A person’s page in Know Your Company.

In 2013, Basecamp was a growing company, and our CEO was looking for some new approaches to keep up with everyone on the team.

When a business is really small—just a few people—it’s easy for the owner to know what’s going on. But after you’ve hired more people, it gets a lot harder to keep up with how everyone’s doing and what’s on their minds.

We started prototyping ideas for a new app to help. The prototype’s code name was Honcho, but it would become a product called Know Your Company (KYC).

We carved out a mini-skunkworks team of four to build something. I was the product/UI designer for the project.

In about a year, we grew KYC from an unproven internal prototype into a nascent business, with over 100 companies signed up. Its premiere feature was a series of pre-configured automatic questions that would prompt everyone at the company to share their thoughts on specific topics of concern.

Three categories of questions went out on a recurring schedule.

We also tried a few more exotic things, like unusual navigation experiments, a whole new billing system and sales approach, and various other unorthodox UI.

Employees would submit their answers in a simple web interface.

Since KYC was primarily a mangerial tool, we were able to make it extremely simple, graphical, and focused around specific use cases and workflows. Most things in the app showed up as cards on a timeline, so you could easily see a bird’s eye view across the whole company, and then drill into the details.

The timeline of answers and employee notes across the whole company.

Know Your Company turned out to be an interim experiment between major Basecamp versions, and our work on it influenced many of the features and overall UX of Basecamp 3.

Ultimately, the product was spun off into its own company, led by Claire Lew. It’s still going strong today, and has grown into a much more mature product—now called Know Your Team.

Shoutouts and credits:

  • This was the original project that got Trevor Turk, Dan Kim, and I working closely together. We had a great time, and eventually joined forces on a side project.
  • Claire Lew turned this barely-formed business into a real one, and rounded it out to be vastly more considered and substantial than we had originally envisioned. She’s amazing.

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