Basecamp’s co-founder doesn’t obsess over valuation
How much are we worth? I don’t know and I don’t care.
I was recently speaking to a class at a local university and the topic of valuations came up. One student asked me what our valuation was. I gave her the honest answer: I haven’t a clue.
How is it possible that a successful software company today doesn’t know its worth? A valuation is what other people think your business is worth. I’ve only ever been interested in what our company is worth to us.
Startups these days are bantered about as if they were in a fantasy football bracket. Did you hear Lyft raised another $150 million at a $2.5 billion valuation? But Uber got tossed another $2.8 billion at a $41.2 billion valuation! Then there are the companies barely off the ground getting VC backing with 25x valuations, despite having no product or business model.
Entrepreneurs by nature are competitive. But fundraising has become the sport in place of the nuts and bolts of building a sustainable business.
The last time I considered Basecamp’s valuation was nearly a decade ago. We’d been approached by dozens of VC firms looking to invest. But with a solid product, a growing consumer base, and increasing profitability, we didn’t entertain any offers.
Then, in 2006, I got an email from Jeff Bezos’s personal assistant. Jeff wanted to meet. I’d long admired him for what he was building at Amazon, and how he generally sees the world. I took the meeting.
After a visit to Seattle and a few more calls, Jeff bought a small piece of our company. I didn’t take the cash out of some fantastical desire to turn Basecamp into a rocket ship. Instead, his purchasing shares from me and my co-founder took a little risk off the table and gave us direct access to the brain of one of today’s greatest living entrepreneurs.