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: In what areas might 37signals expand into next?
Jason Fried: A couple of things that I see. I think customer service software, like to manage tickets and customer questions and stuff. There’s some pretty decent one out there, but I still feel like they are solving the wrong problems, so that’s an area we’d like to actually get into. So, that’s an area that I think is going to be growing. One other thing that is really, really hard to do is to hire people. To go through that process. If we put a job ad up, we say we’re looking for a new designer. We’ll literally get hundreds and hundreds of resumes. At that point, you’re screwed. I don’t know how to do through hundreds of resumes. I can’t collaborate on these resumes with other people in my company. I can’t have my designers look at these resumes and leave their feedback on them, so that’s a kind of really – there’s a few tools out there that sort of helps you through that process, but that’s kind of a mess too. So. That’s another area that I think can be better.
One of the things I’d love to reinvent and I have some ideas around it, but I don’t think we’ll ever do it is the spreadsheet. So, I see a lot of people doing spreadsheets today, but they’re like online versions of the offline thing. This whole grid thing is totally overkill for a very, very simple things. So, I have in my head this idea of reinventing the spreadsheet idea. But that’s I don’t know that’s probably not something we’ll do because it’s a little bit outside the realm of what we do. But I like the idea of improving customer service, interaction with people and I like the idea of making the hiring process simpler. And those sorts of things are areas that we would like to focus on.
Question: Are these ideas coming from personal experience, or are you accumulating feedback from the customer?
Jason Fried: We get feedback all the time, but these problems, the problems I just told you are the ones that we have. And that’s why we’re probably going to – we need solutions anyway. And this is the thing, if you need a solution anyway and you can’t find something, you’re going to build it, you might a well turn it into a product because other people need it too. So, the cool thing about building products for yourself, is that is sort of like it’s free to do it because you’re going to turn it into a product and sell it to other people. But even if no one uses it, like you needed it anyway, so it’s totally worth doing. And that’s one of the great things, and that’s what’s tricky about trying to guess what other people need is that if no one buys it, you’re left with this code that you won’t even use and it was a total waste of time. If no one uses our products for whatever reason, we still need them anyway. So, we’re left with something that works, and that makes sense.