Several of the employees who quit were longtime Basecamp vets:
A study found that employees were stressed and less productive when political discussions arose at work. But in a country fraught with divisive discourse on significant issues, should efficiency outweigh open discussion?
Waste management is a $2 trillion industry, and is ripe with opportunities. With Google searches for "zero-waste store near me" increasing monthly, founders can literally turn trash into treasure.
From selling a SaaS company that was earning $55,000 monthly, to writing books in public, founder Arvid Kahl knows how to engage an audience. One of his proudest achievements? Using World of Warcraft to reach fluency in English while slaying dragons.
Want to share something with over 70,000 indie hackers? Submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter. —Channing
✌️ Basecamp Backlash Led to 1/3 of Employees Quitting
from the Indie Economy newsletter by Bobby Burch
More than one-third of Basecamp employees have quit after a new policy banned political discussions at the company, prompting CEO Jason Fried to issue an apology.
What's going on: At least 20 of Basecamp’s 57 employees left the company after Jason, and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson, banned “paternalistic” benefits and "distracting" conversations on politics. Among those who quit were several Basecamp vets with more than five years experience, including Director of Operations Troy Toman and Head of Design Jonas Downey.
Sorry... kinda: Jason apologized for how he introduced the changes, but Basecamp plans to keep the new policies in place:
Last week was terrible. We started with policy changes that felt simple, reasonable, and principled, and it blew things up internally in ways we never anticipated. David and I completely own the consequences, and we're sorry. We have a lot to learn and reflect on, and we will. The new policies stand, but we have some refining and clarifying to do.
The spark: The Verge reports that the new policies were spurred by internal arguments over a list of “funny names” of Basecamp customers whose names were of Asian or African origin:
Employees considered their inclusion inappropriate at best and racist at worst.
Severance: David wrote that Basecamp harbors no hard feelings, and is offering all employees a no-questions-asked severance package including six months salary.
Open discussion vs. efficiency
The stress of politics: In a study conducted during the 2016 US presidential campaign, many employees reported feeling stressed and less productive because of political discussions at work.
About 28% of workers ages 18-34 said political discussions at work made them feel stressed out, and nearly a quarter of workers reported being less productive. 21% cited a decline in work quality, and 19% reporting having difficulty getting their work done.
Following the fallout: Developer John Breen began tracking the people who quit Basecamp in an effort to help them find new gigs. In total, he has identified more than 20 staffers that are seeking a new base camp.
What’s next: Basecamp reported that it had 3.5M active customers at the start of 2021. If customers are as concerned with the new policies as their former employees, this backlash could affect the company's bottom line.
What do you think about the new policy and the fallout? Please share your thoughts.
Subscribe to Indie Economy for more.
📰 In the News
📜 Twitter acquires ad-free reading service Scroll.
👀 Peloton's API bug put users' private account data at risk.
🏘 Facebook launches Neighborhoods, a Nextdoor clone.
🎧 Clubhouse is funding 50 creators to launch audio shows.
🐶 Dogecoin's creator sold all his coins in 2015 to buy a Honda Civic.
🗑 Trash to Treasure: Monetizing Waste Management
from the Trends Newsletter by Amy McMillen of The Hustle
Every day, 28K tons of single-use plastic finds its way into the world's oceans, ~86K dump trucks full of used or discarded clothing are either burned or dropped in a landfill, and ~109K tons of used electronics (the weight equivalent of ~68M laptops) are discarded.
Left unchecked, that would certainly spell environmental disaster, but it can also spell something else: Big business opportunities.
The business of trash
Today, waste management is a $2T global industry growing 5.5% YoY, with the US accounting for $1T of that.
Venture capitalists have taken note. Funding in recycling tech alone has tripled in the last decade, and one "Uber for trash" startup reached unicorn status in 2017.
Trash makes money in three main ways:
- Waste collection: About 55% of waste management revenue comes from fees for waste collection. This includes residential, small-container, and large-container services for homes and businesses.
- Recycling: Facilities sell recyclable materials like paper, glass, and metals to manufacturers.
- End-of-Life: Materials that don't get recycled or reused get treated and disposed of, either in a landfill or in waste-to-energy plants. Landfills collect tipping fees from businesses, individuals, and governments, while energy plants sell energy directly to consumers or other plants.
