Subscription service for Mac apps Setapp has 15,000 subscribers a year after its launch

Meet Setapp, the Spotify of Mac apps. For $9.99 per month, you can download and use more than a hundred Mac apps without spending another cent. All those apps are usually paid apps, but Setapp wants to change the model.

Setapp was founded by MacPaw, an independent Mac development company based in Ukraine. While they have been developing their own apps for almost ten years, they’ve also worked on a development and distribution framework called DevMate.

DevMate was a great way to manage license keys, updates, crash reports and analytics. That’s why Paddle acquired DevMate to build an all-in-one Mac SDK, from e-commerce and payments to analytics.

After leaving DevMate behind, MacPaw wanted to try something new on the distribution side. “With Setapp we want to help developers try and use a subscription model,” MacPaw founder and CEO Oleksandr Kosovan told me. “It solves the pain of paying for 20 different subscriptions.”

And it’s true that many apps are now switching to a subscription model because it brings stable, predictable income. It’s not just Adobe and Microsoft — even independent developers are trying subscription models. Writing app Ulysses is a good example.

While subscriptions work for apps that you use every day for your work, it doesn’t necessarily work for utilities that you need every other week or smaller apps.

There are now 105 apps in the Setapp subscription, such as Ulysses, CleanMyMac, iStat Menus and Screens. MacPaw doesn’t accept any copycat or deceptive apps, which is why it has turned into a sort of mini Mac App Store without any paid download. If you’re looking for an app to do something very specific, chances are there’s an app in the Setapp database. And you don’t have to pay for any major upgrade.

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“The model is a bit different from Spotify. Apps are not consumable products,” Kosovan said. “We split each user’s fee between the app they actively use every month. Some apps are everyday usage, other apps still deliver significant value even if you just spend 10 minutes using them per month.”

As long as you open an app at least once per month, the developer is going to be compensated. And of course, developers can still sell their apps on the Mac App Store or their own website. Developers need to integrate Setapp’s libraries to manage activation, updates and data analytics.

Over the coming months, Setapp plans to launch family accounts so that multiple people can access Setapp with a single subscription. The company also wants to launch Setapp for business.

Eventually, Setapp wants to offer around 300 apps. MacPaw has noticed that a typical user is going to use less than ten apps per month. This number hasn’t changed much even though there are now more apps included.

And the numbers are quite impressive after just a year. Over 200,000 people tried Setapp and 15,000 are paying. It represents around $1.5 million in annual recurring revenue (even though a large portion of this revenue goes back to app developers). Setapp could represent a breath of fresh air for many independent Mac developers. Instead of relying of big income spikes around major releases, they could get some money every month from Setapp users.