Closing Up Shop


I sent this mail today, to the Mozilla enterprise mailing lists:

Hi, everyone. Mike Hoye here from Bespoke I/O.

As I mentioned previously, I’m closing down BeSDS, the enterprise customization tool and business around it that I’ve been trying to get off the ground for the last two years.

In that time, I’ve been quite fortunate to have been able work with some excellent people and, ultimately, ship some pretty good software. BeSDS is a bit rough around the edges, but it works surprisingly well considering. The support I’ve had from people at Mozilla, and Seneca College, in getting this software shipped has been wonderful, and it’s been an honour to work with all of you. We’ve built a real thing that really works, bringing customization support to Firefox and Thunderbird, for anyone that wanted to try them.

During this time, however, and despite how much noise has been made over the importance of long-term stability and enterprise support, I’ve been unable to find a company of any size that has been willing to spend any money on it. I’ve had lots of good feedback and support from administrators in the K-12 and educational sector, but I’ve been unable to convince any member of the private sector to part with so much as a test case.

The frequent insistence that Internet Explorer (and rarely, but still occasionally that Outlook) is free, in these discussions, and that my services should also be free, well. The difference between what IT administrators have said they value and what they’re actually willing to invest in has been as informative as it is galling, let me tell you.

I may have failed at marketing my services effectively, or pursuing business leads and clients as aggressively as possible. Perhaps my expectations or pricing have been unreasonable, that’s true. I have other theories, though, which I suspect are at least as true. Regardless, my kids need to eat and I’m long out of runway. I’ll be closing down the customization site shortly and moving on to whatever’s next.

I still want to make it easy for schools and libraries to use Mozilla, so the Bespoke I/O deployment service is now on Github, under the Mozilla Public License. If you work in one of those places and have questions about setting it up, let me know. I’ve even got a prebuilt VM here (prohibitively large for Github) that I can send you some other way if you want to try it out.

I’m sorry, everyone. I tried to make this work.

Michael Hoye
Founder, Bespoke I/O

I’m more grateful than I can say that I’ve had the support of my colleagues, friends and family while I’ve been working on this. My wife has been a rock, and her love and support while I’ve tried to make a thing out of this have been as much as I could have asked for, and as hard as it is to close up shop and move on, it’s the right thing. I haven’t turned my wife into a startup widow and my children into strangers, and if the cost of that choice is the success of this project, so be it. That’s the right thing too.

I’m proud of what I’ve built here, and the work that I’ve done. And it’s time to move on to whatever’s next. I’m two for two now, managing the development of complicated pieces of software through to shipping on time and on budget, and I want to keep that streak alive. If you’re looking for somebody who can do that, let me know..


  1. Oren Mazor
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve been keeping an eye on this project and I’d just like to say well done for trying. I can’t say I sympathize with the specifics, but I can definitely sympathize in the general with your situation.

    Again, well done and good luck on your future endeavours.

  2. mhoye
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Thank you!

  3. Jeff Huo
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Wishing you the best of luck with whatever’s next.

  4. Mike Kozlowski
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    As I’ve said before, boo sucks for that, and I’m sure you’ll quickly land on your feet.

    The situation in general does tend to reinforce my belief that a lot of the “Software X can’t do Y, therefore we can’t use it” stuff you get is pretext, reasons you pull out to justify an already-made decision. Because it turns out that if you really want to use X, somehow Y doesn’t matter anymore (see the prevalence of iPhones in corporate America despite it lacking all the stuff that Blackberry admins assured us it would need); and if you don’t want to use X and it can do Y, you’ll just invent reason Z.

  5. Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Hey Mike,

    Long time to comment, but just wanted to say how much I appreciate all the time and effort you (and others!) put in to this. I think Mike K raises a valid point, but agree the perception of value is a really, really hard nut to crack and is the bigger roadblock. Folks just want something that gives them what they perceive as comparables for comparables, and in this case it’s a really big hump.

    I hope, if nothing else, what you took away from the experience is valuable. I have lots of lessons learned from the original product and the kind of commitment that’s required to get it off the ground, and it’ll definitely help the next time around.

    Thanks again for making a go of it, and I’m sorry it didn’t work out better in the end.


  6. Tek
    Posted November 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    did you make a business plan for this and how was it going to generate revenue? I’m noboby from the internet so if you don’t want to share that’s cool and I know a day late and a dollar short since you’ve already closed it but I’m interested from a “wonder what happened and what might have changed the outcome” perspective. my email is real.