I’m shutting down VersionEye by end of this year!
I started the project round about 6 years ago and so far it was a journey with many ups and downs. The typical StartUp rollercoaster thing. I raised Money from a big VC in Berlin and almost went bankrupt after that. Raised Money again from small Angel Investors to prevent bankruptcy. Won one of the biggest Software companies in the world as customer and established a stable income for the company.
Why to shut down?
There are several reasons for that.
- Revenue: In 2016 the company generated 103K EUR through the product itself and a couple 10K through consulting services which are not related to the product. That’s not very much for a company. If you subtract cost for office, servers, salaries, consulting fees, travel expenses, sales commission, unexpected costs and tax & accounting than suddenly it’s a very small amount. And unfortunately the revenue stream isn’t growing very fast. Actually this year product revenue & traffic even went down and costs went up.
- Sales: The biggest chunk of the revenue comes from on premise installations at a handful of big Enterprises. Unfortunately I failed building a real sales team. There wasn’t enough revenue there to hire a full time sales guy, that’s why I worked with a sales guy on a commission only base. Beside that I did sales by myself, part time. But that wasn’t very successful. Enterprise sales cycles are usually very long. Some times it takes years to close a deal. And most of the sales efforts are not successful. Sometimes you work for months on a new deal and then you lose it. Or you win a new deal and then it causes so much support afterwards that it’s a bad deal overall.
- Support: Right now VersionEye.com has more than 50K signed up users from all around the world. Sad fact is that 99.8% are NOT paying anything for the service. 99.8% are using the cloud solution for free. And even worst, they cause a lot of support. They write emails, tweets and open new tickets on GitHub like there is no tomorrow. Especially the non paying users are very demanding if it comes to new features, sometimes in a very rude way. Or they complain that the free tier is too restrictive. A big part of my day is occupied by responding to support emails/tweets/GH-tickets. And somehow my inbox is never getting empty and that is stressing me! It’s like running in a hamster wheel without making any progress. I know how to build scalable software, but most of the time I’m busy with answering emails from people who are not paying for the service. That’s very demotivating! That’s why I’m stopping it right now!
- Competition: Then I started this project there was almost no competition. Actually I was actively looking for a tool which can notify me about new versions of my open source dependencies, but I didn’t found anything, that’s why I started to build a solution for myself. The landscape today looks completely different. Every couple months a new competitor is coming up and usually they have some serious VC funding and a huge team. Beside the new VC funded kids, old players in the market are going into open source analysis as well. Now GitHub notifies you directly about security vulnerabilities in your Gemfile. No need to use VersionEye anymore. They will roll out that feature to other languages and soon they will have the same language coverage as VersionEye does (17 package managers are supported by VersionEye). I’m sure that Bitbucket and GitLab will follow. They have to! For me there is no reason to compete with GitHub on a small margin market.
- Motivation: Then I started the project I was highly motivated. But actually the whole business side was always very tough. In 2014 then I was moving from Berlin back to Mannheim the company was just 2 weeks away from a bankruptcy. I only kept going because I wanted to prove everybody that VersionEye is more than just a side project. I wanted to prove that there is a business behind it. And I proved it. But if you work your ass of and all the effort is not reflected by positive numbers on the bank account, then that is a very bad thing for long term motivation. It feels like riding a dead horse. If I would work the same amount of hours as employee or freelancer for a big company I would have a much better income, less responsibilities, less stress with my inbox and more vacation days. Beside that I’m pretty much done with that whole OS domain. After 6 years of OS analysis everything else seems to be more interesting to me. Since round about 1 year I find DevOps, ChatBots, AI, Bockchain, Crypto currencies and many other things much more interesting than writing parsers & crawlers for open source package managers. It’s time to move on.
What about paying customers?
What will happen with paying customers who paid in advance for the service?
Don’t cry. You get refunded!
The majority of the big Enterprise contracts are running out by end of this year. VersionEye GmbH will not renew them. So it’s a clean cut. Some contracts are running until summer 2018. Those customers are partly refunded.
The big majority of the paying cloud customers are on a monthly subscription. Just a few paid 1 year in advance to get a small discount. If you have a monthly subscription on VersionEye.com and you don’t quit your subscription until mid of December, then the VersionEye software will switch you automatically to the free plan.
