Starting Up and 37Signals

Starting, and running my own business is something I’ve been thinking of for a long time now but with the way the tech industry has been churning out one start up after another its pretty obvious I’m not alone in this dream.

I’m still thoroughly fascinated with Experience Design (I also seem to gain a fascination for Content Strategy) and I’m still on track to learning about Experience Design as much as I can but maybe starting my own business isn’t something that is mutually exclusive?

My participation in Startup Weekend Manila last year lit that spark up again, and I’ve spent most of my free time drinking in every start up advice I can get my hands on.


Lately though I find myself returning to the words of Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Almost every designer/developer out there has probably heard of 37Signals — the popular creators of Basecamp so I’m definitely not the first person to gush over them.

Mostly, one of the things I love about their philosophy on business is in how grounded they are, and both DHH and Jason Fried are big supporters of bootstrapping.

Bootstrapping in business means starting a business without external help or capital. Such startups fund the development of their company through internal cash flow and are cautious with their expenses.[14] Generally at the start of a venture, a small amount of money will be set aside for the bootstrap process. Bootstrapping can also be a supplement for econometric models. Bootstrapping was also expanded upon in the book Bootstrap Business, by Richard Christiansen.

Startups can grow by reinvesting profits in its own growth if bootstrapping costs are low and return on investment is high.

You know the moment when you’re struggling around in the dark when someone pulls back the curtain and suddenly you start to see?

Well after I watched this talk, it certainly felt the same thing for me:

Jason Fried talks about building a business on your own terms.

  • Start something on the side.

37 Signals didn’t start of as a product company, they started out as a web design consultancy, and they built Basecamp (a project management software) on the side for themselves and later on put it out on the market to see what happens.

It paid off a lot more than their web design business, and that led them to stop taking on clients to focus on Basecamp.

  • Set an upper limit price to your product.

This is important because having one customer pay more than the other customer can leave a company beholden to them, and it will only end up with you doing things you don’t want to do in order to please that client.

It’s not worth sucking six months just to be a happy for a day.

  • Make sure you’re happy too.

Because as important it is to make your customers happy, its even more important to make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing. Don’t be ashamed on making things easier for yourself.

  • Focus on the things in your business that’s not going to change. Don’t chase trends.

Amazon’s customers aren’t going to wish for a slower delivery system, nor will they be interested in a limited selection.

Software users aren’t going to wish for harder and ploddelingly slow programs.

Invest in the basics that customers will always care about and it will pay off.

  • Hire late, not early.

Hire someone only afte a lot of pain and not in anticipation of pain, and you must hire someone only after doing the job first.

It’s better to know the job you’re hiring out.

  • Everything great is built slowly, requiring a solid foundation.

  • Customer support is really important, they’re the face of the company.

  • If you’re going to be investing in something, in vest in your company brand.

  • Develop an audience.

The best way they were able to market their products was through their blogs. An audience comes back to you and reaches out to to you.

Spend money on writing and teaching, write things relevant to the industry and your ideas.

  • The most important thing is figuring out what you’ll say ‘no’ to and what you’re really believie in.

Firgure out what’s different in your comapny. Wrong customers are expensive.

  • Find people who you really believe in and who shares your values about what’s important.

Fascinating, isn’t it?