37signals is a software company based in Chicago. Originally a web design firm, it was founded by Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, and Ernest Kim in 1999. Since its pivot in 2004, 37signals has released web-based apps and books. Today, its offerings include Basecamp (project management), Highrise (business contacts management), and Campfire (real-time group chat rooms for businesses). 37signals has millions of customers in over 30 countries, including popular brands such as WWF, Adidas, National Geographic, USA Today, and FOX Sports.
37signals builds practical software that is easy to use and without any bells and whistles. The company is also known for providing fast and friendly customer service; as it states on its website, “Our customers are our investors… We answer to them – not investors, the stock market, or a board of directors.”
In a recent interview with Fast Company, co-founder and CEO Jason Fried revealed that 37signals is about being in business for the long haul; hence, its employees are treated as valuable resources. A few years ago, the company began implementing four-day summer workweeks to prevent burnouts.
“That happens a lot in the tech business: They burn people out and get someone else,” Fried said. “I like the people who work here too much. I don’t want them to burn out.”
Eschewing trends in the tech industry, Fried takes his inspiration from mom-and-pop businesses that have been around for decades. “It’s not like in the tech world, where everyone wants to beat each other up, and there’s one winner. Those are the businesses I find interesting – it could be a dry cleaner, a restaurant, a clothing store.”
According to Fried, it’s not about raising money and having hundreds of employees. Instead, what matters is taking care of one’s employees and customers, building something great, and being profitable. Startups, take it from a guy who’s been in the business for 13 years.