The Indie Hackers Podcast #105 Charting Your Own Course as a Founder with Jason Fried of Basecamp

I don’t worry about being persuasive. I’ve never really try to change anyone’s mind. Instead, I try to communicate clearly. I tell the truth as I see it and let the chips fall where they may. If you try too hard to change people’s minds you will end up frustrated. The best advice I have is if you want to be persuasive, try not to be persuasive. [1:19]

I don’t aim to be controversial. I just call it as I see it. Sometimes that is controversial. I think it is important to have a point of view. I think when you have a point of view you automatically become controversial to people who don’t share that point of view. If you don’t have a point of view at all then you can’t move people, or get them engaged. For me, it is important to say something that has a clear point of view and that I believe. [2:22]

Charging your customers money instead of raising money from investors is a radical message in the software industry. It is not a radical message anywhere else in the world. Pretty much every single business in the world just has to figure it out. Getting money from customers is extremely mainstream. [4:27]

Raising a bunch of money and only considering a billion-dollar business success seems extremely radical. The odds are extremely against you. You have a much better shot at staying within your means, growing slowly, and being profitable. [5:05]

There is a new crop of investors that are not trying to help you raise millions. Instead, you can raise $100,000 or $150,000 to get going. Then maybe you can buy them out. I think that is a good pattern. [6:00]

Independence is probably the most valuable thing we have. With profitability comes flexibility. [6:29]

With more people [employees] you tend to become slower. All kinds of other problems creep up. [7:32]

If we had a board we would have to justify ourselves. I have no interest in justifying myself. I just want to do the best work I can, with the best people we can find. We want to enjoy ourselves and make our own decisions. To me that is more valuable than anything. [7:42]

As organizations grow they become more rigid. They form organizational scar tissue. They tighten up. We have tried to iterate rather than scar. Scarring would be this is the way we do it. Versus changing the way you work and how you approach things over the years. [10:15]

Think about how changes impact your company. Just because it is the latest [new] thing doesn’t mean it is any better for us. Look at open floor plans. They’ve made office life worse for a lot of people. It’s important to revisit these decisions you’ve made. [11:35]

If you could try something unconventional and didn’t have to worry it was going to work — it was definitely going to be an experiment that was going to work out — what would you change about how you run your company? I’d take a year off. I’d be curious to see what good things would happen. What patterns would emerge? What changes would be made? I’ve contemplated that before but never had the courage to do it. [15:14]

Every time we built a brand new version of Basecamp we did it after we explored something else [a different product]. A lot of the ideas for Basecamp 3 came from us making another product and then returning back to Basecamp to make a new version of Basecamp. We think it’s a good idea to explore something else first so we can get some new ideas. [17:59]

If you are a person who likes to make things you will always want to make new things. You will always see problems in the world. You’ll want to put your version of it out there. You simply can’t do everything you want. That never ends. [23:47]

It is a good idea to be selective about what you choose to put your energy into. You have very limited energy, attention, and focus. The things you choose to spend that time on should really earn it. They should be worthy of it. Not everything is. [24:31]

I am a big believer in little niche products. Things that are often overlooked. [31:49]

I’m perfectly comfortable calling ourselves a one-hit wonder. I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying we hit it big once and we are doubling down, tripling down, quadrupling down on this. You are lucky to have any hits in your life. [41:28]

We built a job board called We Work Remotely in 3 days. It was making $40,000 a month. [42:32]

I think people are making a grave mistake thinking email is dead. It is alive and well and only getting stronger and stronger. It is not going anywhere — nor should it — it’s fantastic. Email is amazing. It has a lot of advantages over real-time communication. [48:20]

The best way to validate your product is to put a price on it, release it to the market, and see if people are willing to pay for it. [51:08]

[Advice for building a product] Do what you think is the best thingSomething that you believe in. Something you can stand behind. Something that you are doing because you understand why you are doing it. [51:50]

Most companies are held together with duck tape. Very few things are what they seem with regards to how smooth and elegant things are. That is a freeing thought. Who knows anyway? No one really knows. Everyone is making it up as they go. You should too. [53:04]

The right way is relative. It is not absolute. [56:08]

There is no one right way to make a product. The only thing that tells you if it is right or wrong is the market itself. [1:04:54] 

Full podcast here.