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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


  • http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/02/podcast-82/
  • http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/743/two-years-on-mars
  • http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/302/black-ink-10
  • http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/447/indie-fever

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


  • http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/791/panics-lucky-13
  • http://www.panic.com/extras/audionstory/

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


  • http://www.bvckup.com/support/forums/topic_show.pl?tid=22
  • http://www.swapped.cc/hamachi/
  • http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1046839

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: https://gigaom.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.

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