232: Create a Company Culture That’s Healthy and Profitable, With David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp
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Eighteen years ago, David Heinemeier Hansson was a college student sitting in his little apartment in Copenhagen when he stumbled across a blog post by 37signals (which would later become Basecamp), a Chicago-based design company he had long admired.
In the post, co-founder Jason Fried posted a question on some aspect of programming. Hansson knew the answer, so he contacted Fried. Several emails later, Fried was asking Hansson to work with him.
“Jason decided it was easier just to hire me than to learn how to program,” Hansson says, “and that's how we started working together.”
That was the beginning of a now-legendary tech startup team, and an illustrious career for Hansson. In Hansson’s early days at Basecamp, he famously created Ruby on Rails, an open-source web development framework once used by Twitter, and still in use by GitHub, Shopify, and many more.
We were excited to talk shop with Hansson (often known as DHH) because, in an industry dominated by breakneck Silicon Valley culture, Basecamp stands out in many ways: It’s been profitable every year since its inception in 1999, it doesn’t chase growth, and it doesn’t even set numerical goals.
With their latest book, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, Hansson and Fried are hoping to challenge the prevailing narrative about chaotic work culture by sharing the unique way they run their company.
This is Part 2 of our Basecamp co-founder interviews. To hear Part 1, check out our podcast interview with Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried.Key Takeaways
- The blog post 18 years ago that brought Hansson together with co-founder Jason Fried, and what compelled Fried to hire him
- How Hansson invented revolutionary web development framework Ruby on Rails
- Why it’s never too late to learn how to program
- The story behind how Jeff Bezos bought a minority, no-control stake in Basecamp in 2006—and how Hansson feels about it today
- Basecamp’s philosophy on growth
- His latest book, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, and why he hopes to challenge the prevailing narrative about entrepreneurship and growth
- How Basecamp defines success, even though it doesn’t set goals
- The disadvantages of large companies
- How to maintain a strong company culture when your team is remote
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