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Many people want to start a small software company and wonder if it can work. Here is a list of small, bootstrapped companies that made it. A proof positive it’s possible.

1. GitHub

Source: http://thechangelog.com/post/352878673/episode-0-1-0-chris-wanstrath-from-github

Started by 3 people in October 07

Beta: January 08, people could sign up if had invite

Launch: April 08 - started charging, still had jobs

First hire by the end of 08

In October 08 started paying themselves a salary (started at 10% desired salary). Reached desired salary in the beginning of 2009.

2. Red Sweater software


Daniel Jalkut launched in 1999 (while still working at apple), quit apple in 2002, became primary business in 2005. In 2007 moved from being a full-time consultant to full-time developer.

Products: FlexTime $19, MarsEdit $30, Black Ink $25, FastScripts $15, Clarion $15

Black Ink (MacXword) acquired in Jan 2007, released in March 2007 as Black Ink (ported from Java to Objective-C)

Mars Edit acquired in Feb 2007.

3. Panic


13 people in 2009

Products: Unison ($30), Transmit ($30), Coda ($99), Desktastic ($13), CandyBar ($29), Stattoo ($13)

Released Transmit (first app) in 1999, 2 people then (Steven Frank, Cabel Sasser)

4. Flying Meat


Products: Acorn ($50), VoodooPad ($20), FlySketch ($25)

Started by Gus Mueller. VoodooPad was the first commercial app released in May 2003. Reached full-time salary in December 2004.

Hired first employee in Jan 2008.

5. Pixelmator

Products: Pixelmator ($60)

Started in 2007 by 2 brothers, released Pixelmator in May 2007. Profitable enough to take 3 months off at the end of 2009.

6. Hamachi


Alex Pankratov started Hamachi (peer-to-peer VPN system) in early 2004, launched in December 2004 and sold it to LogMeIn in 2006.

7. Cocoatech

Source: http://theappleblog.com/2009/06/25/interview-steve-gehrman-of-path-findercocoatech/

Products: Path Finder ($40)

Steve Gehrman started writing Path Finder as a way to learn Cocoa after he was laid of from a dot-com job in late 2000. He wanted to get a job as a Mac programmer but kept working on Path Finder during his job search. At some point it became good enough to be sold and now it’s his full-time job.