Former Headway Themes Employee Goes Public: Staff Has Not Been Paid and Customers Are Not Receiving Support

As of last week, Headway Themes customers are still not receiving support for the products they purchased and co-founders Grant and Clay Griffiths have yet to communicate via email or the company’s blog. Support is frozen and customers and employees have been jilted, while Headway Themes continues to keep the product available for purchase. The founders have remained silent on why Headway support has dropped off.

Gary Bairead, former “Support Guru” at the company from March 2011 until June 2016, has published a post to inform the Headway Themes community about the situation that has developed over the last few months.

“Clay and Grant allowed the team to work for multiple months at a time when they knew they wouldn’t be able to pay us,” Bairead said. “At no point did they inform us about this while we were working for them. When we tried to contact them about payment, they wouldn’t reply.”

Bairead also said that third-party developers who sold add-ons in the Headway marketplace have not been paid for their products for several months and have received no explanation from the Griffiths.

“After a lot of persistent pressure, the Griffiths eventually stated that they were unable to pay us due to declining sales, and they didn’t know when they would be able to pay us what we were owed,” Bairead said.

His statements confirmed the financial troubles Jeff Chandler wrote about in his initial investigation wherein multiple sources close to the company informed us that sales have declined and Headway staff has not been paid for months. These sources declined to go on record, fearing they would not receive payment for the hours they worked and products they sold through the marketplace.

“Ultimately, it was my decision to stop answering tickets, but I had no real alternative,” Bairead said. “Headway owed me several thousand dollars, and stopped replying to my messages. I couldn’t take the risk of heading into a third month without being paid. I need to eat and pay bills like everyone else.”

Bairead said that the company’s financial issues had been ongoing for more than a year but the lack of payment for the past few months brought it to a head:

It should be noted that while issues surrounding payments culminated with a cessation of support at the end of June, they had been ongoing and unresolved for the past year. The Griffiths have owed us all varying amounts for a majority of the past 12 months – most notably at Christmas, which was a real kick in the teeth. This has created significant financial and personal problems for us.

Bairead has screenshots and videos of internal communications and support systems to back up his claims but is declining to publish them unless Headway makes statements for which he has evidence to the contrary. He also said he is not the only employee who has experienced this treatment from the company.

Bairead Alleges Headway Themes Is Deceiving and Misleading Customers

As part of Headway’s support team, Bairead witnessed what happened behind the scenes in the support forums used by paying customers. He highlighted a few of Grant Griffiths’ responses that he believes misrepresented the support situation to the community.

On August 22nd, Grant stated in Slack that there were only 9 open tickets. While this might be true, it’s not the whole truth.

The reason why there were only 9 open tickets is because they closed a few hundred they didn’t reply to.

headway-community-slack

Bairead said that Clay Griffiths has replied to approximately four tickets since July 1st, the day before he launched Pressmatic, his new venture that is separate from Headway Themes. Support queries for Pressmatic have been answered on Twitter, indicating that customers of Griffiths’ new product have open lines of communication. Those seeking support for Headway Themes are not receiving replies.

Pressmatic and Headway Themes are separate entities, but are both owned by Clay Griffiths. This disparity in support and communication between his two products has caused some Headway customers to seek support and answers via Pressmatic’s channels.

https://twitter.com/tinpeas/status/774759188916559872

“They sell an unsupported theme to unwitting customers, hope that they don’t ask for refunds, lie to the community about support and updates, then pay us with the proceeds if any trickles in,” Bairead said. He attributes the current situation to a lack of communication.

“The root of Headway’s recent problems has been a chronic lack of honest communication from its owners, Clay and Grant Griffiths,” Bairead said. “If communication is the oxygen of a distributed company, then it’s Headway’s lack of communication that has been slowly suffocating the business and its community.”

Headway Themes Declines to Comment

I attempted to contact both Grant and Clay Griffiths via multiple channels. Clay has yet to respond, but Grant said, “I have no comment at this time.” If we receive comments from Clay, we will update in a followup piece.

The company’s blog has not been updated since May, and customers have not received any communication about why support has declined.

57 Comments


  1. How do you go to a new venture when you have left so many clients in the dark in your current business.People should be aware of this and make smart decision in getting involved in his new business. All this does not give a good name of the WP theme shops and shows that integrity is the true value of such business and not the quality of product.

