At 37signals, a company with just eight employees whose Web-based collaboration software is used by thousands of small businesses, there isn’t time to sit around a conference room sipping latte and deconstructing memos. Come to think of it, there isn’t even a company conference room. There are just a couple of cubicles, loads of brainpower and three simple goals: make useful business software, make it easy to run, make money selling it. Repeat.
Founder and president Jason Fried, 33, decided early on that he didn’t need to be in the shiny valley of Silicon to make cool software. Half his team works out of a plain-vanilla Chicago office that 37signals shares with a design studio. The other four are scattered: Portland, Ore.; Chesapeake, Va.; Caldwell, Idaho; and New York City. This tiny crew, only three of whom graduated from college, has built software that many in the world of Web 2.0 consider the best for small-business collaboration. One of its development tools, Ruby on Rails, is the backbone for dozens of popular websites, such as Shopify, Twitter, 43 Things and Jobster.