Dylan Ginsburg

April 30, 2021

Leaving Basecamp

Monday, May 3 will be my last day at Basecamp. I’m writing this message using the app I helped build. I’m sad and I don't plan to talk about it publicly. Instead, I’ll share one of the highlights of my time at Basecamp. I wrote this in answer to a check-in question soon after HEY was released.

I’ll tell you a story about a guy named Dylan.

Dylan decided somewhere around age 10 that he wanted to be a computer programmer. He would go to the Radio Shack at the mall and type out short programs in BASIC on the display computers. The programs were a silly 10 year-old's humor; it would ask a few questions and then put the answers together into a sentence. Dylan would stand in the back and giggle as people used his programs and laughed — or were annoyed — when the computer told them they looked like an elephant.

Dylan dreamed of building programs that would be sold in a box at Radio Shack and later Babbages.

10 years later Dylan was a programmer FOR REAL. He wrote business software that did serious stuff. At first it was software controlled with a mouse and keyboard. He was excited when people used it.

Dylan’s career progressed into building ever more serious software that was ever more removed from the user. He adopted important sounding titles like Architect and his software ran on computers in data centers. His Mom could no longer explain what he did but that was OK. This is what you did as a professional programmer. Dylan’s software ran websites and tracked criminals and helped businesses make more money.

It wasn’t sold in a box.

Dylan did this for many years and it was fine. But then Apple made this amazing computer you held in your hand and controlled with your finger. Dylan had never forgotten that he wanted to write programs that anyone could use. And here was the computer that anyone could use.

So Dylan wrote programs for the iPhone that people touched and used. In the early days of the App Store you could build a program for anyone and they might even find it and use it.

But as always happens, a growing industry builds ever more complex products and consolidates into a few major players. Once again the flow of the river carried Dylan to building business software created by small companies to address niche markets.

This was better than fine, it was even great! People touched and used and, hopefully, delighted in the programs he built. Mass market products were going to be built by massive companies. Dylan didn’t want to work for a massive company and this was pretty close to making software that was sold in a box at Babbages.

You know where this story ends up. Dylan helped build HEY — a product for anyone that is built by a small company. It’s sold in the modern Babbages at the modern mall and his Mom uses it. Hundreds of thousands of other people also use it and write about it -- usually delighted but occasionally annoyed. And I get to stand in the back and giggle as if they’d just been told they look like an elephant.