China dominated the scene starting in the 1990s, importing as much as ~70% of the world's trash (almost 7M tons) every year. Business was lucrative, and China's first female billionaire, Zhang Yin, made her fortune from recycling paper scraps from the US.
Then, in 2018, China (along with other countries in Asia) banned almost all incoming waste due to environmental and health concerns stemming from poor disposal of hard-to-recycle materials.
As a result, there's a bunch of trash with nowhere to go.
Opportunities for founders
Refillable D2C: D2C brands sell everyday items to buyers without the wasteful packaging. Brands that do well in this space tend to focus on one particular area of life. Blueland, for instance, is a zero-waste cleaning chemical company. By Humankind is specifically focused on upgrading your daily hygiene routine.
Men's and Women's Lifestyle: Many D2C leaders in the waste-free industry are unisex lifestyle brands. There is room to target men or women specifically.
Events: Gatherings can produce lots of trash. Zero-waste weddings have become popular. There could be room to develop D2C product lines that cater to people planning all sorts of important events, like birthdays, gender reveals, baby showers, graduations, anniversaries, and even funerals.
Zero grocery: Last year, we wrote about how the milkmen of the future might be delivering solar batteries. We never expected they'd be delivering... milk?
Zero Grocery bills itself as the first online zero-waste grocery store in the US, and is reviving the milkman business model with local grocery delivery and bottle pickup.
Customers order their food online and it's dropped off at their door, packaged in reusable bags and jars. When the jars are empty, customers leave them out on the doorstep for the Zero-man to pick up during the next delivery.
The company has already landed ~$3M in funding and serves San Francisco and LA.
Source: Google Trends
Zero may be the first, but they certainly won't be the last. People search "Zero waste store near me" 8.8K times each month on Google, per Keywords Everywhere.
Business services: Olive is a no-cardboard shipping company started by Nate Faust, the founder of Jet.com (acquired by Walmart for $3.3B).
They make it easy for companies to offer customers cardboard-free deliveries by running a series of package consolidation centers that receive, unbox, and condense orders from several sellers into a single reusable shipping tote before forwarding them on to the end buyer. There's no up-charge for companies or consumers. Instead, buyers sign up for free online, and use a Chrome plug-in while doing their online shopping.
Olive makes an affiliate commission on all sales made through its plug-in. There are at least two areas that offer additional opportunity for those thinking of getting into this space:
Fragile Products: Olive currently works with fashion and textile brands, but they are trying to find a way to apply the same model to cosmetics, which often come in breakable containers and require different logistics.
Apartment Complexes: Last year, we wrote about Fetch, a last-mile delivery startup that caters exclusively to the owners of apartment complexes. Fetch saves property owners money by receiving, sorting, and distributing all tenant packages from a centralized facility, but still leaves tenants with several boxes to dispose of. There could be an opportunity to combine Fetch and Olive's business models in order to compete with Fetch for market share.
Monetize the smell
Several Trendsters agreed that the smell of unwashed garbage cans is a problem. For those living in the South, the combination of heat and garbage can make it impossible to sit outside or enjoy your yard during the hottest summer months.
To that end, garbage can cleaning companies are springing up, offering one-off cleanings and subscriptions along with other services like power-washing.
SparklingBins sells turnkey solutions to business owners in this space, including truck-mounted bin-cleaning rigs, and stationary bin cleaners, financing, marketing, and route-mapping software for those looking to get into the space.
Subscribe to the Trends Newsletter for more.
🤥 Marketing Lie: You Should Focus on Blogging for SEO
by Julian Shapiro
The lie: You should focus on blogging for SEO.
The truth: Most startups actually find it significantly more useful to create content to show their value and to help others. This can be in the form of guides, social media posts, case studies, YouTube videos, etc.
Generosity, not purely SEO-focused content, leads to a high-performing funnel.
Quality, helpful content leads to trust and sales.
Discuss this story.
📝 Founder Arvid Kahl Went From Selling a $55K MRR SaaS to Writing in Public
by Arvid Kahl
Hello Indie Hackers! I'm Arvid Kahl, author of Zero to Sold. I'm currently writing The Embedded Entrepreneur in public, I am bootstrapping PermanentLink (because I need it for my books), and I spend 26 hours a day on Twitter.