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  2. I was going to buy Pressmatic, but after this, probably not. Holy cow, this is no way to treat anyone, not your customers, not your employees.

    I understand that financial troubles can have a large impact on a company, but if you’re going bankrupt – ignoring the issue and keeping everyone in the dark isn’t the answer. Having a bad reputation is going to have an impact on ones future ventures.

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    1. I really love Pressmatic, however, I’m super upset that I’m hearing about this past my 30 day refund mark.

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    2. Im not sure what Pressmatic has to do with this? Am I missing something? It’s built on a Headway theme, but from what I can tell isn’t the same owners…

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      1. Vesped Inc/Headway is co-owned by Grant and Clay Griffiths.

        Pressmatic Inc is owned by Clay Griffiths.

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      2. Ah, got it. Thanks for the clarification.

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  3. Honesty and integrity are most important when things are not going well.

    Winding down an unsustainable businesses is never easy. Your reputation is everything, and while you may not be able to save a failing business, how you communicate and treat others during that transition is a reflection of your character.

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  4. This does seem to be a bit of a witch hunt, third piece now, but at the same time no smoke without fire.

    Would be good to see the Griffiths take on the issue, good or bad.

    Really do see a future in Pressmatic and now in their best interest to come clean on the Headway theme issue to at least let current users know the playing field and bolster confidence in the new Pressmatic venture.

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    1. Reporting on businesses is not uncommon. Reporting on the solvency of businesses is what many news outlets do. WP product ecosystem is relatively small and consists of small businesses but they still have some impact. Ignoring issues just because WP businesses are small is not good either. Potential customers should know about what they get themselves into.

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    2. If the reporting had started last year, maybe it was a witch hunt.

      To those of us that have been in the headway community, a year of issues has been building. It was being fomented by silence.

      The reporting happening now is timely, if not late because people wanted to see if there’d have been activity from headway. After months of watching and no activity, there is no witch hunt.

      Your focus should be more on the case study in front of you – silence has caused the customers to want answers as to why the product is unsupported. Many of those customers have been trying to warn people for months that no support tickets are being answered. All the while, the sales page is churning new customer sales who are oblivious to the black hole they just bought.

      Hardcore users have been attempting to help and offering advice and assistance for months with no meaningful communication in return.

      Everyone wants Headway back on track. The trouble is that the long persistent silence makes it more and more apparent that it’s only the user community that wants it.

      Yes, reporting on it disapassionately as down here is proper and well done. At least and until the situation is improved, it serves as the police tape cautioning people around a hazard.

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    3. PostStatus.com was also working on an article about Headway.

      Part of the reason I decided to go public now was to put an end to what would have been a constant stream of posts and speculation.

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    4. As someone who has invested five years and money to grow a blog, I am happy that someone is reporting on the problems with Headway. I considered it very recently when porting my site to a new framework/theme and I like seeing a warning that I may not get genuine support for a premium product.

      It’s not a witch hunt. It’s information.

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  5. Not sure Pressmatic response will be much better. I won Pressmatic in the AWP giveaway, but never heard from them. So…yeah.

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  6. Unproven allegations are gossip, and circumstantial evidence, however likely, is inadmissible.

    Publish the evidence or stop writing this story. You’re hurting the community and the Tavern’s credibility by publishing, as yet, unsupported grievances.

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    1. We have confirmed these allegations with multiple sources beyond Gary’s public statements. They have not been paid and they fear coming forward. Readers can decide for themselves what they think, but it’s newsworthy and we serve our readers first.

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    2. I’ve made video recordings of Slack conversations we’ve had with them.

      The reason I haven’t posted them is because Clay & Grant still deserve to be treated a basic level of dignity and respect.

      At this moment, I don’t believe that it’s necessary to publish exact transcripts or videos that would only further embarrass them.

      I have also made videos that show angry & unresolved support tickets from customers who repeatedly tried to get help but failed. These tickets contain personal details of Headway customers that would need to be blurred out.

      It’s my hope that Clay & Grant would resolve this without things having to be escalated further.

      The WordPress community doesn’t need a Wikileaks style dump.

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  7. It looks like the Page Building business is saturated… I’m not even surprised, there are a ton of free page builders out there.

