Tag: Basecamp

April 2021

The ‘Rework’ Podcast Goes Dark

Sorry, one more Basecamp link: Jason Fried and DHH (and other 37signals/Basecamp folks, allegedly) wrote a book called Rework about “the better way to work and run your business,” which has a spinoff podcast covering a mix of Basecamp behind-the-scenes and overall thought leadership, hosted by Wailin Wong and Shaun Hildner. It’s basically a nice business podcast that folks from Basecamp occasionally take over to talk about how great they are.

Or, rather, Rework did have a spinoff podcast. Wong and Hildner posted a 90 second “quick update” saying they are taking a hiatus in response to the company’s changes. And it’s a pretty intense clip: Hildner couldn’t even finish the show’s standard intro, and Wong admitted it would be weird to carry on as normal.

And one side note, from the “shoulda seen this coming” department: despite Wong and Hildner serving as regular, weekly hosts for this podcast, their names are nowhere to be found on the show website. But you can probably guess whose names are prominently mentioned:

Rework is a podcast by the makers of Basecamp about a better way to work and run your business. While the prevailing narrative around successful entrepreneurship tells you to scale fast and raise money, we think there’s a better way. We’ll take you behind the scenes at Basecamp with co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson and bring you stories from business owners who have embraced bootstrapping, staying small, and growing slow.

There’s also this line:

REWORK is proudly hosted by Transistor Podcasting Company

They credit their hosting platform, but not their hosts.

What really happened at Basecamp

In response to the Basecamp partners’ “full Coinbase” heel turn that I wrote about yesterday, Casey Newton spoke with Jason Fried, DHH, and numerous employees and reported on what’s been going on behind the scenes:

The controversy that embroiled enterprise software maker Basecamp this week began more than a decade ago, with a simple list of customers.

Around 2009, Basecamp customer service representatives began keeping a list of names that they found funny. More than a decade later, current employees were so mortified by the practice that none of them would give me a single example of a name on the list. … Many of the names were of American or European origin. But others were Asian, or African, and eventually the list — titled “Best Names Ever” — began to make people uncomfortable.

The series of events that led to yesterday’s policy change — which Newton confirms was not fully discussed internally before it was dropped like a bomb via the founders’ personal blogs — began with things like this, but grew to include a broader question of how the company is handling diversity and inclusion. Between the lines of it all, it sure seems like the “committees” Fried railed against refers to an employee-led DEI Council, as does the new ban against “societal and political discussions” on company forums.

As I called out yesterday, unlike most tech companies with enough of a public profile to trigger this much discussion, Basecamp is an LLC under the near-total control of its two managing partners. That in itself is not that unusual; with the rise of “founder friendly” equity structures in the last decade, there are plenty of VC-backed businesses that also have dictatorial leaders and toxic work environments. The main difference is that unlike (say) Coinbase’s CEO Brian Armstrong (who tweeted a high five at Basecamp yesterday), the Basecamp partners aren’t accountable to investors or a board of directors — the buck really does stop with them.

“There’s always been this kind of unwritten rule at Basecamp that the company basically exists for David and Jason’s enjoyment,” one employee told me. “At the end of the day, they are not interested in seeing things in their work timeline that make them uncomfortable, or distracts them from what they’re interested in. And this is the culmination of that.”