The Who’s Who of the Micro-ISV World

When I started Snip, my scheduling software for hair salons, in 2011, I considered it a startup. I thought there were two ways to make money with software: a) have a regular job or b) start a startup, nothing in between. I understood, thanks to 37signals, that a startup could be bootstrapped, but it wasn’t until much later that I discovered for myself that there’s a “middle way” of creating a successful software business, and that kind of software business is known as a micro-ISV. (ISV = Internet Software Vendor.)

It turns out there’s a large and active body of “soloproneurs” – single founders – bootstrapping their way to micro-ISV glory, and they can be found in places like the Business of Software Forum or, more recently, the forum. There’s even a book called Micro-ISV that contains dozens of interviews with micropreneurs at various points in their micro-ISV journeys.

I’m here to tell you, in case you don’t already know, that you don’t have to start a startup to escape having a job. You don’t have to get VC funding and you don’t have to assemble a team of geniuses. You can start a successful software business by yourself, in your spare time. And there are a ton of people out there who can help you along the way.

Here’s my list of who’s who, in no particular order:

  • Patrick McKenzie (@patio11): Okay, I said “in no particular order” but I put Patrick first on purpose. Patrick (AKA patio11) is not only a successful bootstrapper but also a prolific producer of actionable advice, presented in an impressively lucid, entertaining style. Plus he’s just a super friendly and helpful guy. I advise you to go sign up for his mailing list and start reading the shit out of his blog.
  • Rob Walling (@robwalling): Rob, like patio11, is an expert marketer. An important lesson that slowly made its way through my thick skull over the course of several years is that entrepreneurial success requires about equal parts engineering effort and marketing effort. You can’t just build a product and then slap some marketing on top of it. Rob Walling helped me realize this. He also wrote a book called Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup.
  • Bob Walsh (@BobWalsh): Bob Walsh is the author of the aforementioned Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality, and probably responsible more than anyone for my original awareness of the existence of the micro-ISV community.
  • Joel Spolsky (@spolsky): Joel is perhaps the most famous guy on this list, and I probably don’t need to explain who he is, but I will. Joel is the author of the Joel on Software blog and he runs Fog Creek Software.
  • Andy Brice (@successfulsw): Andy Brice is the author of the Successful Software blog. His micro-ISV is Perfect Table Plan.
  • Ian Landsman (@ianlandsman) and Andrey Butov (@andrey_butov): I’m putting these two peas in the same pod because I discovered them simultaneously through their joint venture, the Bootstrapped podcast. Ian’s micro-ISV is called UserScape and Andrey’s is Antair. I’ve been chuckling along with these two knuckleheads for several days now and I have to say they’re a real treat to listen to. Ian and Andrey also did the world the favor of starting the forum, which has started off with a bang and proves to be a friendly and helpful place to chat about bootstrapping a software business.
  • Brennan Dunn (@brennandunn): Brennan is a frequent collaborator with patio11 and also a prolific educator, not just for those of us trying to bootstrap a product business but also for those of us paying the bills with consulting work. If you do consulting work yourself – like I suspect many of us bootstrappers do – I’d consider it worthwhile to sign up for Brennan’s mailing list. Brennan’s product is Planscope.
  • Amy Hoy (@amyhoy): Amy is one of my favorite people on the internet, mainly for her conversational and delightfully profane writing style. (Microsample: “Don’t bite the shit sandwich.”) I believe Amy’s main product is currently Freckle. She also runs a class called 30×500 which for some retarded reason I myself have not taken yet.
  • Ruben Gamez (@earthlingworks): Ruben is the founder of Bidsketch, a micro-ISV that he successfully bootstrapped while working at his day job. Ruben’s achievement is particularly impressive because, if I remember correctly, Ruben was not even a developer when he started out. How people bootstrap companies in this way just blows my mind. Check out Ruben’s Mixergy interview.
  • Eric Sink (@eric_sink): Eric has an interesting article defining the term Micro-ISV. I’ve been told that he was actually the one who coined the term in the first place.

Did you find any of these links particularly useful? Do you have any to add? Leave me a comment. This list is a work in progress, so please feel free to chime in.

14 thoughts on “The Who’s Who of the Micro-ISV World

  1. Edmundo López B.

    Thanks for the great post. I’m starting the solopreneur/microISV path myself and it was really hard to find the right people to follow/learn from. Your post would have been even more useful (at least for me) if you added also the twitter usernames of all those people, but… You already helped me a lot,

    It seems this blog is young (like mine, which is not yet even completely born). Good luck on your journey, and thanks again.


  2. jadmin Post author

    Thanks, Edmundo. Glad to know it was helpful, and good suggestion to add Twitter handles. I’ll do that. What is the product you’re building?

    1. Edmundo López B.

      Well, for the moment I’m trying to find the niche (insert ashamed  smiley here). So the only thing I’m building is my blog, which is intended to be a marketing sandbox, and if possible something that will hold me accountable to doing progress on my solopreneur quest.

      Are you on twitter? I haven’t seen your twitter handle on the site neither…

  3. Matt Passell

    That’s funny. To me, a startup is just a business in its early stages. I’ve never thought of them as necessarily being VC-funded. To me, a Micro-ISV is just one of several forms of startup.

    Well, I’m glad your mind has been opened to the wonder of bootstrapped companies. 🙂

      1. Matt Passell

        Fair enough. I’d be curious to ask Joel and Patrick if they’d consider Fog Creek and Appointment Reminder to be (or to have been) startups. My guess is that they would, but maybe I’m wrong about that.

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