37 Signals Becomes Basecamp

How strange!

It’s not what I’d have thought they’d do. Perhaps my model of S37 is wrong, but would you expect a bunch of hip young(ish) things to want to give up their experimentation and consolidate their energies on a maturing cash-cow?

Is this actually a sign that 37 Signals are in trouble? Or that investors are squeezing them? (Do S37 even have outside investors?)

One possible thinking is that they’re going to spin off other products as separate companies, which S37 retain ownership of but, presumably, hand-over management of to other, hungrier, more focussed people. That’s a potential way to scale up. But it’s not entirely clear that this the big strategic focus. Especially as they claim they’d also willingly support these other products in maintenance mode forever.

They say it’s odd. But that that’s cool because they like to be unorthodox. I guess what seems weird to me is that this just doesn’t seem “fun”. Does that mean that S37 are becoming the poster-children for “anti-fun”?

Defending Lean Startups

Got into a long comment on Nick Pelling’s blog. He’s sceptical about Eric Ries. I’m fairly neutral, but here’s my response to Nick.

Surely all practical knowledge is anecdotal and, therefore, an unwarranted step from the particular to the universal. All advice in this “genre” (Tom Peters, Charles Handy, Seth Godin etc. etc. etc. ) comes with an implicit health warning. And anyone with any experience of the world will apply salt as a matter of course. 

Should we hold that against Ries in particular? 

So his models come from the software industry. OK. But someone else’s advice will come from banking, or food retail or oil or the military. Each with some parallels to your business but each with its own idiosyncrasies as well. 

One thing you can say in favour of Ries’s bias is that more and more things are getting automated and so more and more of our world “is made of software”. Software processes are replacing other kinds of process that were embodied in administrative or managerial practices or hardwired into physical machines. In this world, improvements in software are often more effective than improvements in other areas. 

You’re a coder yourself. You probably know your Mythical Man Month etc. You know perfectly well that software doesn’t benefit from heavy bureaucratic management. But that exciting and effective software usually does come from small, enthusiastic, “agile” teams. 

So, if software is becoming an increasingly important factor in business. And software thrives under agile conditions, it would follow that business in general will probably benefit from agile. 

Disclosure : I’m a software guy myself, so I’m totally down with the land-grab programme.