    Even premium ones that do a lot more for a lot less $$.

    The problem here is that they aren’t interested in this business anymore and they still keep selling this product and not providing support for it. (maybe that’s why they have a new venture).

    Just close the shop, offer support for your current contracts until they end and move on with your life ;)

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    1. Headway is not a page builder, it covers all aspects of a theme while most (free) page builders just do the content section of a page on a page by page basis. They were in the game very early too, I imagine it is very hard to keep a business growing for that long with the competition never relenting. Especially when the product is complex and customer service intensive.

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    2. @InTheNews: I have an old Lifetime License from 2011. ;-)

      To the topic: The developments are sad. HW 3.8.8 is a good product, but there are good alternative like GeneratePress or Divi by Elegant Themes.

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      1. I think that lifetime period is based on how much time this product is alive and kicking :)

        It looks like you will be enjoying those privileges for a few more days/weeks.

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      2. I don’t use Headway anymore for new projects. On existing projects I will replace it bit by bit. HW 3.8.8 does still its job and I hope there will be no conflicts with future WordPress Versions. HW 4 is just a peace of…

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      3. After talking with my team and Gary, we’re aiming to stay with HW 3.8.8 for at least the next 2-3 months hoping that they either right the ship or sell to someone who can fix things.

        It’ll give us enough time to alert our clients and come up with alternative plans of action if things don’t pan out.

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  8. After working with Headway since version 1.0, I myself am moving on. Here is a summary of my time working for, with, and around them: http://websitesbycorey.com/2016/09/10/headway-themes/

    I don’t know about the speculation about what’s happening now, but this behavior doesn’t surprise me. Lack of communication has been their method from day 1, as though emulating Apple’s own teaser/mystery strategy.

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    1. I will vouch for what Corey says. I started in HT v 1.5 and was so impressed with Corey’s support back then. And from the beginning recognized Grant’s lack of communication. Surprising for a “marketing guy”. I left HT somewhere in the middle of v3 due to lack of communication, and lack of keeping promises like YES you’ll be able to one-click upgrade your v2 sites to v3. Never happened. HT was a great product ahead of its time but it’s unacceptable that they just released a new version in August knowing they weren’t paying their staff and not responding to help tickets. Thank you all for day-lighting this issue. It’s a community service. I hope they do come forward with a statement to clean this up.

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    2. I have wanted to abandon them since the v2 to v3 problem. I still have v2 sites because I don’t want to do updates for low end clients that can’t afford to pay me to redo their themes. I knew the trust was broken when they made that move. So I think I have upgraded one site to version 3 and other than that I have moved back to just developing themes with clean code that I can maintain myself and that other devs should be able to manage if I turn them over.

      I wish I would have never made a single headway site. It is offloading too many things to a third party with no good way to participate in optimizing your work, and too many opertunities for them to just stop maintaining something that is complex.

      In their defense, they probably realized that the business model was never going to sustain long term. The race to the bottom with themes is proceeding to fast. Too much free product and too many paid alternatives. I would respect a statement that said that, but if you think about it, there are other themes that are eventually going to lose support that have far less to offer. So if people want to keep buying headway even after it is essentially feature complete. There is really no reason for them to not take the money and try and service those customers. As long as they actually provide whatever new level of support is tenable.

      Just sounds like they need to clarify that instead of letting people push the buy button until they tell people this is the end of the line.

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  9. They should come clean with what’s going on and stop selling a product they aren’t supporting. I speak from experience; I bought the theme a few months ago, but had a problem recently and submitted a support ticket — no response. In my opinion they could probably right the ship if they would come clean with everybody. Maybe take out a business loan if that’s feasible. It’s a good product; nothing like it really in the WordPress world. At the very least though they should shut down new sales because they are basically lying at their website since they aren’t offering support. This behavior is going to seriously hurt their efforts to succeed in any business moving forward.

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  10. Wow, I’m a Headway Themes customer who paid quite a few bucks to get their product and support in 3 years. I’ve been waiting for 2 weeks now for a ticket, eventually I know why! Sad story anyways.
    Bored to wait, I switched to DIVI, now DIVI 3, which is great. Not perfect, but far better than HT.

