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In this episode #45, we are talking with Jason Fried, Co-Founder of 37signals, Basecamp, Listen in as Jason breaks down the idea of one-time product purchases in contrast to the recurrent SaaS model. We explore the concept of owning software outright and how Campfire stands as a testament to this ethos by providing a group chat solution without ongoing fees, complete with accessible source code for those keen on self-hosting or simply learning from the build.

Exploring the World of Once: A New Way to Approach Software

The Birth of Once

Today we’re talking with Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals, now building to offer companies alternatives to their costly SaaS subscriptions. Once is a collection of products that operate under the 37Signals umbrella, offering a unique alternative to traditional software services. Unlike the typical subscription-based model, Once products are purchased once and run on your own server. This means there are no recurring fees or subscriptions. 

The first product under the Once brand is Campfire, a group chat system that is simple, straightforward, and cost-effective. Priced at $299, Campfire allows unlimited users and can be run on your own server, meaning you have complete control over your communication platform. With Campfire, you also receive all the code, giving you the freedom to modify and customize the product to suit your needs.


Returning to Simplicity

Campfire, along with other Once products, is a response to the growing frustration with complex, convoluted software systems. While tools like Slack and Teams have their merits, they have become bloated and expensive, packed with features that many businesses don’t need. Once products aim to bring back the simplicity and affordability of software in its early days.

For those who value simplicity and transparency, Campfire offers a clear solution. With a one-time purchase, you gain access to a powerful group chat system that can be tailored to your specific needs. Gone are the days of endless subscriptions and recurring fees – with Once, you have full control over your software.


The Pricing Surprise

One aspect that sets Once apart is its pricing strategy. While many expected Once products to come with a hefty price tag, Campfire is priced at a surprising $299. This introductory price aims to make the product accessible to as many people as possible. However, don’t be fooled by the low price – Campfire is a high-quality, feature-rich product that rivals its more expensive counterparts.

Furthermore, Once products allow for experimentation with pricing. The flexibility of selling software as a one-time purchase opens up doors for exploring different pricing structures and catering to different markets. With low marginal costs, Once products can be priced differently in developing markets, making them more affordable for users in those regions.


The Appeal of Once

So why should you consider Once products like Campfire? There are many use cases where Campfire can be a game-changer. If you’re tired of paying monthly subscriptions for chat systems like Slack or Teams, Campfire offers a cost-effective alternative. With a one-time payment, you can have a fully functional group chat system that can be customized to your liking.

Campfire is also ideal for those who want to learn from a well-built commercial app. Once products come with all the code, allowing you to dive deep into the mechanics of the software. Whether you want to study the code, modify it, or share it with your team, Campfire offers a unique opportunity to explore and learn from a well-designed application.

Additionally, Campfire is perfect for scenarios where you need a separate, air-gapped chat system or a backup for existing platforms. Whether you’re concerned about data leaks, need a chat system for a specific event, or simply want an alternative to your current chat solution, Campfire provides a reliable and affordable option.


Looking Ahead: The Future of Once

Once is not just about Campfire – it’s about reimagining software and challenging the status quo. While Campfire is the first product under the Once brand, there are many possibilities for future Once products. Imagine a modern-day wiki that captures the simplicity and functionality of early wikis, or a project management tool that focuses on efficiency and ease of use.

Once products aim to bring back the simplicity and creativity of early software development. By offering affordable, customizable, and one-time purchase solutions, Once empowers businesses to take control of their software and make it work for them.

As Once continues to evolve, it has the potential to reshape the industry and inspire other developers to explore new business models and distribution methods. The success of Once products, like Campfire, demonstrates the demand for simple, cost-effective solutions in today’s software landscape.

So, are you ready to embark on the Once journey? Whether you’re a business owner, software engineer, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of simplicity, Once products may just be the right fit for you. Explore the world of Once and discover a new way to approach software.


Head of Growth,