Tech CEO on Silicon Valley: 'They're obsessed with all the things that I think are bad business'

BasecampJason Fried, pictured, tries to create a different work environment for his employees.

Basecamp CEO Jason Fried doesn’t believe in working yourself to the bone.

That’s only one of the ways in which Fried, whose company builds a web-based project management tool, differs from some of the pervasive mindsets and values in Silicon Valley.

In an interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times, Fried told Bryant that he’s mystified by some of the attitudes found in the tech world.

“My dad, who was a private investor, always told me no one ever went broke taking a profit,” he told Bryant. “And I think that’s probably the best business advice, period. But a lot of the tech world is obsessed with growth and revenue and not profit. They’re obsessed with ego. They’re obsessed with all the things that I think are bad business.”

Silicon Valley is known for a culture of working harder-faster-more: A CEO texts job applicants on the weekends and measures their responsiveness in a three-hour window. Amazon employees say they’re expected to work 80-hour weeks. Until Uber suffered a string of scandals, its internal mantra was “Work smarter, harder, and longer.”

Apparently, this type of anecdote isn’t unusual in the tech world — and it paints a picture of an intense work culture that could easily lead to burnout.

Fried told Bryant:

“I do think it’s good to have an enemy, but to me, the enemy is more an idea that you’re opposed to, rather than another business. For example, we’re opposed to the prevailing idea in our industry that you have to work 60, 70, 80 hours a week to do a good job. We believe 40 is enough.”

Basecamp practices what Fried preaches. For instance, the company allows all of its approximately 50 employees to live and work from anywhere in the world, reported Business Insider’s Áine Cain.

Plus, wrote Business Insider’s Chris Weller, these perks include:

  • generous salaries, healthcare plans, 401(k) matching, and time-off policies
  • a $US5,000 annual vacation stipend
  • $US100 a month for home massages
  • $US100 for fresh produce
  • 16 weeks paid parental leave
  • tenured sabbaticals every three years
  • shortened four-day, 32-hour weeks during the summer

In fact, Fried told Weller, “I’d love to continue to give more and more things to make people happier and more comfortable. I’m just running out of ideas for it.”

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