• Ross Zurowski

How we think about longevity

We place a lot of trust in computers these days. Our lives, our work, and our data all goes into software built by companies, that we trust will treat it well.

Unfortunately, many companies make it hard to trust them or their software…

  • Big companies kill off products people love, like Google’s 250+ now defunct tools
  • Streaming companies like Spotify or Netflix charging more money for less content or adding ads into a service that never had them.
  • Companies like Dropbox start with a clear mission (”the best way to sync files between computers”) only to wander off onto dozens of other paths (screen recording! video approval! contract signing!) to justify raising prices.
  • Lots of companies launch with a generous free plan, only to backtrack and gate things behind increasingly expensive paid plans.

This happens for many reasons, but to name a few: VC funding prioritizing explosive growth; explosive growth leading to employees whose main motivation is riding the rocket rather than solving customer problems; product managers eager for promotion making sweeping changes that only benefit the business, not its users. The list goes on.

Brian and I talk about this lack of trust a lot. We’ve been burned too many times ourselves, whether while working at these companies and seeing the effects or by seeing apps we love shut down or changing dramatically.

We talk about it as it relates to Valise and artists too.

As an artist, you’ve got a whole career—often a whole lifetime—of work ahead of you. Depending on how far along you are, you may have records of artworks and shows from ten or twenty years ago and will have more ten or twenty years from now. While most companies think about the next quarter, on some level you’re operating on the scale of decades.

This raises lots of questions for us:

  • How do we ensure your data is protected for the long run?
  • How do we ensure our software lasts as long as you want to use it for?
  • How do we build a sustainable business that’s mutually beneficial for us and artists?

As we’ve built Valise, we’ve had these questions in mind, and want to share a bit about how we think about them.

Longevity for your data

The most critical piece. The information you put into Valise is yours—we’re just temporary guardians of it. Here’s part of what that means for us:

Usable exports

At any point in time, you can get a usable export of all your data. “Usable” means a couple of things here.

It should be useable for you, the person whose data it is. You should be able to open, read, and edit it without relying on us anymore. But it should also be usable by other software you might want to use, leveraging open formats that will last a long time. It’s not enough to give a dump of info that nobody has the time to sort through.

We structure our exports how we expect you’d manage the data without a tool like Valise. When you request an export you get:

  • Spreadsheets of all the textual data. One for artworks, one for sales, consignments, etc.
  • A set of folders with all the images and documents you’ve ever uploaded. This structure should make it easy to bring your files into any other tool you’d want to use.

And unlike other tools in this space, we export all your data in minutes, rather than business days, whenever you want. To encourage good habits, we’ll also email you twice a year with an automatically generated archive link that contains all your data for download.


On our roadmap is the ability to import data from other tools and formats. If you want to stop using Valise for a bit, you should be able to get your data out and bring it back in later. In an ideal world, you should never have to start the work of archiving over from scratch.

Backups & data security

While we’re stewarding your data, you should feel comfortable knowing that it’s in safe hands. We currently take snapshots of all the data on Valise and can recover data from any five-minute period in the last thirty days. The backups are stored on encrypted-at-rest drives, too.

Your data is only accessible by two parties: you and us. We don’t sell it and we don’t use it to train machine learning models. And we only access your data with your permission to support your use of Valise.

Longevity for Valise as software

While your data is the most critical piece, having an easy environment in which to edit it matters too. Managing artwork data via files, folders, and spreadsheets isn’t particularly convenient—and is prone to lots of mistakes,which is why we started building Valise in the first place.

Even though we plan to work on Valise for a long time, surprises can happen. We want to make sure Valise (the software) outlives Valise (the company). How?


One way we’ll do this is by open-sourcing our code if we ever decide to shut down. This will place Valise’s software under a permissive license for anyone to use and build upon. If we need to, we can “pass the baton” on to anyone interested in continuing to develop the product.


We don’t currently offer this, but it’s something we’re eager to explore. A chunk of Valise’s monthly cost goes to paying hosting bills and time supporting the hosted service. Instead of relying on us to host Valise for you (and backup your data, etc), we’d be happy to let you host Valise yourself for a flat fee. If you’re interested, we’d love to talk.

Operational simplicty

Valise is built to be reliable and easy to maintain—for us, but also for future self-hosters or open-source developers.

For example, the database we use, SQLite, is not only the fastest database available by many measures, it’s also the cheapest to host, doesn’t require any cloud servers, is easy to back up, and is even an officially recognized archival format by the US Library of Congress.

We use very few external services too. The few we do use—Cloudflare R2, Postmark, PostHog—are completely optional, meaning self-hosting wouldn’t require paying for dozens of other services.

Minimal dependencies

Part of what makes software hard to maintain in the long run is the nested web of requirements. A website relies on code library A, which in turn relies on B, C, and D, which in turn rely on E, F, and G. As soon as G makes an update, you have to fiddle with all the parts depending on it to get things back in working order.

Valise is built on Go and React, two stable software tools with a decade-long record of making few, if any, breaking changes. Again, this means Valise is simpler to operate, easier to maintain, and more likely to last longer.

Longevity for us as a business

Even if the software lives on, it’s important that someone continues developing it, both to develop new features and to ensure it works as expected. Bit rot is real, which makes software like a garden: it can last for a while untended, but it needs regular care to thrive.

Choices we’ve made about Valise (the business) prioritize long-term thinking:

  • No outside funding. Refusing to take VC money (also known as “bootstrapping”) means there’s no pressure to meet misaligned investor expectations or give a quick return.
  • Low operational costs. Our software is cheap to host, and our small team means it’s not hard for us to be profitable.
  • Small team. Related to the above, a small team means less communication overhead and a better experience for our customers. When you email us, it’s not some support rep you’re talking to—it’s Brian or Ross.
  • Charging a fee. Monthly fees offsets the cost of building and maintaining Valise, and aligns our success with happy users.

We recognize a small company like Valise may seem risky, but we consider it a benefit. Much of the best software out there is made and maintained by small teams: Things, Mimestream, Buttondown, iA Writer, Obsidian, CleanShot … the list goes on.

We hope to become known, as have these companies, for building a useful and well-designed product that helps people achieve their goals—and gets out of the way.

In the end, the true test of a tool’s longevity is time. There’s a term for this: the Lindy effect, which states that the longer a technology has been around, the longer it’s likely to last. You’re more likely to be able to read a book a few centuries from now than to get data off a hard drive from a decade ago.

In that sense, we recognize Valise may feel like a risky choice for now: it’s new, it’s unproven.

But we hope that in the meantime, we can demonstrate a degree of thoughtfulness and care for your work to earn that trust.

We’re in this for the next few decades too.