VersionEye Sunset Process

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 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 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 and include your VersionEye username and the name of your VersionEye organisation.

What about the software?

The software solution itself behind is completely open source. All code repositories are on GitHub: 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: 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.

What’s next?

Every end leads to a new start.



80 thoughts on “VersionEye Sunset Process

  1. I completely understand, and I too had to shut down some startups in the past. It’s always with some sadness and a bruised ego, but it can also mean a much brighter future for you ahead. I appreciate your heartfelt letter, as I related to it so very much.

    Best to you!

  2. Sad news indeed, but completely understandable, you held out longer than I would have expected under the circumstances you describe! I’ve been one of the non-paying users, since I only use it with projects that I give away for free myself, and I can definitely empathize! At least I never filed any support requests, demanding or otherwise. 🙂

    Best of luck finding a path that is less frustrating and far more rewarding!

  3. Hi Robert,

    thanks for sharing, thumps up! And heads up! You created something valuable, learned an aweful lot and pulled something through which is quite an achievement. You made the experience that THIS domain and business model are not working for you (any longer) and made a brave decision. So the way I see it this all looks pretty positive to me … all the best for your new endeavours!

    Mike (former company founder and a-lot-more-relaxed freelancer)

  4. It is sad to heard these stories! I also had the same problems as you in the past, and I know how they corrode you inside-out.
    The rage, the disconfort, the sensation of uselessness, are a terrible experience.

    And, the process to decide to drop off, is similar to like killing your child – sometimes it is necessary to have more courage!

    But it is also the starting point for a new adventure, where you’ll be more motivated, and you’ll discover new things, and will encounter new people.
    And, because it’s not only a matter of $$$ and people, some luck is always welcome.

    With my best wishes


  5. Schade hat wirklich Spass gemacht mit Dir und VersionEye zu arbeiten, soviel dass wir auch wirklich dafür gezahlt haben. Würd einiges dafür geben wenn andere Software solch einen Support und solch eine Reaktionsgeschwindigkeit hätte. Robert, die nächsten Bier in München oder -man trifft sich immer zweimal- wo auch immer gehen auf mich. Und solltest Du mal in der Gegend sein meld’ Dich. VersionEye muss nicht das einzige zu diskutierende Thema sein.

    Viel Glück.

    1. Hi Andre. Mir hat es auch sehr viel Spaß gemacht mit euch zu arbeiten. Ihr seit eine sehr innovative Truppe in München. Mit euren Feature Requests habt ihr das Projekt zum positiven hin beeinflusst.
      Das Angebot mit dem Bier nehme ich gerne an wenn ich wieder in München bin 🙂

  6. Robert, thank you very much for sharing your thought and your radical openess. After all the discussions and thoughts one the hand it is really sad to read this blog. However on the other hand it is very cool that you did this bold decision. Congratulations! See you. Sieer

  7. Sad. Version Eye is a great product that unfortunately many people didn’t value enough…
    You did an amazing job with rocking such a big project almost alone for such a long time!

    I’m sure the big tech companies are already lined up to hire you.
    I wish you all the best and good luck for your next endeavour.

    Keep on the great work wherever you’ll end up 🙂

  8. Bummer man, I really liked your project, glad you are moving on to more interesting projects. thank you for all of your hard work!

  9. That is unfortunate, I would like to say that I signed up for your service to see what it was about under the free plan, but after two uses I just never looked at it again, not from disinterest but lack of time and motivation. I apologize for being a small part of the problem.

  10. Very emotional post and understandable decision. Sad to hear that users were rude and demanding as You said and I would also find it very demotivating if I walked in Your shoes. I feel a little bit better that company in which I work paid for this product and backed You up at least a little. Thank You for awesome job that You made so far and wish You all the best!

  11. Hello Robert,

    Could you mention some competitors who you think are good?

    I feel like I am in the same position you were 6 years ago. I need a software to manage our OS dependencies. We use multiple package managers (NuGet, jcenter, npm, bower, CocoaPods, just to mention few) and I did not find any good solution other than WhiteSource and Black Duck, but they are too expensive for us.

