I had a conversation yesterday with a couple of friends about different kinds of startups, the kinds of people who start companies, the "lifestyle company" meme, and a few other topics. One of the things that came up was how little discussion there is of software practices, i.e., software development shops that are run along the lines of a medical or legal practice, with steady work but no dreams of expansive growth.When I look at what my friends are doing, I see more than a few who would be happy to keep their operation the size it is indefinitely, just as many doctors would rather stay in an office with half a dozen colleagues and a stable patient base, rather than found and run a hospital. But there's little or nothing in the academic or business literature about such places: everyone seems to assume that if you're starting (or in) a software company, your goal must be growth, growth, and more growth. I wonder how many of us would be happier if starting or joining a practice, rather than being the next [name of four-year-old billion-dollar company goes here], was a recognized, encouraged, and well-described career path.