Reflections on winding up a business
It’s with great regret today that I announced that our little company MumbleDog will cease trading imminently. I expect to have wound everything up in the next 30 days, but the email finally went out this morning after much soul searching - I wasn’t even sure it’s what I wanted to do.
When things were going well, I think running this company was about the happiest time in my professional life so far. Even on the days when we had to migrate servers somewhere and I’d stay up for about 30 hours straight making sure everything went smoothly, I still mostly enjoyed it. I definitely enjoyed being able to hack on open source software and effectively getting paid to do so, even though my contribution history has ended up rather spotty and most of my stuff doesn’t exactly weigh a lot compare to others’.
But unfortunately since our move to Australia, other things have gotten in the way - we simply couldn’t survive on the money MumbleDog was making, so it took a back seat to a meatspace business… it was something I ran on the side rather than the focus of my energy. That ended up with it being something where I worked on it as I got time and motivation, and so things never really got finished.
While people were (seemingly) happy to keep paying us money for the service they were receiving, I wasn’t happy with the service we were providing. Our production control panel looks positively awful, but the new one (which is skinned by Bootstrap, so it at least looks presentable) isn’t feature complete. WHMCS has been a constant thorn in my side, but I’ve just put up with the issues rather than devote time to learning why (fun fact, if you install PHP from FreeBSD’s ports collection now, you’ll be missing modules WHMCS requires and it won’t be able to tell you why, because they assume that these modules will be included in any PHP installation).
It had been suggested to me to sell the business on to someone else, but I don’t think that would have been fair to anyone involved. I decided to stop advertising MumbleDog until I was happy with the user experience, but then I never was, so revenues have dropped. Even selling the business for multiple years worth of revenue wouldn’t have given me what I think it’s worth. It’s not worth it to a prospective buyer, as with our mess of a software stack they’d basically only be buying the clients, many of whom I can only assume stick around solely because of my support and not our software stack. Finally, it wouldn’t have been fair to the clients, who I care about and couldn’t just sell off to someone else like cattle.
So while it sucks that we - the oldest commercial Mumble host - are closing our doors, I think it’s for the best.