    So I started to write my own tool but then fortunately I found VersionEye via an advanced Github search. I was *really* happy that there is a cloud-based service which has a central database, so I don’t have to handle issues like hitting repository API limits while getting version information which would be a problem if I would use an on-premise solution.

    Currently I feel VersionEye is unique solution in the affordable price range. I secretly hope that either you or somebody else maybe with better sales and/or greater visibility (I tried really hard to find you and failed first!) and maybe with cutting off the free users maybe you could maintain a beneficial service. Your product is worth much more than 103K per year…

    Either way, it’s understandable if you burned out and you are seeking new challenges in your life, I wish you luck for that!

  12. Great effort to solve a problem which didn’t have a solution years back. Your learnings will make you a successful person in time to come. The sunset note encourage me to try and fail and learn from failures. I always keep myself reminded about magic Jonson’s saying;
    “For me, it always goes back to something I learned in basketball. There’s winning and there’s losing, and in life you have to know they both will happen. But what’s never been acceptable to me is quitting.”

  13. Have you considered selling the business, and handing over the keys? I think you have created something of value here.

  14. Thank you for the amazing software you have provided! I’m sure it’s your input (and idea’s) that have caused the big ones to add such a thing to the masses. Look at the bright side, you changed the world for the better.

    I wish you luck in what you go into next and thank you for what you have provided until now!

  15. It’s sad and ashamed to hear that especially as a not paid user. You guys actually did a lot of great work. Thanks for your work and thanks for make it open source!

  16. I also had to shut down my first company after 8 years and loosing quite a bit of money. At least you know that it did not work and every action has a new reaction. I started another company for 14 years now. I wish you the best of attitude …start another company when you are ready or become an employee, whatever suits you.

    1. After 6 years rollercoaster drive, being an employee sounds pretty good. Getting Money every month without sending out an invoice and having vacation days sounds pretty good, too. 🙂

  17. Sad to see you go. Thanks for a great service these past 5 years.

    But I fully understand your motivation. Far too many users of free services and code do not understand it is not about charity, but that there is a real business model behind it. Alas, you will not be the last victim of that misunderstanding.

    Cheers and good luck with your future endeavors.

  18. Thanks for a very sincere insight! It helped me to realise what it encompasses to create and run such business.

    Not all endeavours ends with big cash (moreover in open-source) but that does not mean that they are a fail. You for sure influenced how people think about dependencies and security in open-source.

    Thank you for your inspiring work and good luck with finding your new passion!

  19. Sad to hear it didn’t fly after all the hard work you put into it. But I think you made a good decision getting off that dead horse – they are just no fun to ride. All the best for your future endeavours! Hope you keep us posted. 🙂

  20. Sad news, but always remember:
    You did great job in last 6 years, you contribute to the community and actually you learned a lot and I am sure your next steps are promised.
    “Cast your bread upon the waters and after many days you will find it again” and now it is your time.
    You wrote;
    “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.”

    Remember that you are a talent and because your huge knowledge and business experience as well you can now get your dream job 🙂
    Take care.

  21. I think it your cost politics.
    Last week I tried to view price for use your product for our production. I was shocked for price. You offer a lot of free users, but for enterprise your cost is so high!
    If you review your cost politics, I think it will second life for your product!
    Best regards!

      1. For 6000 EUR per year you can sync up to 5000 OS components to your instance. I think that is very fair. Most of the companies have even much less OS dependencies. Pretty much ALL competitors are more expensive.

  22. I’ve only started using VersionEye. It’s a great tool. Thank you for the work you’ve done and for open-sourcing the product.

    All the best with your future and keep us updated with your next venture!

  23. Hi Robert!

    Sad news today about a passionate dev shutting down one of her dream project.

    Thank you for what you provided us.

    I wish you all the best for your future.

    Keep going!
    Alessandro Petrozzelli

  24. Sad news. I wish you good luck with your next journey!

    Thanks for make this project open-source, maybe someone fork it and continue to work on it.

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