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  11. I’m not going to speculate on what is obviously a serious issue in the Headway camp, but I am going to say this. As a long time Headway user who has recently used several different ‘page builder’ themes for various reasons, nothing really touches Headway in it’s ability to design and bring the design to life quickly and easily. For that reason alone it will be a shameful thing if the WordPress community decides to dance on Headway’s grave, should that be the case, rather than do something to keep it alive. Between this Headway issue and the ManageWP/GoDaddy thing, it appears perhaps the WordPress community isn’t all that supportive after all.

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    1. Supportive works both ways. Like you, Tina, I was one of the early beta users way back in 2009, and the product was awesome.

      Somewhere along the line, plans got too big, the product got bloated, support was left to pick up the mess, and – as the comments here show, along with support issues being unresolved- to still be selling a product that looks like it won’t be supported properly by the devs is pretty shameless.

      If Grant and Clay want a supportive WordPress community, they need to be supportive back first and foremost.

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      1. I agree Danny, it’s a two way street. I wasn’t really speaking to the glaring people problems and communication issues, more that I’d hate to see something as useful as the Headway framework itself get buried because of it.

        I get it. I understand the frustration and anger. I’m not excusing anyone’s actions. It’s wrong to go silent and I’ve written about the importance of communication, even in the face of bad circumstances several times as a key to doing business.

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    2. They left the sinking ship in the middle of the night. No message. Support is dead since months now. There was a half-hearted update weeks ago to calm the users. No official statement for that update, no update of the changelog. Simple NOTHING!!! Why should anybody support them? Because they kicked their user in the a$$? Grant spread some words in forum. Support is active. Only 9 open tickets (LOL!!!).

      Now they sell a product to people that are unaware of the problems because they simple are not able to recognize this issue from outside the community. What do the costumers get? A crappy version 4 of Headway which don’t work at all. They get no support. They get nothing. The Griffiths get the money.

      They should be happy that they didn’t got sued until now.

      I can’t write what I think of people like the Griffiths.

      I hope they sell HW to a trustworthy company.

      And ManageWP/GoDaddy: ManageWP is a great product. Why they sold themselves to a company with the worst image on the market and such doubtful business practices? GoDaddy? Really?

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  12. This is super disappointing. I truly hope they find a way to fix things and stabilize the business because Headway is so great. I have about a dozen client sites currently on the theme.

    For those of you with clients on the theme, what is your plan of action? I’m debating how long I give them to fix things before making an exit.

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    1. Sometimes I don’t understand what some of you guys with clients do for said clients… I am really curios, no sarcasm, what exactly do they pay you for?

      Is it that hard to debug and fix a few bugs in a product?

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      1. It really has to do with common sense economics. You want to use a good solid product. Even if it doesn’t take much to fix a bug here or there, those bugs will continue to grow as WordPress evolves and the theme doesn’t keep up.

        Many of our clients have a flat rate plan where we fix bugs at no extra cost. It has worked very well for both us and the clients. I have most clients on Genesis and we’ve had to do very little troubleshooting on that framework.

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      2. Short answer: yes it’s that hard.

        Clients pay me to setup websites because they don’t know how to, sometimes even the basics of what WordPress is. And then Headway Themes makes it faster to complete a project, but also tiny changes in WordPress updates may pile up to make it incompatible.

        There could be a javascript file buried deep that conflicts with another file for no apparent reason. WP could decide to just disable the theme because it’s version compatibility says it’s too old. Updates to popular plugins could end up conflicting with core features. There’s basically a million variations that could lead to client-side irritation.

        One or two issues for Headway alone, whatever. But it’s an ecosystem, or like, a house with bad foundation.

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      3. Or…..you could take responsibility for your own business.

        Just a thought…..

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    2. I have half a dozen sites with HT and what to do now is a real question. One of them has major css/js bugs and is screwed up, so since I got no support from HT I really had to move on with a different solution, thence Divi. But for the others, I still have to put into balance usability on one hand, and development costs on the other. No urge yet then, and hopefully HT won’t be messy too quickly everywhere…

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    3. Tyler, I still have 3 sites in v2.x and 10 in v3.x. They’re pretty stable. Over time I did hire Corey to update some from 2 to 3.

