37 Signals/Basecamp Founder Jason Fried at Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 (VIDEO)

by Pat Ryan
April 8, 2014

This was originally posted on Pat's blog, www.coolerbythelake.com

jason fried

Chicago Founders' Stories with Jason Fried was one of the most riveting sessions yet.  Here are a few highlights (full video below):

How He Got Started

Jason first become interested in design at a young age after looking at the glossy annual reports shipped to his father, a stock trader. Interestingly the first payment he ever received for software he created came by surprise in an envelope from Germany and kicked off a career of building great businesses his own way.

“You don’t have to give stuff away for free all the time”

Jason’s first epiphany came at a young age when he created a version of FileMaker Pro called AudioFile that he offered up for optional payment -- and shortly afterward received a $20 bill sent to him from a customer in Germany.

“That was the first time I realized I could make something -- and I could charge for it,” he said. “It taught me a very valuable lesson. You don’t have to give stuff away for free all the time, people are happy to pay for things they enjoy and they like.”

Working and creating for yourself

After taking on a graphic design job after college, Jason “realized pretty quickly I wasn’t built to...work for somebody else.” Thus began his dive into the world of entrepreneurship.

As any founder knows, your final product won’t survive if it doesn’t satisfy your market. But creating for yourself and creating for your market are not mutually exclusive. “If you’re building something for somebody else, you’re always guessing -- you’re trying to read their mind, things get lost in translation, you have to feel through someone else and that’s very hard to do.”

But Basecamp was different. “Basecamp was for me,” he said. That way, “you just know when it’s good enough.”

What your parents told you about sharing

If two things really inspire Jason, they’re visual and operational simplicity, and open and honest sharing.

“I’ve always been inspired by chefs. Great chefs have cookbooks. And in the cookbooks are their recipes. They’re not afraid of someone taking their cookbook and opening a restaurant next to them and putting them out of business. What they’re afraid of is not being known, and not being recognized, and not being appreciated. So by writing cookbooks they can get their food out there, and, in fact, more people pay attention to their restaurant. Chefs share their recipes. Not all of them, but many of them. And I always think about how we can write our own cookbook.”

Check out the full video below for these conversations, plus Jason’s thoughts on finding a great partner, where the name “37Signals” came from, and two things he learned from Jeff Bezos:


We hope you enjoyed this interview with Jason, and look forward to the next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with OkCupid founder Sam Yagan on April 28th! Click here to sign up for the event now. We’re expecting a sold out crowd so reserve your ticket early.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.com and can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

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