Most SaaS Founders Worth More Than $20 Million Didn’t Raise VC Funding

Last week, a friend asked me how many people I know who have made more than $20 million from selling their software company.

I thought about it for a minute. Here’s what I told her:

I know over 200 founders who have made between $20 million and $150 million from selling their software companies.

Maybe 50 of those friends raised big VC funding in the old days.

The other 150 founders either bootstrapped or raised some practical funding. When they sold their companies, they owned all or most of them.

But most software company founders I know haven’t sold their companies.

I know another few hundred practical SaaS founders who haven’t sold their companies that have over $5M in annual recurring revenues.

I met 15 more of these at the SaaSOpen conference last week in NYC. Every week a few more.

That puts these founders in the “worth $20 million” category too if they have a good business and own most of the company.

If you add the thousands of practical founders whom I don’t know, all over the world, who have grown valuable software companies without big funding…

There are probably between 10,000-20,000 software company founders who are worth more than $20 million who created valuable software companies without big VC funding.

10,000 times $20 million, at the low end of my estimates, is:


I’m convinced there are 20X more bootstrapped software company exits between $20M-$150M than all the VC-funded billion-dollar exits and IPOs. Far more sold for less, too.

We just don’t see or hear about these private deals that don’t have press releases or IPO headlines.

Most founders who sold their companies aren’t allowed to talk about how much they sold them for. Or they don’t want to talk about it anyway.

Many of these founders have told their stories on my Practical Founders podcast. Some of them are in one of my Practical Founders Peer Groups right now.

When I described these numbers to my friend, she had the same reaction I get when I talk about this with software founders and folks in the SaaS ecosystem:

“Holy crap. How come nobody is talking about this?”

There are many, many ways to create companies or careers that are meaningful and pay well.

There are risks and rewards to every path. And far more failures than big successes.

Pound for pound, I’d put the effort+risk+time-to-reward math of bootstrapped SaaS founders against any other opportunity.

And you don’t have to sell your soul–or sell a lie–to do it.


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