TeamLab vs Basecamp: A Project Management Duel

Hey there! I'm currently working on a CLI tool to deploy WordPress apps to DigitalOcean. Check it out! It's free and open source.

Team. Team, team, team.. How good is your team if you can’t manage it? This reminds me of an IT Crowd episode:

Well if you can’t work as a team you’re all fired! .. Hello security? Everyone on floor 4 is fired.

As some of you already know, I run a little web development startup here in Moscow called Frumatic and during the past few months we’ve been struggling to get our project management and collaboration right. I don’t think there’s a reason for me to write about how important project management is and that no good business today could live without a good CRM, PM, SCM and the rest.

Today we’ll speak about two awesome project management systems – Basecamp and TeamLab. Both services are quite cool and look alike in some sense. I’ll try to outline the pros and cons of each app, then give a short tip on how to make your choice between the two. Let’s start off with Basecamp.

Basecamp by 37signals

Basecamp has been developed and launched by 37signals back in 2004. Since then it’s been evolving, new very nice features have been developed, and today, Basecamp is a very powerful project management and collaboration tool, offered as a service (SaaS). Basecamp wouldn’t be complete without it’s sisters Highrise (CRM), Backpack (business organizer) and perhaps Campfire (chat) and of course the Basecamp Extras and the Basecamp API which gives developers the power to mash their software with Basecamp.

Basecamp Pros

Let’s start with a short list of Basecamp pros. I’m sure there are tonnes of others:

  • Web-based and easy to use
  • Fast and secure, powered by Amazon S3
  • Maintaned and supported very well
  • On-going development, enhancements
  • Offers tonnes of extras and a public API
  • Offers time tracking

Basecamp Cons

And here’s a list of Basecamp cons. I found some of these quite annoying, but despite that, I still love Basecamp ;)

  • Quite expensive (good plans start from ~$50/mo)
  • Not very customizable, all you can change is the logo and color scheme
  • Does not offer self-hosted version
  • Does not allow to use your own Amazon S3 account to host your data
  • Quite poor CRM and Business Organizer
  • Basecamp Extras are poor, some of them are even commercial

Yeah, paying for software is not a crime, but in my opinion, Basecamp is slightly overpriced, plus you’ll have to pay extra if you’d like to get Backpack or Highrise (which is quite a poor CRM actually, I found SugarCRM CE, which is open-source, much better than Highrise). Now let’s see what TeamLab is all about.

TeamLab by Ascensio System

I came across TeamLab a few weeks ago and I found it to be quite terrific! TeamLab was launched this summer, somewhere in the beginning of July I guess. It’s based in Latvia, where Russian is quite a popular language by the way ;) TeamLab is written in Microsoft ASP .NET (C#) which makes it quite easy to understand. As it is a startup they haven’t yet implemented their monetization plan, so TeamLab is offered free of charge as SaaS or open source for download. You can deploy TeamLab in the Amazon EC2 cloud and use S3 for file hosting, which is quite wikid!

TeamLab Pros

Below is a list of pros I found for TeamLab. These may change in the future ;)

  • Free and open source, released under GPL
  • Compatible with Amazon EC2 and S3
  • Web-based, easy to use
  • Offers a full-featured Company Intranet and a Wiki
  • Quite active on Twitter
  • Offers import and export

TeamLab Cons

The cons of TeamLab from a php developer’s perspective (ASP .NET is good, but .. well ;)

  • Written in ASP .NET
  • Does not offer time tracking
  • Has some bugs, like any other startup ;)
  • Does not offer extras, mobile or API (maybe it’s only a matter of time)
  • Will not remain free of charge forever (I guess)

The last point may or may not be true. Like any other startup, TeamLab will go commercial at some point. I spoke to the representatives of TeamLab on Twitter and e-mail, and I’ve been told that all the functionality included in TeamLab now will remain free of charge in the SaaS and the open source downloadable package, but new features will require you to pump their back accounts with money. This is very optimistic indeed, as we’ve already seen such trouble with Sugar CRM Community Edition and Mockingbird, which is planned to go commercial on August 15th.

Making the right choice

Personally, I’m using Basecamp, but TeamLab made quite a good impression, and I do have thoughts about switching. What would make switching much easier is .. Import! An Import from Basecamp feature would be awesome, besides they offer all the tools (API) and documentation to do that.

