Jason Fried (as interviewed by Walt Mossman)
Founder and CEO, 37signals (web-based software and services)
Fried is the founder and CEO of 37signals. Fried is a passionate leader in the field of simple, clear, and elegant web-based user interface design. He spearheaded the concept, design, and development of Basecamp, 37signal’s web-based project management tool for designers, freelancers, and creative services firms. Fried is also the co-author of Defensive Design for the Web.
- JF: we build web-based software for small businesses…we think of our products as tools to get things done. We give things that solve problems and then we get out of the way.
- WM: what products?
- JF: we have 7. 3 main: Basecamp – project management tool. Highrise – a CRM tool, a recent tool, keep track of who and what you have talked about. BackPack- personal tracking of things to do
- WM: you also have Ruby on Rails-
- JF: a web development framework, takes care of 80% of the stuff. lets you focus on the 20% that is useful
- WM: over the last year, we have developed allthingsd.com, we hired Mule Design in SF (I recommend them) we use basecamp to corral feedback etc on the design. So how come most people are shackled to a piece of crap called outlook?
- JF: software industry is structured to build crap. Traditional software is based on shipping a CD/download. the only way to get more money is to add more stuff. The industry does not work for many people anymore. We build services that are not shipped, you pay a monthly fee to use the products – we focus on a service.
- WM: I do not buy it. I saw outlook before it was released, it was done by a small, smart team at MSFT. it was a great idea, a combination of PIM and email. very sleek and small and clever. But it has become a mess. But i disagree with you, you have a more continous flow of updating but you are still subject to feature creep. Never seen a company that does not have this problem . So, how do you balance your mantra of simplicity with the demands of enthusiastic customers who want morre features
- JF: You need good editors to curate. The model allows us to say No more often than Yes. The most anyone can give us us $149. We do not have to please the large customers that pay a lot of money
- WM: I agree, but even the ones that are not sold to enterprise still have feature creep- ie Quicken.
- JF: you have to be hard ass and know that you cannot make everyone happy
- WM: you have to be Seve JObs>
- JF: yes. I think SJ is the best business mind in the last 50 years. He says no a lot
- WM: agree, at an interview at my conference he said he was proud of the things that he has not done. iLife is great, ne of the best media suites available. The new version of iMovie has had features stripped out, very simple. The jury is still out on this. But Jobs is a dictator, does everything,
- JF: I love that, I think it is fantastic!
- WM: is that a business model to replicate?
- JF; i think people and companies need opinions. We believe in our way of doing things, if you like that you will like our products
- WM: Google is like that, I hate gmail. I had a fight with them about this, they have the same attitude as SJ
- JF: I think this is like Italian restaurants…you have your favourites. We do not build for everyone, but some people like us
- WM: let’s spend the last few minutes speaking about why Open Source is a failure. Firefox is one big success that I recommend, OS is a failure because they cannot stop adding features…and they do not associated enough with regular people. The writers would not know a normal consumer from a bag of cheetos
- JF: good for techie stuff not for consumer facing. OS is not about usability etc, it is for software development. If you think about customer interface and experience than you will have a great consumer product. OS is not like this, usually. OS paint the walls at the end, but experience has to be bought in from the start. Everyone is involved and it can get pretty terrible. You need a leader to make decisions. FF is an anomaly
- WM: FF< it has now gone to a company that can grow it.
- JF: i do not think the crowd should decide anything- you need a leader to make great decisions. A lot of people hate us, I’d rather people cared about us, to love or hate us, than to have no feelings. People need to say no more