The first business built around Basecamp Jason 10 May 2006

28 comments Latest by Brian Duffy

Project Detail Systems is the first business we know of built around providing Basecamp add-ons via the Basecamp API. Their first product is BCTix.com, a support/issue tracking tool that integrates with Basecamp. It’s still early, but it’s worth checking out and following along if you need this functionality.

We’re excited to see what else people come up with using the API. Here’s someone playing with a mobile version of Basecamp using the API.

28 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Brad Garland 10 May 06

Very nice work.

APIs should be required by law.

I’m interested to see what else people can come up with with the Basecamp API.

Rik Lomas 10 May 06

No offense to them, but I think it’s really risky to build a business around another businesses service, especially when that service can be cut off easily. If 37s decide to cut off their access to the API (not that they would…) or charge them to use it, then their tracking tool becomes a lot less valuable or at worse, pointless.

All credit to them though, it looks like a good tracking service.

Brandon 10 May 06

Rik, I think most people who are building applications using Basecamp’s API are building them because they need them. That’s one of the major points of the Getting Real process (at least I think it is). Most of the services that get released around the Basecamp API are probably going to be people trying to solve problems they’ve encountered.

I know I’ve wished there was a mobile version of Basecamp so I could access it from my Treo. If I had the time and resources, I woudl’ve already started developing one for my own use.

We are toying around with a couple of APIs that integrate with Basecamp. We’re working on them for ourselves, but will probably release them (either for free or for a fee) — why not!

Sam 10 May 06

No offense to them, but I think itís really risky to build a business around another businesses service, especially when that service can be cut off easily.

That’s no true, theyre called cottage industries. Think about all the small business that are built off of eBay or Amazon. There’s nothing wrong with building a business around another business.

Sam 10 May 06

wow, I rock at grammar and proofreading. sorry.

Anonymous Coward 10 May 06

[italics]Thereís nothing wrong with building a business around another business.[/italics]

That’s pure nonsense. One of the most important parts of a successful long-term business is having and gaining as much control as possible of every aspect of your business. When your entire business is based on another business, you are at the risk of being put out of business at any moment (unless you have some type of ironclad agreement with them). Please don’t compare 37signals to Amazon or eBay. 37signals is a fine little company but Get Real.

Brian Breslin 10 May 06

oneword: salesforce.com
(whole market/cottage industry springing up around them) best way to keep your product relevant: make others depend on it for their business.

Jesse 10 May 06

Am I missing something or do you have to have a bascamp id to submit tickets? I have it set up with my basecamp account… it is slick but largely useless unless they can allow for non-basecamp users to submit tickets.

Sam 10 May 06

One of the most important parts of a successful long-term business is having and gaining as much control as possible of every aspect of your business.

That’s true, and it’s a good sentiment. But most companies do not have the money to be completely vertical, and almost all small businesses and side businesses simply can not. While I agree it’s a leap of faith to have your core business be dependant on another business, there are ways to have failsafes built in. For example, instead of just providing software based on the Basecamp API, you could provide wraps for other software like outlook or hell lotus notes or something. Productivity tools were around before basecamp and it will always be around.

And also, 37s is no eBay or Amazon obviously, but they do have a lot of paying loyal customers, so I think it’s safe to say they aren’t an “unstable” business.

Chris Busse (Project Detail) 10 May 06

Hmmm, now I know where the big jump in traffic just came from — thanks Jason! :-)

@Rik: Risky, yes, but its a risk we’re willing to take.

The Helicoid mobile interface looks nice … the next thing we’ll be releasing is BCHandy.com and you can probably guess what that might be…

With BCTix.com, I’ve tried to follow some of the Getting Real advice. Not having a Beta / “testing in the wild” was a very anxiety inducing thing for me, but one week into it I can say that I am *very* glad I went that route.

There will be a “30 day update” released in June that will expand the functionality just a bit. The feedack we’ve gotten “testing in the wild” is much better than any beta test I’ve ever been involved in.

After BCHandy.com is launched and goes through its 30 day update we’re going to begin working on our “flagship product”. The motto for that is: “just as Basecamp changed the way you work, this will change the way you work with Basecamp”…

Chris Busse 10 May 06

@Jesse: It does require a Basecamp ID to log in, but after you’ve logged in with one ID, try logging in with one of your client company’s User IDs — You’ll notice that their view is limited to what they have permissions for and their only available setting is the Timezone offset.

Rick Vugteveen 10 May 06

I have an idea for all of you wanting to make a great API product:

A file uploading program!

Uploading files through the current http process is very slow and laborious, which causes the design company I work for to still use FTP for everything. A little program like the Flickr Uploader would be ideal… just choose the project the files are for, drag and drop and you’re done. Kinda like DropSend for Basecamp.

Anyone up for it? I’m sure that myself and many others would pay!

Rick

Tom Anderson 10 May 06

Off topic:

Why does a company like 37signals use a blog written in PHP? Especially since most Ruby on Rails demos build blogs!

Just wondering.

