Growing in vs. growing out 28 Jun 2006
51 comments Latest by Arlen
Now that Basecamp is 2.5 years old, we’ve been getting some heat from a few folks who’ve been with us since the beginning. They are saying they are starting to grow out of the app. Their businesses are becoming more complex and their requirements are changing. They want us to change Basecamp to mirror their new-found complexity and requirements.
We’re saying no. And here’s why: We’d rather our customers grow out of our products eventually than never be able to grow into them in the first place.
The problem with following the complexity curve of your customer’s own businesses and requirements is that eventually your product becomes so complex that the barrier to entry is too high for new customers. And then eventually you die with your current customers. You may keep your current customers in the short term, but if no one new can fit through the door then eventually you’re in trouble.
It’s ok for software to be “temporary.” Everything else is temporary, why not software? You probably don’t use the same computer you did 5 years ago. You probably don’t live in the same apartment or have the same car either. And you may be in a different relationship too. Why are software companies afraid if people grow out of things after awhile?
We’re also saying no because we believe in simple tools no matter how complex your business is. People are still people no matter what company they are part of. People still need simple to-do lists, easy ways to communicate with their team, real-time group chat without audio and video overhead, a place to keep notes, etc. A big complex company doesn’t change these small simple needs.
Remember, unless you’re Microsoft there are always more people that aren’t using your product than people that are. Make sure you make it easy for new people to get in. That’s where your real continued growth potential is.
Disclaimer: We are not suggesting that you don’t pay attention to your current customers. 90% of everything we add to our products originates in existing customer requests. It’s more that we acknowledge that people and situations change and we can’t be everything to everyone. Companies need to be true to a type of customer more than a specific individual customer who’s needs may change. (e.g. Ferraris are made for people who like sportscars. If you outgrow your Ferrari and need a minivan then you’ve changed and need to look to another product).