should bootstrappers reveal their revenue?

The user patio11 is legendary on hacker news. In 2006, he developed a piece of software called “Bingo Card Creator” which let users “print custom bingo cards on [their] own PC or Mac”. In 2008, he went open kimono to the world with his sales stats. He was selling up to $60K/year of software, at times. Then, in 2015, he sold the website (in case you are wondering, it did not bring him a fortune).

Revealing your company’s revenue probably didn’t start with patio11, and it certainly didn’t end with him. Amongst microISVs, it has become faddish to do so (e.g. see Indie Hackers and Baremetrics). From a spectator’s viewpoint, it’s both entertaining and informative. Seeing these stats, any developer who is tired of working for others will surely think: “If there are so many successful micropreneurs, why can’t I be one, too?”

Such openness is inviting and attractive, and it might even generate favorable PR. But it also seems like a huge vulnerability. The biggest danger is telling a bunch of ambitious software devs (or product / biz-dev people) about your income-generating website or software product. You may very well wake up one day to find that 30 clones of your site (or product) exist, each making a small amount of money, and your own revenue source suddenly decimated. To be sure, I think this is more of a danger for smaller sites. If you are making hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each month, you probably have a monolithic organization with a sales and marketing / PR team to protect your business. But then you aren’t really a microISV anymore, are you?

So why do some software micropreneurs and bootstrappers share their revenue? Ya got me. I’m betting the number of software shops that share their revenue numbers is small compared to the number that are quietly humming along successfully and hiding their revenue. I hope that’s the case! It would be nice to know that there’s still a lot of room for the rest of us to enter this frothy market.

There’s a related discussion of this topic at hacker news: Ask HN: successful, transparent bootstrappers?. Caveat: it’s 7 years old! There was a suggestion that being transparent helps to build business contacts… so you might consider that as a useful side-effect to this kind of openness, if that’s something that might help your business.