How an Anti-Growth Mentality Helped Basecamp Grow to Over 2 Million Customers

“How much is Basecamp worth? I don’t know, and I don’t care.” – Basecamp Founder & CEO, Jason Fried

There’s a common roadmap for SaaS growth.

Build a product that solves a need for your core audience. Raise venture dollars to build new products and features. Land and expand upmarket to the enterprise.

Basecamp has built one of the oldest and longest-surviving businesses on the Internet by flipping this conventional wisdom on its head.

An image from a blog post written by Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson, “Exponential Growth Devours and Corrupts[1].”

Basecamp, the web-design-turned-software company, has done this by sticking to a specific ethos: simplicity in software. They built and refined a single, simple project management tool to help people do their jobs better. Eighteen years later, that simple project management tool has helped them grow to $25 million in ARR. This is even more remarkable because their focus has never been on revenue or growth.

Basecamp was founded in 1999, the same year as Salesforce and Google (among many other tech companies). While companies like Salesforce and Google survived by building out a ton of tools to keep acquiring new types of customers, the Basecamp you see today hasn’t changed that much over 18 years. They threw all of their weight behind their original ideas—and that’s how they’ve sustained the company ever since.

Let’s take a closer look at how Basecamp has succeeded without focusing on growth for growth’s sake. Specifically, we’ll talk about:

  • How and why Basecamp pivoted from a web design consultancy to a product company—but maintained a consultancy mentality
  • How Basecamp built an experimental suite of software products, only to refocus back on one
  • How Basecamp actively avoids pressure to complicate their product, accept VC money, or prioritize revenue over profit.

We’ll look at how Basecamp has shaped their product, company, and ethos around an anti-growth mentality.

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