Jason Fried

November 16, 2023

Commodities, generics, and software

Once a product category proves popular, it's common for more companies to enter the market. Eventually, many options appear that are essentially mostly the same. Now we've got something that quacks like a commodity.

Once we've got a commodity, generics eventually follow. Devoid of fancy packaging, marketing, and advertising, prices fall while quality remains perfectly acceptable.

Brand name products might be slightly better on some dimensions, but it ultimately becomes a value judgement. A few bucks difference? The confidence of buying a brand name still feels worth it. Many, many bucks different? Maybe not.

This happens in most industries. Maybe not in airplanes, but absolutely in peanut butter. And you know what's closer to peanut butter than airplanes? Software is.

Strangely, many software categories have commoditized, but, given that nearly everything is a service these days, operational costs have remained universally high. This makes it hard for lower priced generics to creep in. This means people continue to pay luxury prices for software services that are essentially commodities. We think something's wrong with that. Sounds like an opportunity.

This is where ONCE comes in.

One facet of our initial strategy with ONCE is to find those commoditized pay-forever services everyone's running, and make our own radically simplified "80/20" versions as pay-once products. And this time you get to own for less, not rent for more. And you'll get the code, too.

In about a month we'll unveil the first ONCE product. Any guesses?


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.