Culture crushin' on Basecamp

Basecamp -- which started as 37Signals -- was one of the pioneers of the remote working culture, among other modern workplace trends. The company's Founder and CEO, Jason Fried, is a culture OG, having authored blog posts like You don't create a culture in May 2008, and co-authored books Rework (2010) and Remote: Office Not Required (2013) with Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH). 

How Basecamp does culture differently

  • They pay in the top 5% of salaries
  • Employees can work from anywhere in the world 
  • "Summer hours" from May 1-August 31 means (most) employees only work Monday-Thursday
  • Basic health & dental insurance
  • $100/month fitness stipend (for anything from classes to new runners)
  • $100/month massage allowance
  • Community Supported Agriculture allowance, so everyone has access to local, organic produce
  • 3 weeks paid holidays + national holidays + a few personal days
  • Basecamp Holiday Gift (could range from a local night out to a fully paid vacation)  
  • Up to 16 weeks of maternity leave, or 6 weeks of paternity leave at 100% paid salary
  • One-month sabbatical every 3 years
  • $1,000 annual continuing education allowance (related to your career or not!) 
  • 100% match 401k retirement plan (up to 6% of your salary)
  • 100% coverage for hardware, software, or any services you need to do your job
  • No-red-tape expense account for work-related expenses, including travel and office supplies
  • $100/month coworking space stipend
  • $1,000/year charitable donation match

A return to the 40-Hour work week

"We encourage 40-hour work weeks. I only make this point since our industry is perverted and often asks people for regular 60+ hour weeks + regular pushes on weekends. We don’t want people working more than 40 hours a week in any sustained fashion (we even built in a “Work Can Wait” feature in Basecamp 3 which turns Basecamp notifications off after work hours and on weekends). In a crisis, or a once-every-couple-years special push, we may require very short-term extended hours, but otherwise we strongly encourage a maximum of 40-hours a week, and 8-hours of sleep a night." - Jason Fried
Photo of Jason Fried via Inc Magazine

Photo of Jason Fried via Inc Magazine

A bit of history

Fried originally co-founded 37Signals in 1999 with Carlos Segura (who left in 2000), and Ernest Kim (who left in 2003) as a web design company. In 2003, Basecamp's CTO David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) created Ruby on Rails, now one of the world’s most popular programming frameworks. 

In 2004, the company shifted its focus to web app development, creating products like Backpack, Campfire, and Highrise. In 2014, the team amplified its focus on Basecamp, a web-based project-management tool and their most popular product, and renamed the company after it. 

The company has stuck by their mission to stay small (they have less than 50 employees), a business decision the co-founders outline in in their book Rework. 

Thought leaders from the jump

Since launching in 1999, the company has kept up its Signal vs. Noise blog, which features "strong opinions and shared thoughts on design, business, and tech." The content is a combination of company updates, and editorial pieces with titles like Why I work remotely (hint: it has nothing to do with productivity)Is group chat making you sweat?, and RECONSIDER (a very bold opinion piece on startups by DHH). 

Basecamp's podcast, The Distance, focuses on building companies for the longterm

Basecamp's podcast, The Distance, focuses on building companies for the longterm

They put a strong focus on longevity 

As part of their thought leadership, Basecamp launched The Distance, a podcast on "longevity in business," which interviews and profiles companies that have been around for 25+ years. 

Longevity is a major theme Basecamp's founders discuss in their values, articles, blog posts, social media channels, and live talks. As they say on their website, "We don’t chase fads and trends, we stay focused on the things that will always be important." 

They also acknowledge Amazon's founder for the best piece of business advice they've received: 

“Find the things that won't change in your business and invest heavily in those things.” - Jeff Bezos

They intimately understand their values

Basecamp outlines their goals -- which they say have always been the same -- on their website:

  • Have fun
  • Do exceptional work
  • Build the best product in the business
  • Experiment
  • Pay attention to the details
  • Treat people right
  • Tell the truth
  • Have a positive impact on the world around us
  • Give back 
  • Keep learning.
"We’re also big believers in business 101. We don’t spend more than we earn, we don’t waste money on things that don’t matter, we don’t give away everything for free and hope we’ll figure it out before we run out of cash. We’re in business to stay in business, and we have 15 profitable years in a row to back it up." (via Basecamp)

They're passionate advocates of remote work 

The founders are major proponents of working from wherever in the world you are happiest, most productive, or fulfilled, whether that's living in your dream city or adopting a global nomad lifestyle. They outline their thoughts comprehensively in Remote, and have built a job board called We Work Remotely for location-independent jobs. 

In 2010, Jason Fried did a TEDx Talk on why the office isn't a good place to work because our workdays become too fragmented due to constant interruptions. Check it out for Fried's thoughts on why productivity soars when we can work remotely. 

Who's Your Culture Crush?

We're doing a whole series on companies with forward thinking cultures, and would love to which companies you think deserve a feature. Send us your thoughts via Twitter, email, or in the comments below.