Jason Fried is the co-founder and President of 37signals, the Chicago-based web-application company. He has co-authored all of 37signals' books, including the upcoming, "Rework," as well as the 'minimalist manifesto,' "Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application" He also helps to maintain the company's popular blog, Signal vs. Noise, and is regularly invited to speak around the world on entrepreneurship, design, management, and software.
Question: Does 37signals have a firm set of principles?
Jason Fried: Yeah. So, we have a set of principles. We don’t write them down anywhere really. I mean, they have been written down, but we didn’t set out to write them down. I don’t believe in like the whole Mission Statement thing. But we just want to build the simplest possible thing we can that solves a real problem. Like that’s it for us. We’re always trying to solve simple problems with simple solutions. And I think, in general, most things are really easy in life. Things get hard when you make them hard, but by default, things are actually pretty simple. And I think companies, unfortunately have been really good have been built to make things very difficult on themselves. So, we’ve kept our company small intentionally. So we can be a small company and do what small companies do and move quickly and come up with cool ideas and execute them quickly and those sorts of things. And that’s all around the principle of just doing the simplest possible thing we can to solve a real problem.
One of the things I think that gets mixed up a lot. Companies are too obsessed with innovation and not obsessed enough with usefulness. So, we’re all about, what can we do that’s useful. Not what’s the latest technology, what’s the crazy new thing? But what’s actually useful, so that’s really the core of what we’re all about.
Question: How does 37signals diverge from Silicon Valley’s prevailing ethos?
Jason Fried: Yeah. Well, I think first and foremost, we’re a business. Now, that’s not always the case because there are some that are businesses, you know. Like Google is very successful, of course, and there are a few others. But for the most part, there are a lot of things that is going on in Silicon Valley today are not businesses. They may be businesses, but you’re not really a business if you’re just losing money, or if you’re not charging for things. We’re a traditionalist company, we charge for things. We have a product and we sell it.
We also have some free stuff too, but we’re all about selling things. We’re all about making money. And so I think that one of the things that sets us apart, but also, we’re not big into the idea of raising money early in a company’s history. We’re not big into what’s the latest technology that we should be using. We’re not big in the staffing up quickly. We’re not big into marketing, like traditional marketing and paying a PR firm $20,000 a month to get the word out before you even started. We’re not big into that stuff. We’re big in building really great products for real customers who want to pay us money to use those products. And that’s what set us apart quite a bit.
The things you really appreciate aren’t the complicated things. They’re the simple things that work just the way you expect them to.