Future of the Bootstrapped community forum


  • On July 24, 2021 this community will enter “read-only” mode.
  • On or after August 24, 2021, this community will go offline.
  • The Bootstrapped podcast will continue

I took over the running of this community two and a half years ago, when it had already been in decline for some time. I tried to breath some new life into the community, but it has proven to be difficult.

There’s a solid amount of daily traffic, but few people contribute new topics for discussion. We’re a prime example of the 90/9/1 rule.

Bootstrapped community pageviews for the last 12 months

Running the community uses my time and money on an ongoing basis.

  • Hosting the Discourse software costs $100/month. Self-hosting is a free-ish alternative but would require more time, and something I’m not interested in doing.
  • There’s a steady flow of spammy postings that need to be deleted or, rarely, allowed through. The Discourse software does do a great job of auto-detecting these.

In recent months I’ve spent time participating in similar communities to see what they do differently. What I’ve found is:

  • in 2021, many online communities struggle to maintain a decent level of participation
  • successful communities often have one or more paid employees (eg. IndieHackers has 2 or 3 full-time employees and the financial backing of Stripe, who own it).
  • paid communities have more open sharing
  • tiny private groups (eg. a 10- to 20- person Slack group) work well for creating a strong sense of community, solidarity, and mutual help,
  • For me, Twitter is better than the Bootstrapped community for asking questions when I need advice for a specific business problem

I considered approaching relevant companies (eg Paddle) to see if I could get some decent sponsorship of the community, thus allowing me to hire a part-time community manager. But this would be a form of sales. I’m busy enough doing sales for my own company, and don’t have the motivation to do for this community too.

The rough plan for closing down (still open to change):

  • I’ll leave this topic (the one you’re reading right now) open for discussion for a while.
  • In about a month, I’ll switch the forum to read-only mode.
  • In about two months, I’ll close down the forum altogether.

This is not a decision I’ve reached easily. I’ve been contemplating this for six months.

I’m open to alternative solutions and ideas! :slight_smile:

Recommended alternative communities:

  • Indie Hackers if you are just getting started and want to chat with others just getting started
  • Founder Summit (paid) if your business is viable and you like to run a calm company
  • MicroConf Connect “a space for founders and their teams of independently funded startups to connect with like minded individuals.”
  • MegaMaker - A paid community for bootstrappers
  • Find 10 or so people at a similar stage in your businesses and make a private Slack account.

:+1: :smiley:

  • Andrey B.

Can’t say I blame you. There were not many significant discussions lately.

On the other hand, I’m a bit sad. This was a spiritual succesor od of Joel’s old forum, which I really liked. It looks to me we have quite a few old timers here. And when we occasionally had significant discusions, it was obvious we have experienced founders here. However, paradoxically, we don’t that have much to discuss. We already run our small businesses for years (decades) and more or less repeat the same things we already did. Even if we could use other opinions, we are reluctant to share specific numbers, problems, screw ups but also successes on public forum where our users or (gasp) competitors could see it.

Thanks Steve for running this, it was quite visible you tried to make this forum better. But it didn’t pan out. I’ll check out other communities you mentioned.


Thanks for all the work you did Steve! It’s very hard to keep a forum alive, getting rid of all the people just posting one message only to promote their own product, and making sure everyone remains friendly.

I think that for many users that run a more mature business, there’s not so much to gain, except when major concerns such as VAT-MOSS come up!

Thanks again!


A bit sad to hear but I reckon I was guilty of being part of 99% most of the time.

Hence of course I’ll support your decision Steve. Thanks for everything you did!

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Thanks for all the work you’ve done @SteveMcLeod . I definitely continued to find the forum useful.

Admittedly there wasn’t a lot of content posted here, but frankly I find the deluge of “Here’s how I made 5 billion pounds in ten days with no marketing except for all the marketing” aspirational-posts on IH much worse in terms of signal:noise.


@SteveMcLeod Thanks for keeping the forums running for all this time.

Another alternative is the megamaker slack/community at https://megamaker.co/ . It is paid (one time fee I believe).

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Thanks for the heads up. I have been a member of at least a half-dozen entrepreneur communities over the last 25 years that have simply disappeared one day without warning. The alchemy of community-building is still much more an art than a science.The Bootstrapper’s Breakfasts (https://bootstrappersbreakfast.com/) offer a mix of on-line and face-to-face meetings but does not support an on-line forum. I appreciated the fact that this forum attracted what I considered to be “real questions from serious entrepreneurs” which is no small accomplishment. I think Hacker News (news.ycombinator.com) does a good job of fostering active discussion primarily around content and sometimes has real questions. IndieHackers I find harder to understand.

I will be sorry to see the Bootstrapped community forum close down.

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I’ll add MegaMaker to the list of recommended communities

I am one of those that mainly lurk, but still - a bit sad to hear that the forum will be shutting down. Although I do fully understand your decision, Steve.
Perhaps the whole forum could move to a Bootstrapped.fm Slack channel? That would provide a place to continue the occasional discussion and with the lower activity it wouldn’t reach the 10k message threshold any time soon :wink:

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Same here. I found this forum through the podcast, and was also mostly just lurking.
Thanks Steve, for your efforts in keeping the forum open.

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That is sad news. But I haven’t been very active myself. I completely understand your decision and would probably do the same, if I was you. I appreciate you keeping it going this long.

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It is a bit sad but fully understandable. Totally appreciate all the time and effort you put into this, Steve.

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Like most people here, I think it’s sad but completely understandable news. Especially sad for me as I’ve been planning to get back into the bootstrapped side project world and so was planning to be more active again here in the near future

Incidentally I started a small slack group for solo bootstrappers a few years ago, if anyone here would be interested in joining send me a message.

Thanks for everything you’ve done @SteveMcLeod :blush:


I came here when “The Business of Software” forum shut down, and to be honest this place just never felt the same as what it was over there, so it doesn’t really surprise me that you’re shutting down. Seems that online forums for bootstrappers / micro ISVs just aren’t a happening thing anymore. Thanks anyway! :slight_smile:

Not sure if its feasible, but maybe it’s possible to keep a static copy of the content online?

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Seems it can be done, but it is not straightforward.

There’s info on Discourse’s own site here: A basic Discourse archival tool - #48 by kamcc - dev - Discourse Meta

If someone is brave enough to give this a try, I’m happy to take care of hosting.

@SteveMcLeod I’m trying the mirroring, and indeed it is not straightforward. Will let you know if/when I was successful.

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@SteveMcLeod It worked by following: Archiving a Discourse Forum – H-RD.ORG .

Well, this is really sad news — I always enjoyed visiting this forum. I don’t think there is an equivalent for people with slightly more mature businesses (not necessarily larger, just more mature, as in not just starting to build something). I visit Indie Hackers sometimes, but I don’t feel like it’s the forum for me, it’s a bit too, shall we say, indie hackery. Also, I do not believe in paid communities and have a strong initial mistrust of anything that asks me for money just so that I can contact other people like me. I do realize some of those communities could work and provide great value, but it’s difficult to judge from the outside.

As a bootstrapper with a mature bootstrapped business, I feel lonely most of the time: there aren’t many people in a similar situation around me, so online forums are the only place where I can find peers that I can learn from.

All that said, thank you @SteveMcLeod for running this forum for so long and for all your contributions! Your work is very much appreciated and your podcast is a great resource as well.