Basecamp and Hey Email founder DHH had 'personal penchant for drama', says Apple internal email

App Store on iPhone
App Store on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple endured controversy in 2020 over the rejection of Hey Email from its App Store.
  • A lot of public press was generated at the time because of founder David Heinemeier Hansson's public reaction on Twitter.
  • New internal emails from Apple claim he had a "personal penchant for drama".

Evidence in the Apple vs Epic Games trial this week reveals that Apple thought the founder and CTO of Basecamp and Hey Email, David Heinemeier Hansson, had a "personal penchant for drama".

Evidence included for Phil Schiller's testimony features an email thread from June 17, 2020, regarding Apple's rejection of Hey Email from the App Store because it didn't use in-app purchases. Specifically, it mentions John Gruber's Daring Fireball coverage and a stream of seemingly negative press generated at the time. The email, seen by iMore, features a list of news pieces including our own coverage of the saga at the time. From that report:

Yesterday, the creators of Basecamp launched a new email app called Hey Email that looks to approach email in a whole new way. Today, it looks like the app might be in jeopardy of being taken down from the App Store.Reported by Protocol, the company was contacted by Apple earlier today saying that their update to their app was rejected and that they are required to offer in-app purchases for their service in order for the app to remain on the App Store.David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder of Basecamp, tweeted out about the situation today, saying that he is "literally stunned".

DHH launched a full scale Twitter denunciation of Apple stating "There is never in a million years a way that I am paying Apple a third of our revenues. That is obscene, and it's criminal, and I will spend every dollar that we have or ever make to burn this down until we get to somewhere better."

An email from Phil Schiller dated Wednesday, June 17 stated "we do want the app on the store if it will follow our guidelines to offer IAP" before noting "I don't think he will, but we should try."

Schiller noted the app shouldn't have been approved in the first place, and was speaking in response to an email from Apple's Fred Sainz, who stated:

Below please find a press coverage report with stories that Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier Hansson's (DHH) tweets have generated. Late this evening, Match Group and Tim Sweeney joined the gray, issuing statements and saying they were speaking with regulators.

Sainz goes on to say "with his issues unresolved (and a personal penchant for drama), the concern is that DHH is unlikely to let this go and will likely keep tweeting and stirring up controversy".


Dhh (Image credit: iMore)

The email poses two solutions to "help stem the tide of negative coverage and chatter", either by telling Hey through the Resolution Center that Apple was approving the app and then working to resolve the IAP issue or by doing the same but through a "thoughtful letter that takes on his allegations."

The story was, at the time, a rather large precursor to the ongoing Epic Games vs Apple trial, raising publicly the issue of in-app purchases and Apple's iOS ecosystem now being put to the test in court.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9