Please, no, don’t listen to Rafat

Please, no, don’t listen to Rafat: My friend, Rafat Ali, who I never disagree with, is making a really bad suggestion to Microsoft (after Robert Scoble’s request to his bosses to let him purchase a Web 2.0 company):

“Here’s my contribution: buy 37 Signals…mainly for the team but also for the tools they’ve developed. Give them the money they’re asking…really.”

Actually, on his main point, I agree with Rafat: 37 Signals team is producing a steady stream of incredible web apps.

However, I’d hate to see what would happen if the company and its products were acquired by Microsoft. In addition to his obvious creative brilliance, 37 Signals’ Jason Fried is perhaps the most articulate spokesman I have ever heard explain the power of “small vs. big.” Anyone who has ever heard him speak on the philosophical (spiritual?) approach his firm takes towards product development (for example, one rule is, “half a product is better than a half-assed product”), would fear some really ugly cultural trainwreck if they end up at Microsoft.

Update: After Robert Scoble’s comment (see comments), I guess I should clarify that I should have said “Microsoft or any other gigantic corporation.” This is one of those times where I wasn’t picking on Microsoft for being, well, Microsoft. I was referring to the mindset of “big.” I don’t know Jason Fried, I’m merely someone who has heard him speak and read his writings and use his products, but despite his relative youth, he impresses me as one of the clearest, deepest thinkers on the nature of small business and innovation. His blogging is near poetry — certainly philosophy — on the topic. He and his team have created some incrdible products and I hope they make lots of money from their business.

By the way, if I were running Microsoft, I would buy 37Signals for a huge amount of money and tell them to keep doing whatever they want to do and leave them alone. Also, if I were running Microsoft, I’d triple Robert Scoble’s salary.

  • Robert Scoble

    You’re probably right. Only which side of the line would the trainwreck be on?

    The start.com and Virtual Earth side of the line? Or the big, massive, team side of the line?

    Remember the Xbox? Done by four people (originally).

    Remember .NET? Done by a handful of people (originally).

    Translation? Microsoft needs more small team skunkworks projects.

  • lcreekmo

    I will say, 37signals is my fave company that’s not us. I predict they’ll never sell. It’s antithetical to their entire purpose.