problem and really explain it: Going deep on a problem, and explaining it to your customer will show them that you truly understand them, and likely have a perfect solution.
    • Create scarcity: By launching slowly to a small subset of users, or via invite-only; and people will be more interested in using your product when given the opportunity.
    • There’s a lot of contradictory information out there: Jason says that he doesn’t regard the abundance of information out there, and that it’s better to go to an island, shut out everything, and just do your own thing.
    • The best way to validate a product: Put a price on your product, and put it out into the market, and see if people pay for it.
    • Nobody knows what they are doing: Jason says that nobody knows what they are doing (including himself), we are all making it up as we go along. Don’t be blinded into thinking that someone has all the answers, no matter how impressive their resume is.
    • There is value in ignorance.
    • There is no right and wrong way to do things: As long as you feel good and believe that you can sustain what you’re doing for a long time, you’re doing it right.
    • JOMO - Joy Of Missing Out: Jason is happy with missing out on things because he doesn’t believe that it’s good to be overly influenced by external things anyway.
    • Check out Japan: Japan is an example of a first-world country that is not a copy-cat, like many other first-world countries. Both Courtland and Jason have been to Japan and they noticed how significantly unique it is from other first-world countries.
    • Don’t show what you’re building too much: Jason says that it’s not good to show so much detail of the building process, he says that it’s better to build in silence and then show the world when it’s ready (Note: I strongly disagree with this point, and attribute it to the fact Jason already has a big following and started business back in 1999, so he’s not the person that beginners starting now should be seeking advice from).
    • Habit advice for beginners: Get at least 8 hours of sleep, work 8 hour days, reduce distractions, don’t work on weekends (Note: I disagree with the “work 8 hours”, and the “don’t work weekends” advice).
    • Book recommendation: “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker.
  5. 1

    The fact that the startup ecosystem thinks of itself as radical, progressive and risk-taking is a myth and a misconception. Thanks to people like Jason and Elon to really show what being progressive means.

  6. 1

    The questions were VERY good and the answers were AMAZING.

    Thanks a lot.

  7. 1

    Great podcast. First time listener but I'll tune in again for sure. 💪