“Make a half-product, not a half-assed product."
That is the mantra of product people, and 37Signals’ fans, just about everywhere. In light of the International Consumer Electronics Show last week, I don’t think a focus on good products has been more prevalent. With new gadgets that range from the cool to the peculiar, a recent surge in wearables and hardware has arisen. Along with this rise in hardware, mainly consumer focused, there have been a crop of new enterprise based SaaS companies in the past several months. Although these two categories serve completely different markets, products and verticals what unites them is a clear distinction of quality over features.
In the case of consumer wearables, I don’t believe anyone is making the fight for wrist supremacy quite like Pebble. Originally a Waterloo-based company, Pebble has been through Y Combinator and a number of years of perfecting what they need.
As one of the most talked about in the industry, they also seem to have the fewest provided features. Other larger companies provide more support, features, touch screens, apps, etc.—but, unlike Pebble, they have missed the mark. It was in under-doing their competition, understanding their product and customers and a focus on minimalism, that has won over the hearts of users. It reminds me of what Michelangelo said of his sculptures; that he would merely take away the excess stone to reveal the statue inside for others to see. With the launch of Pebble in steel and a Pebble App Store, I am very hopeful for the future of this mission.
In the case of enterprise SaaS, no one is quite like 37Signals and their line of web-based apps. I have experience primarily with their project management tool, Basecamp, in both the web and mobile offerings. It’s not surprising that their targeting of the “Fortune 5000” and constant “dogfooding” of their products has led them to such a quality product line.
There is something about a team that has such an unwavering dedication to quality with the chance to scale or sell the company has arisen that is so alluring. If you haven’t tried their products, I would highly recommend you check them out on your next project. The group is also very opinionated, putting many of their business & management philosophies in a book called “Rework," a recommend read/listen. You will be hearing a lot more of this company in the coming years and they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
At the end of the day, great companies know what they are solving, how they are achieving it and ultimately why it’s important. A focus on quality, process and productivity seem to be guiding factors to making a well made product, whether software or hardware.
Both Pebble and 37Signals are in crowded markets, filled with competitors and incumbents with massive budgets. But it is through a rigorous pursuit of quality, simplicity in design and under doing their competition are these two players really standing out.