      InTheNews, we all have different skills and different offerings. In my case I started as a print designer and not a coder. I’m 67 and women didn’t learn coding when I was young. It never really appealed to me. I’m a “devsigner” meaning I design and develop for clients. The clients I work with are typically one-person service providers. I become a team-member, teaching them what they need to know to work on their site once live but buffering them from having to learn it all. So I include managed hosting with updates, etc. therefore have an ongoing, long-term relationship with my clients. Most of them are very low budget. So they pay me for the peace of mind to know their site is safe and going to keep working. And they do. However they would not expect to have to pay me to fix code bugs. I likely could not since my coding ability is basic and limited. When I hired Corey to update from v2 to v3 those clients chose to pay that cost. Most won’t as witnessed by 3 clients still in v2.

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      1. “I’m a “devsigner” meaning I design and develop for clients.”

        “I likely could not since my coding ability is basic and limited.”

        Therefore you are not a developer. You cannot even say you develop. Design, yes but no, don’t ever use develop or developer in a sentence when you seemingly are aware that you are not.

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      2. Are you kidding me? Get off your high horse dude.. It’s not like Developer is a protected job title or anything or that you need to meet certain criteria in order to call yourself one. Not to mention that it’s totally uncalled for to tell people what to say or not to say.

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      3. Sure she is a developer… she develops websites for clients. It isn’t any different than a real estate developer… builds buildings from building materials. She is not a software developer, but I have no problem with her using the developer term… and she has come up with an even better one “devsigner.” Besides, no one appointed or elected you as the WP language police.

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    4. Hey Tyler, I have still around 15 customers with sites based on HW 3.8.8. As Sheila said, there are stable. So, I don’t panic. Most of my customer are loyal customers which let me completly rework their website from time to time. Then I will replace HW. There is no reason for a rash reaction. I will replace it bit by bit when the “life cycle” of a website ends.

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  13. Wow, this is way too frustrating. I wonder if any employee would sue them for not paying them for so long.

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    1. I think that suing for anything is hard when you work remotely. I think people should just stop working when they are not being paid, especially since as a freelance, if there are any real financial problem you will have the least priority to get any money in case of the employer going bankrupt.

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      1. Totally agree.

        Not sure why any of these people stuck around long enough to be considered “not paid” (especially for months).

        I have a hard and fast rule:

        1) Screw up my pay once – we’re going to have a very uncomfortable conversation.
        2) Screw it up twice – screw you.

        Pretty basic concept.

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      2. Really I think it’s a combo of a) believing in the product since the staff were picked from power users and b) the pressure that without you the community won’t get ANY support. And requests for support are overwhelming for HT.

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      1. I saw Clay there with his Pressmatic shirt on. He didn’t seem too uncomfortable when I spoke with him. If it were me, I’d be cleaning up my past businesses before moving on.

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      2. Especially considering the closeness of the WordPress community – we must do what is proper and ethical, even if it’s not easy. Investing in marketing for a new business when the old one has financial problems and outstanding debts is completely unethical in my eyes.

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    1. Could possibly be money from a loan in the Pressmatic name, ie cant be used for other legal entities?

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  14. I tried Pressmatic, but it didn’t fit well into my workflow so I opted to upgrade my MAMP version and I’ve been pleased with it. Pressmatic refunded my purchase, so that’s something. Hearing this, though, I’m glad I didn’t get tied down to the product. I hope the employees are able to get paid and the clients/customers can find a good route forward.

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  15. So they can afford $1,000 to pay for LAX WC but they can’t pay their staff?

    I think they didn’t make money so they are moving on.

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  16. Thank you for reporting on this. Not only is this good for potential customers to know about, but it’s also a wake-up call for developers to make sure they have a plan for maintaining and supporting a product before committing to do so.

    I’ve worked for over a year on a product that I’m now realizing isn’t going to be sustainable, and am having to completely scrap it. I feel so lucky I realized this before I sold a single copy, and don’t have to leave anyone in the lurch as I make my transition.

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  17. Sad situation, I hope the company is able to reeguer and find a business model that allows product development and support.

    I get a question. In the event the company goes bankrupt or owners to leave, as is all the code already “sold”? It would be possible for someone to “adopt” the support without direct connection with the original company?
    And it would be feasible to release all hypothesis as open source on github, for example?
    I wonder what would be the output, if there were no chances of the company to rebuild.

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