Success hides problems

May 21, 2021

The Basecamp situation is still bothering me. I’ve admired this company for so long and have applied many of the founders’ principles to my own ventures. I had often used them as way to describe how companies should work and think smarter. I find myself cringing thinking of them now, knowing how it’s ending up.

David Heinemeier Hansen had a follow-up post yesterday, with this curious paragraph:

We’ve also kept a watchful eye on the business. While there was a small uptick in cancelations for HEY during the first tumultuous week, they were more than offset by an increase in new customer signups for Basecamp. And now both products are growing like they were before that difficult week.

On the surface, I get it: they probably need to spend time reassuring their customers that the business is going to be fine. Portraying confidence and the ability to weather storms and challenges is a good thing.

But the attitude of “we’re fine and still making plenty of money” without a hint of remorse or humility is gross. It’s the type of thing that DHH has spent years criticizing about growth-at-all-costs Bay Area startups. He would have ripped other companies apart for putting this type of nonsense statement out there in the past, I’d like to think. It’s deeply disheartening to see this behavior continue.

It’s okay to admit you made a mistake and, importantly, clarify what that mistake was to show that you understand it. Mistakes are acceptable, and the community will forgive and move on.