37 Signals – Anywhere But Here

37signalsLast evening I caught up with Jason Fried, one fifth of the quintet known as 37 Signals. He had just settled into his new home in Chicago, and well was hoping to feast on some middle eastern goodies when I rudely interrupted his dinner. Jason, being a gentleman spent a lot of time with me, and at some point during the conversation, we talked about the recent buzz in Silicon Valley. I asked him, if he would ever move here. And well, his answer took me back to my story, Escape From Silicon Valley. Jason and his virtual bandmates are spread all over the country/world, and make a comfortable living from their efforts such as Ta-Da List and Basecamp. 37 Signals should have part of my story, but somehow I missed them. Shame on me!

They are a prototypical next-gen start-up, that shuns venture capital, has realistic expectations of itself, and is highly distributed. Jason says they are comfortable in the knowledge that they are not going to be the next Google. This self awareness has to be part of any start-ups DNA. There are many entrepreneurs who are “do-it-themselves” who often tell me that they are immensely worried about the unrealistic expectations placed on them by VC investments. You won’t find them in Silicon Valley, where these days features are posing as companies. They can only wish to get the fierce loyalty 37 Signals enjoys from its customers.

In the past 24 months I have touched on many of these topics in different articles for Business 2.0. I think they also belong to another big trend – user experience companies. 37 Signals actually spends the time to figure out how humans, not early adopters actually use their products and try and build intuitiveness into their product. (iPod is a perfect example of this instant intuitiveness that is in sync with human expectations. Another good example is Six Apart’s TypePad blogging system, even though I am partial to WordPress myself.) I have been talking about that (to those who know me well) for almost three years now, and Basecamp exemplifies that. (Here is what Jason has to say about UI stuff!)

I wish there were more 37 Signals. If you know of any, do let me know.