I'd say "follow the customer." Find out where they already hang out, and try selling to them there. Become part of those communities to learn what your customers care about and how they like to be talked to. Also, learn who else is already marketing to them there and how.
You probably won't find extremely novel ways of marketing to your customers, particularly in a field such as Shopify apps, which are somewhat dependent on a platform. But you can definitely become part of their communities, establish a brand as an expert in the field, and then get them excited for what you have to offer. That is precisely what The Embedded Entrepreneur is about!
Writing for founders
I wrote books because that's something that I found the easiest to do. As a non-native English speaker, I am not the most confident video person. So I tried a more asynchronous medium, and writing was perfect for that.
I also wanted to pack as much as possible into my first product. I had years of SaaS founder experience, and I wanted to write a manual (or at least a guide) that others could easily follow and consume one insight at a time. Had I done Zero to Sold as a course, it would maybe have been a 12+ hour video. The audiobook alone is already 11 hours long!
I know that founders don't mind reading. They understand that some things need time to work, and they're willing to invest a few hours into a good book that can later serve as a reference as well. I knew that my audience would appreciate that.
On staying motivated
I try to only work on things that I personally need, and then set up accountability systems around that. When I started my blog, I needed something to do. I had just sold the business and I was looking for a channel for my passion.
So I started writing. To keep myself from just stopping, I started a newsletter. The moment I had my first subscriber, I knew that I would need to keep writing every week. Someone was relying on that. I actually wrote about this last week!
Back to only building things I need. I started PermanentLink because my links kept breaking. I wrote Zero to Sold because I wanted to teach, but consulting felt too tedious. I wrote The Embedded Entrepreneur because I wanted to do more research on community and problem discovery. I am part of a few other SaaS projects that are all focused on helping coders, writers, or founders. That's how I keep internal accountability: I need those things myself.
Learning a language with World of Warcraft
I played a lot of World of Warcraft in the past. Years of my time at the university were full of me playing that wonderful and addictive game. I forced myself to play with English-speaking players (even though I had the option to play on German-speaking servers), which, combined with a lot of endgame content, led to me hanging out with them on Teamspeak and other voice chats. That definitely helped building up the confidence to speak fluently.
Once you try to coordinate 40 people, from 20 different countries, to kill a virtual dragon three nights a week, you start speaking English more fluently.
What also helps is listening to a lot of podcasts and watching English movies without subtitles. While this doesn't directly impact fluency, it does impact vocabulary and conversational parsing.
So immerse yourself.
Advice for a successful pre-launch
Most of the time, we developers see a problem somewhere and we immediately jump at building a solution. That's how our minds work, we're product-focused. Wherever we go, we see an app we can build or a script we can write.
Breaking that habit is hard, but it will be super useful. I recommend going at things from an audience-centric perspective. Make sure that your customers know that they are joining a work-in-progress product. Make it easy for them to report things that don't work. Have some sort of chat system, and maybe provide them with a few notes on how to best take a screenshot or screen record with Loom.
Be upfront about what you're working on, where that will go, and how it might impact their experience.
There are a lot of people out there who love to be early adopters. Just make sure that communication channels are as open as possible, and reach out to them when you see (in your logs, your metrics or by using tools like Hotjar) that they're confused.
If you quickly respond to bug reports and fix it right there and then, you will very likely find product evangelists for life. We had a few of those at FeedbackPanda, and they couldn't stop talking about our product on social media; all because I had fixed a bug they reported within 30 minutes after they reached out. Blew their minds.
I always have 20 notifications. I use the mentions tab a lot, and I consciously look for opportunities to interact with my followers. It just gives me an incredible amount of joy to chat with so many amazing founders.
It takes a lot of time, but I believe it's worth it. I'd say I spend at least two full hours every day talking to people on Twitter. Usually, when I wake up I have maybe 50 mentions. I tend to check them all out and reply to the ones that stand out to me.
Discuss this story.
🐦 The Tweetmaster's Pick
by Tweetmaster Flex
I post the tweets indie hackers share the most. Here's today's pick:
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Special thanks to Jay Avery for editing this issue, to Nathalie Zwimpfer for the illustrations, and to Bobby Burch, Priyanka Vazirani, Amy McMillen, James Fleischmann, and Arvid Kahl for contributing posts. —Channing