Jason Fried

April 8, 2021

Why be an entrepreneur?

Earlier this week I caught up with a friend and fellow CEO over lunch.

We're in entirely different industries, but, as we usually do, we talk a little shop.

We've both been at the wheel for a while, and we've both built lasting businesses without outside capital.

One of the topics we slid into was "Why be an entrepreneur?". Not why sorta, or why kinda, or why sometimes. But why really? If you had to boil it down, what's the one reason? When all the liquid's gone, what does entrepreneurship reduce to?

For me it's this: You get to do things no one would give you permission to do.

That's it. At least that's how I've see it.

I don't have to ask anyone's permission, seek anyone's permission, or be granted anyone's permission. It ain't about getting rich (that's a crapshoot with terrible odds). It ain't about power or influence. If you happen into those things, maybe they're a bonus — although maybe they're not.

And it's not just about doing the things you want to do. Or "freedom". That definition skips the detail, it's too broad.

This is really about doing things someone else wouldn't let you do if you had to ask. That's the one thing you get to do no matter what.

It's about doing things that don't make sense. That don't fit into the obvious frameworks. That don't add up, line up, or seem like they'll hold up.

It's those things — the unusual, the unjustifiable, the downright fun regardless of what happens — that made me want to be an entrepreneur. And stay one too. Once those things go away, I'm out. There are a million people better suited to follow your rules than me.

But of course this a very specific breed of entrepreneurship. It's a bootstrapped one. It's one without a board of directors. It's one without an oversight body. It's one where no decks have to be developed and distributed around a table. One where you don't have to pitch something to someone else who's got something riding on your success. One where your gut is the only thing that's going to get punched if you're wrong.

That’s the one we picked.

It's obviously a privilege, but more-so, an obligation. We must do things at Basecamp that no one else would let us do. If we don't, we aren't living up to the opportunity we have. The position we put ourselves in. The decisions we've made to be this way and stay this way.

We must launch stuff that no one else would approve. Name things in a way that would never fly if they had to go through committee. Stand for things that seem like they'd put you at odds with a bigger bottom line. We must leave money on the table because someone else would grab it all. We must.

We must make things that could only come from us. That doesn't make them better, or worse. It just makes them ours. And hopefully, if you like what we're up to, yours too.

That's the reason.

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.