TeamLab does though offer import and export, but from their own system and that’s good to go, especially since you can have your own self-hosted TeamLab, which would be preferred by large companies, as they do not usually trust third-party services.

So, if you’re worried about security, need time tracking and CRM integration, then yes, Basecamp is definitely your choice. But if you’re willing to play around and build solutions on top of, then go with TeamLab, as you will always be able to have your own extras running inside TeamLab Open Source. This will also save you some cash ;) Thanks for reading!

About the author

Konstantin Kovshenin

WordPress Core Contributor, ex-Automattician, public speaker and consultant, enjoying life in Moscow. I blog about tech, WordPress and DevOps.


  • There's a new kid of the "project management" block and it's called It launches today, Tuesday, and it's been getting some pretty good reviews. However, kind of like the proverbial "iPhone Killer" nobody has been able to unseat 37 Signals. It'll be interesting to see how fares. I personally love the vibe and concepts behind 37 Signals…. I just wish they'd take some time to update Basecamp.

    • Tim, that's very impressive indeed! Loved their tour and can't wait to see it all in action! I wonder what the pricing will be all about, and would be cool if they offered an import from Basecamp ;)

    • Timothy's right about the "iPhone Killer" analogy, due to 37Signals' already massive loyal customer base, competing with them can be quite the challenge.

      37Signals' marketing angle is quite simple: simplicity (no pun intended). They clearly show this throughout all of their products. The user friendliness and intuitive interface allows for new customers to understand the system completely with basically no training at all.

      The problem with this: while trying to feed this campaign of simplicity, tools like Basecamp and Highrise are at a bare-minimum of features. If you go to Basecamp Answers (their question-answer support system), you can see nearly ever second post is a complaint about not having a specific feature considered very important for project management. Basecamp is more often than not reviewed by its peers as a communication tool rather than a project management tool.

      You can choose to take what I say with a grain of salt because I work for WORKetc, but their system is just as simple and intuitive as Basecamp etc, but offers many more features. On top of this, WORKetc combines all three aspects of business management: Billing, project management, and customer relationship management. That way instead of dealing with poor integration of multiple add-on applications to your project management app, you can deal with customer relationship, projects, and invoices all in one place.

      A detailed comparison of WORKetc against Basecamp, Highrise, and other competitors: ( )

  • We've just launched in beta. I think you might find it a good comparison to the other project management apps that have been launching lately.

    • Looks cool Scott, loved the screens. One suggestion though – don't forget about Gantt and Gantt overlays, as well as Scrum, Burndown, etc. I haven't seen systems that offer those in one package. Basecamp seems to have an Extra that could get you a burndown chart inside your Messages section, which is total crap, and they also ask for money for such crap ugh! Cheers and keep up the good work!

  • I don't think that in our business (project management) companies are looking for cheap or free solutions. Quite the opposite in fact. A free solution when it comes to this business may signal that the product is not supporter.

    • Well, free solution may also signal that company has good funding. If recources allow, than why not make available service for free? TeamLab was build by the company I work for, we use it for our internal communications. For now I enjoy it and have no grudge against our support :) as well as other TeamLab users, I hope ;)

      Of course we are in no way philanthropic and extended functionality will be paid. The worst thing that can happen with current SaaS version after introducing file sharing module is that we might charge for hosting huge files. Funding isn't infinite, you know ;) But I do guarantee that open-source downloadable package will remain free. To say more we plan transition to the Mono platform – that may be a good news for the linux fans)

  • Konstantin, also would like to add an update: as we received many requests from users on time tracking functionality we plan to add this along with several other features this fall.

  • Another alternative for those who need to grow beyond basecamp is Intervals. It's always evolving and especially useful for those two need tightly integrated project management and time tracking.

  • Can I mention ? This is something I was asked to use by a client and was impressed with it. It was a little buggy when we started but they responded really well to my bug reports and now it's very smooth. The difference seems to be that their features are not too complicated but useful eg their time tracking

  • If your looking for something with a sleek and fast interface I'd recommend you checkout

    I stumbled across it in my never ending search for the perfect collaboration tool. It's still in beta, (so it's Free), but it's already been very useful to me. It's worth a look, just my 2 cents.

  • I've checked out all these tools mentioned above.

    For me the best is dooster, followed by intervals (which is too expensive

    We just moved all our basecamp data over to dooster and we havent looked back since.