Protocol | Workplace

Politics at work? Basecamp's founders say no. Its workers say yes.

Basecamp's founders banned DEI committees, wellness benefits and political activism at work. Employees are furious.

Hey app.

Basecamp's workers are rebelling against the company's new ban on politics at work.

Image: David Pierce

Many of Basecamp's designers, engineers and long-time employees are expressing unusually public anger with their company's co-founders after Basecamp's leaders published a sweeping set of policies banning political conversations, DEI committees and wellness benefits in an explicit effort to reshape company culture.

At least five key figures inside the company have spoken out publicly against the new policies since they were announced yesterday afternoon, and many more have anonymously shared their anger and frustration with Protocol.

The company announced yesterday that it will no longer allow: political or socially activist talk at work; benefits for fitness, wellness and education; dwelling on past company decisions; and 360 performance reviews. In return, Basecamp is focusing on the impact of the company's products, "making calls, explaining why once, and moving on," and implementing a 10% profit-sharing model, according to the policies shared by co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson yesterday.

Jonas Downey, the company's design lead, has been with Basecamp for more than nine years. "I've worked at Basecamp for a long time because it's a company full of smart and kind people, and together we've always tried to take care and do the right things. I don't agree with the changes announced today, and I'm sad and upset," he wrote on Twitter.

Zach Waugh, the company's lead iOS engineer, wrote: "I'm a straight white man in a tech job, it doesn't get much more privileged than that. It would be so easy for me to ignore things that don't affect me. But I don't want things to be easy, I want things to be better."

When Kasper Timm Hansen left the company two weeks ago, he didn't give an explanation. On Monday evening, he finally provided some context, explaining that the founders' post showed the "cracks" in the company culture. "I didn't expect the cracks to start showing this soon and in this way," he wrote. "A company is an institution. It doesn't have to be thought of as a product to be able to change."

Fried and Heinemeier Hansson spent years writing best-selling books about — and encouraging — the cultural norms that they are now prohibiting, including "Rework," which included a series of essays about positive workplace culture. After the announcement attracted criticism on Monday, Fried updated the post to clarify that workers could still discuss politics and activism outside of work, though it would remain prohibited on the Basecamp workplace platform.

The new rules also made a splash among tech leaders and workers outside the company, many of whom wasted no time calling out the co-founders for a policy that they said perpetuates the discriminatory exclusivity inherent to tech bro culture. "It's hypocritical how Basecamp is now a 'leave politics at home' company," wrote Jaana Dogan, a principal software engineer at AWS. "For months, their cofounder was in the news criticizing everyone. It's only a problem when their employees want the same privileges/freedoms on matters directly affecting them."

A version of this story appears in Tuesday's Source Code newsletter. Subscribe here.

Protocol | Fintech

How European fintech startup N26 is preparing for U.S. regulations

"There's a lot more scrutiny being placed on fintech. We are definitely mindful of it."

In an interview with Protocol, Stephanie Balint, N26's U.S. general manager, discussed the company's approach to regulations in the U.S.

Photo: N26

N26's monster $900 million funding round announced Monday underlined the German startup's momentum in the digital banking market.

Stephanie Balint, N26's U.S. general manager, said the funding will be used for expansion and also to improve "our core offering to make this the most reliable bank that our customers can trust," she told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Apple’s new MacBooks are the future — and the past

After years of reinventing the wheel, Apple's back to just building really good ones.

Apple brought back the ports.

Photo: Apple

The 2015 Pro was, by most accounts, one of the best laptops Apple ever made. It was fast and functional, and it had a great screen, a MagSafe charger, plenty of ports, a great keyboard and solid battery life. If you walked around practically any office in Silicon Valley, you'd see Pros everywhere.

Many of those users have been holding on to their increasingly old and dusty 2015 Pros, too, because right about when that computer came out was when Apple seemed to lose its way in the laptop market. It released the 12-inch MacBook, an incredibly thin and light computer that made a bunch of changes — a new keyboard and trackpad design chief among them — that eventually made their way around the rest of the MacBook lineup. Then came the Touch Bar, Apple's attempt to build an entirely new user interface into a laptop.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Imagine a company where there are no meetings — just time for deep, focused work punctuated by short conversations on Slack and project updates on Trello.

Now imagine a company where the no-meeting ethos is so ingrained that it's possible to work there for 10 years without ever speaking face-to-face with a single coworker, and for your boss to not even recognize the sound of your voice.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

#AppleToo activist says Apple fired her for deleting apps from her devices

Janneke Parrish says she was dismissed after deleting Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive from her work devices during an investigation inside the company.

The Apple Too movement is trying to organize Apple workers into a collective movement.
Photo: Bloomberg via Getty

Unlike most other companies, Apple asks that its employees use their work phones like personal ones — and for five years, Apple program manager Janneke Parrish did as she was told. But last week, when Apple asked Parrish for her devices in an internal investigation, she was afraid Apple would see her personal and private information. She disobeyed orders and deleted apps like Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive. Then Apple fired her.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Latest Stories