What is the state of (desktop) micro ISVs in the U.S. now?


I'm interested in understanding the state of what I'll call "desktop micro ISVs" in the U.S. in 2011. By this I mean one-person computer software companies, creating desktop computer software, and selling it via download. This would be servicing the general interested public, not a niche industry.

The sorts of questions I have are things like (rough estimates are fine):

  • How many such companies exist in the U.S. currently?
  • What is the range of profitability for these in the U.S. now?
  • How likely is such a company to face legal problems, such as patent infringement issues (given the U.S.'s problematic patent law regarding software)?
  • Given finished software, what sort of weekly time commitment should one expect in terms of running the business?
  • What sources can you recommend to help understand more?

(Tag editing requested)

Software Business Micro Startup

asked Oct 13 '11 at 12:48
146 points
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  • Why are you asking this question? This really isn't the right forum for this - it is a broad survey and not very helpful to anyone even if exact answers were known. – Tim J 12 years ago

1 Answer


A couple of points:

I would say like the rest of desktop software, microISV desktop software is waning. Not dead. Not gone. Just not the place to find huge home runs.

MicroISV profitability ranges from 0 to $1m gross revenue, with most successful microISVs doing 2-3 times what they could as employee/freelance programmers.

I know of not one instance of a microISV confronted with a patent issue.

As for weekly time commitment - the more time you spend intelligently, the more your revenue.

Take a look at the Business of Software Forum at (http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/?biz )

answered Feb 28 '12 at 11:52
Bob Walsh
2,620 points
  • where do you get your data from? – Tim J 12 years ago
  • Discussions with several hundred micro-ISVs and self-funded startup founders. – Bob Walsh 12 years ago

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