JF 10 May 06

Why does a company like 37signals use a blog written in PHP? Especially since most Ruby on Rails demos build blogs!

We use Movable Type which isn’t written in Ruby or PHP — it’s in perl. We use PHP to do quick includes for the sidebar and a few other things. We started SvN long before we got involved with Rails so PHP worked well and it works just as well now.

Brady 10 May 06

One of the most important parts of a successful long-term business is having and gaining as much control as possible of every aspect of your business.

That’s not true. You want to own and control your core competencies. The rest is a candidate for outsourcing.

However, the point in this case that it is risky leaching onto someone else’s API is valid. However, while it is risky, there’s money to be made adding value to third party apps if you are willing to take the risk.

I say good for them. Looks like a nice tool.

Jesse 10 May 06

@Chris Busse: I don’t have any clients in my basecamp (if basecamp could ever use our LDAP for authetication then i would have *client* accounts) as I just don’t want to nor need to manage that many users to find basecamp useful. I suppose I could create a user account with a simple public password and only give them access to the helpdesk. Not ideal… but could work.

Chris Busse 11 May 06

Geof, thanks for the constructive and specific feedback on the promotional aspects of the site — you are correct on all counts. I cleaned up the home page quite a bit this evening. I still need to work on explaining the value proposition with some examples, but its a step in the right direction.

David M. 11 May 06

Chris, what’s your strategy if 37signals release an upgrade to Basecamp that includes support ticketing?

Matt 11 May 06

David,

I really doubt Basecamp will see support ticketing built in for a long time…it just is too specific to some businesses.

-Matt

Chris Busse 11 May 06

David — anytime you’re building on to another company’s products, there’s always the risk that the company will add that feature in.

In one of my other businesses, we actually did the reverse — the product we were building on to had a specific feature for a specific vertical market but the people in that vertical didn’t like the way it worked so we built something that did just that one function, but it a much better way. It has been selling well.

From reading the Basecamp Forums on a daily basis, I’ve come to have somewhat of an understanding of the 37Signal’s philosophy and I agree with Matt — I don’t think it’s something they’d add to Basecamp.

For a long term business strategy though, it’s never good to put your eggs in one basket. To answer the “what if”, BCTix is not intended to be our main product offering.

Strategy wise, BCTix is also limited because the customer has to be the Basecamp Account holder. It is also limited because it addresses a narrow market segment (Basecamp users who need support ticketing).

Our next product to be released early this summer if not before, will have *any* Basecamp user as a potential customer.

After that we’ll be releasing our flagship product which will be another thing that only the Basecamp Account holder would be a customer of but the focus won’t be as narrow as BCTix. We feel that it will offer so much added value that we’ll be able to charge more for it than BCTix or BCHandy (the next thing that we’re releasing).

Somewhere in between all that there’s probably room for us to add a “utility suite” as well — there’s already a To Do Export to CSV linked off of a blog post I made the other day (blog.projectdetail.com).

So that’s our strategy — “product diversification” in a nutshell.

PArora 11 May 06

One of your selling point is easy to use functionality in your applications, how do you control that when other companies built a application using your API but doesn’t meet the usability guidelines?

Sam 11 May 06

how do you control that when other companies built a application using your API but doesnít meet the usability guidelines

All business rely on someone else’s business rules for their product. Wheither it’s a manufacturer using a specific material or a software company not including a feature. Relying on other businesses is simply a risk of doing business. Cottage Industry or not. You simply have to build your product around those hurdles.

Redstar88 11 May 06

You know - the nice thing about the 37signals site is that they use top notch XHTML/CSS so that a good thing to extend ! (I will not mention the quick review of another site mentioned here)

Rik Lomas 11 May 06

All business rely on someone elseís business rules for their product. Wheither itís a manufacturer using a specific material or a software company not including a feature. Relying on other businesses is simply a risk of doing business.

Of course all businesses rely on other businesses, web agencies need clients, shops need suppliers… but this is a lot different to being completely reliant on one company. Especially given the reliant company is a small start up.

Full credit to them though, they must have some balls to do this, and I’m sure they’ve thought long and hard about the decision to rely on 37s for this service. It’s nice to see that the API is getting used in a positive, productive way.

random8r 11 May 06

Ah… solidifcation complete ;-)

Brian Duffy 12 May 06

I have been involved in several ventures with Chris Busse over the past few years and we have built more than one solution that relies on another company’s software as the prime system, using an API or sorry excuse for one (I can see Chris smiling). We and many other companies have profited a good deal from this model. We have done this mainly with privately held companies that have a decent base of customers and are making a good profit for themselves. In my experience this has always been more predictable and worked out better than relying heavily on a bigger, more visible, and well funded company with venture capital and/or public equity. These big players can seriously evaporate overnight because of negative earnings, delisting, or investor pull-outs. Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been derailed by a new member of a big company management team who has to mark his territory by gutting everything his predecessor did. (I have yet to see a woman do that though, hats off to the ladies!)

LLC’s like us are more comfortable with LLC’s like 37s, we’re like brothers. Please stay away from that venture capital craps table 37s!

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