37signals can trace its roots back to the dot-bom tech recession of the early 2000s. The party was over, the mega budgets were gone, and you had to hunker down and make money in exceed money out. Back to basics.
This might have seemed like exactly the wrong time to start a business, but I believe the opposite is true. The skills and the culture you pick up at formation will stick with you forever. The corporate mind of 37signals became imprinted with frugality and efficiency that still is at the core of who we are today.
That’s why it brings me extra joy to read in the New York Times that 2009 was a record year for new businesses started. It’s at a 14 year high! As the article muses:
Maybe this is a good thing. A deep recession can be the mother of invention. These Americans are now liberated from the bureaucratic straitjackets they thought they had to wear. They can now fulfill their creative dreams and find their inner entrepreneurs. All they needed was a good kick in the pants.
A whole class of companies forced into existence, forced to be lean, forced to be profitable. Nothing is so bad it’s not good for something.
(Yes, some of these starters will not be successful or they’ll make less than they did in their former job. Just starting a business is no guarantee for success.)