David Heinemeier Hansson

June 21, 2023

Europe is half the cost for our company meet-ups

Since the pandemic ended, we've had the pleasure of organizing three different company meet-ups for 37signals. We got going again in Miami, then hopped to Amsterdam, and most recently we went to New Orleans. Next we're going to Barcelona in the fall. Would you have guessed that hosting a company meet-up in US was almost twice as expensive as Europe? I wouldn't!

I feel like Americans often complain about how expensive things are in Europe, but looking at our expenditures on meet-ups, that just isn't so. Here's what we spent per person in the three most recent locations, all-in:

  1. Miami: $6,200
  2. Amsterdam: $3,500
  3. New Orleans: $5,700

And as much as I liked both Miami and New Orleans, I felt like we ate far better in Amsterdam! Accommodations were of comparable quality. Perhaps, again, a tad more charming in Amsterdam than Miami, but New Orleans was pretty nice too.

One of the surprising expenses in the US was just getting around. In Miami, we spent well over $10,000 just on cabs and Ubers. Whereas in Amsterdam, the cost was a fraction for the public transit options. (Although I guess neither could match the fun of a New Orleans marching band with full police escort 😄).

37signals is pretty evenly split these days between the US and the rest of the world. About half and half. So on that factor alone, I would have expected us to save a bunch on travel by staying within the US, but that just wasn't so.

Either way, doing these meet-ups isn't cheap. We do them twice per year. But then again, we no longer have any expenses for an office, so that offsets quite a bit. We used to spend a good $25,000/month on the Chicago lease and associated bills. That was an office used by less than a handful of people on a regular basis!

But one thing is the cost, another is the value. These meet-ups leave such a lasting impression on everyone who participates. It's a super dose of human connection, combined with a fun trip, and some excellent eating.

We plan every single one of our company meet-ups in Basecamp. It's a lot of work to pull this off for just under 80 people, but with Basecamp making sure nothing falls between cracks, it's a lot easier than it would be with a tangled mess of chat, emails, and google docs scattered to the wind.

If you're running a remote company, especially an internationally remote one, I strongly recommend finding a way to fit meet-ups into the budget. If not twice a year, then at least once. The human dividends are huge.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.