Jason Fried

February 5, 2024

Basecamp turns 20

20 years ago today I wrote a blog post that changed my life.

I'd never really launched a product before, so posting to our blog was only way I knew how to do it. And social media hadn't even been invented yet, so where else was I supposed to put it? In fact, guess what else happened to launch the same day as Basecamp? Facebook. So we're talking the stone age.

I was announcing this new thing we built called Basecamp. It was a project management tool that we made for ourselves. At the time we were a web design firm, and we just didn't have a good way to collaborate with each other and keep our clients in the loop. We didn't have a place to make announcements, keep feedback on the record, and generally keep things centralized in a way that would keep everyone accountable.

We figured if we needed it, plenty of others probably did too.

And it turns out they did! We were right.

Not only was Basecamp something entirely new at the time, the distribution model, and business model, were new too. We weren't the first to offer software as a subscription service, but we were very, very early. So early in fact that the bank wouldn't allow us to accept annual payments on credit cards because they didn't want to be on the hook if this new software as a subscription service model thing didn't work out in a few months. That's why we could only initially bill monthly! Which turned out to be a pretty good thing in the end.

You never know what's going to happen until after it happens.

And happen it did. We had this idea that, I don't know, if we could maybe make $5,000 a month after the first year, we'd be on to something. That would be a nice $60,000/year business, which we'd feather into our web design business. We'd essentially treat it as a perpetual client — we being our own client.

Turns out that we hit that $5000/month mark in a few weeks. And a year or so later, Basecamp was generating more revenue for us than our web design business. So we shut that part of the business down and went all-in on Basecamp. And software in general.

So much came from Basecamp. And so much still does. Rails came from Basecamp. And tens of thousands of programming careers came from Rails. Other businesses sprang up. Software as a service was further legitimized. And the cycle that began back in the early 2000s continues to spin strongly today.

It's been the professional honor of a lifetime to be able to build something that matters to so many, and to build that thing alongside so many extraordinary people, for so many extraordinary people. From co-workers to customers to fellow business owners, and everyone I've met along the way, what an incredible ride it's been so far. And today's Basecamp is the best it's ever been, by far. It's a thrill to watch whole new generation of entrepreneurs, product teams, and small businesses are discovering the secret so many have known: Businesses simply run better on Basecamp. There really is something radically different about it. In this business, longevity isn't a fluke.

As 2024 marks 20 years of Basecamp, it also marks 25 years of 37signals. 2024 also marks the beginning of something brand new from us called ONCE. It's our year of new. It'll be interesting to see if we're early again.

When you've been around an industry long enough, you get to see how cyclical everything is. The Earth is round, and so are trends. When you're close to something, it looks like it's on a straight line forever, but when you step back, and wait awhile, you'll often see it crest the curve, bend out of view, and eventually sneak back up on you from behind. Oh, that again! I remember that. Yeah, that was good. One of the real treats of a long career is to revisit the past and pull some of those better ideas ahead into the present.

Right now it feels like we've got a bag of bright ideas slung over our shoulder. And we're headed out for new horizons.

I feel so fortunate, and so grateful. Thank you.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.