Small groups of engineers can do amazing things but in most companies amazing things worth doing run out and staff keeps growing. Salaries need to be paid and diminishing returns start.
I have been thinking about the economics of being done with a piece of commercial software. Shut down feature additions, lower the price in regular increments, and open source after a high bar of total revenue is reached.
Alternatively work out a company sale that doesn't include the name or the product. Sell the team, the office space, the experience, and a copy of the product which must be rebranded or reengineered into something else but leave the original product and name on the market with a maintenance staff and original copyright.
Plenty of companies will deliver just as much, if not more, with a 30 person strong team, as they would with 600, or 10,000.
But a thirty person strong team isn’t going to get a multi-million cash injection unless they plug it all into a swanky office and an ever-growing wage bill.
I greatly admire Basecamp and it’s founders, DHH and Jason Fried, for completely bucking this trend. And they’re as successful as ever.
I like your sunset strategy better as a customer, but it sounds like something you could only really do if you don't have investors.