If you paid 1 year in advance for the cloud solution, you get partly refunded. Let’s say you started your yearly subscription by the 1st of July, then you will get 50% of the Money back by 1st of January. If you don’t get refunded automatically then please write an email to email@example.com and include your VersionEye username and the name of your VersionEye organisation.
What about the software?
The software solution itself behind VersionEye.com is completely open source. All code repositories are on GitHub: https://github.com/versioneye/. Most of the repositories are implemented in Ruby, the most aesthetic programming language I know so far.
In this repository is a description how to setup your own VersionEye instance: https://github.com/versioneye/ops_contrib. There is a set of Docker images which can be started through Docker Compose. There is a also a Vagrantfile available, if you prefer that.
Feel free to use it, but don’t expect me to answer open GH tickets any time soon.
Every end leads to a new start.
80 thoughts on “VersionEye Sunset Process”
I’m really sorry it didn’t work out for you, I was contemplating to start charging for my open source pet project https://gitthub.com/cristim/autospotting and I think this is very good piece of input, I’ll try to learn from it.
Have you considering to time limit the free plans?
In my project I planned to follow something close to the RedHat/Fedora model: give evaluation/nightly binaries for free but they will expire after a couple of months. Stable/well-tested binaries will be given for a monthly fee, paid in advance and they will expire as well, once the time’s up.
After expiration the software will still work, but some of the features will be limited in a way that will make them unsuitable for large installations, but still acceptable for smaller ones and private individuals.
I did a typo when typing the URL to my project(I should have just pasted it), the correct one is https://github.com/cristim/autospotting
Good decision! Wish you all the success with your next venture!
Sad news. I liked your service a lot in my opensource project.
This post is good example for others that testing of product by opensource projects will help product to become mature to let let you start be reliable for companies to purchase it. BUT producing a good code is not all that owner of product should do. Support/Feedback is unfortunate side of each product, that can not be ignored as it gives understanding on how this product could be used in real life and what features actually matter.
Successful sales is the most complicated part for engineers to run them-self and unfortunately should be main focus for commercial products.
checkstyle project managed to make new version validation by means of maven plugin, all details are at https://github.com/checkstyle/checkstyle/issues/5208
Thanks for the very honest description. It sounds like the biggest concern from here would be the shifting landscape, as you describe – and I completely see how shutting down makes sense. So tough to grow anything when your market is shrinking. Curious (and just for my own understanding) – have you tried any type of ad-supported model with those 50K users? Or was that too small of a group to be meaningful?
That is correct. The landscape is shifting very fast. More and more players with deep pockets are coming to the market.
I did some experiments with Ads but that doesn’t bring very much revenue. Prices for Ads are very low since years. If you want to earn Money with Ads you need much more traffic.
Thanks for transparent with clear explain! I wish you success with your next journey.
Can I keep this project running if i provide servers?
The project itself is open source. You can run your own instance if you like. Here are the docs: https://github.com/versioneye/ops_contrib/.
By the way. Are you a paying customer? And how much per month would you pay for the service? How much would it be worth to you?
What happens then to service under versioneye.com? I’m not paying anything right now.
Sad news, I complete understand you, I use to work for a big Bank with a good level I had a good company path but I decided to start my own company, I had a lot of problems starting for the sales problem and ending with a lack of time . I spent a lot of time ( and money) to keep my company working. I decided then to start and MBA in the best University in my country I took the last money to start my studies there t, and then things started to change.
I share this with you because I really understand your feelings hope this helps.
Thank you so much. Sorry it was not viable.
Vielen Dank für deinem Beitrag zur Gemeinschaft..
Thanks for the service! Have a great new journey.
Very sad to read the story. Till yesterday I didn’t know the story. I will contact you because I’m from Darmstadt and would like to meet with you.
For all the others who are still looking for dependency update automation and want to know and fix their vulnerabilities in the open source libraries the use:
By the way. VersionEye is online again! It’s not the same VersionEye which you used to know. VersionEye 2.0 is a completely new product. Much leaner and faster than the old version. Read here about my motivation to relaunch it as a leaner version: https://blog.versioneye.com/2021/04/18/versioneye-2-0/. Would love to hear your feedback! 🙂