00:00

Episode 4: Building a SaaS flywheel: Scaling e-commerce via an ecosystem with Shopify

00:00

All Xero Developer Podcast episodes

Hosted by Nick Houldsworth and Dan Young

Atlee Clark (@atleeclark), Director of App & Partner Platform at Shopify joins Nick and Dan to discuss  building an ecosystem that works across integrators, affiliates and consultants with the goal of end customers growing and succeeding.

From a small API that serviced 100s of developers to a full marketplace with over 2,500 apps, Shopify’s ecosystem allows retailers to have great online and POS journeys. Find out how Shopify has evolved to deal with that growth, and how the ecosystem is stronger because of it.

Atlee talks about the key to creating a frictionless ecosystem, how to prioritise while scaling and Nick and Dan unveil our exciting new segment.

Episode transcript

Hosts:
Nick Houldsworth [@nickhouldsworth] – (NH)
Dan Young [@dethklok66] – (DY)

Guest:
Atlee Clark (@atleeclark) – [AC]

NH: Welcome to the Xero Developer Podcast. I'm Nick Houldsworth.

DY: And I'm Dan Young.

NH: So we're here in San Francisco for our Xero Developer roadshow, very stoked to be back in the Bay Area, aren't we Dan?

DY: Absolutely. Always stoked to be in San Francisco.

NH: And we've been running our podcast now for three our four episodes and we've been doing most of these remotely from various cupboards in different parts of the world. Very happy to actually be here in person, both Dan and I, and with some of our esteemed guests.

DY: Which is a good segue into our special guest today, Atlee Clark from Shopify. Welcome to show.

AC: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

NH: So most people, I'm guessing, I'm not sure, probably know Shopify, a really strong brand in online retail. Easy-to-use interface, you know, a real leader in the online space. I'm sure most people know someone who has an online store using Shopify or they've built one themselves. Actually, one of our earlier episodes, you may have heard that was my first introduction to ecosystems was setting up Shopify store for a customer and then connecting them I think to MailChimp and really understanding the power of how you could take these unique systems, plug them together, and build an incredible tool for small business so I'm particularly thrilled to have Atlee in today to talk about Shopify. So before we crank into that Atlee, maybe you'd like to give us a bit of a background into your role and maybe a little bit about the journey of Shopify.

AC: Yeah, absolutely. So I joined Shopify almost four years ago and at the time, Shopify already had a small app store. We, since 2009, had an open API, very early in our journey and actually it's interesting how the app store came to be because we originally opened up our API for partners who were building online stores for people so that they could customize their stores and what started happening was these partners started calling us and saying, you know, "I'm making the same customization over and over and over again. You think I could, you know, build an app for this and sell it to people?" and we were like "yeah, great, yeah good idea" and so we were really lucky because we had our first app partners in our app ecosystem came from a place of really really understanding our merchant's problems and struggles and what they needed to get done. 

AC: So that was a few years before I joined and then when I joined, it was a time in Shopify's evolution where we really recognized that apps and partners were gonna make the difference in our growth trajectory and so I was asked to come on board and grow this thing. What was great was that, as I've said, we had these partners from before who really really believed in Shopify and were really really committed and they really helped us push forward on what we were trying to do. I joined in 2013 and it's been a wild ride since then. 

NH: We were talking before and you said when you joined it was how many people in the business?

AC: Just shy of 500.

NH: And now the business is at?

AC: Way more than 3000, that's the official number.

NH: Wow. 

AC: Yeah, it's nuts.

DY: I thought that three years going from 900 to 2000 was big but yeah those are big numbers and mostly based in Canada, I presume?

AC: Yes, yes. So we are Canadian born and bred, headquarters is in Ottawa, Canada, which is the capital of Canada. Then we have large offices in Toronto, Montreal, Waterloo, and then we have a US office here in San Francisco and some offices in Berlin.

DY: Exciting. Development offices in Berlin?

AC: So every office has almost all functions so we don't do by functions by office. There are products being developed in every single office.

DY: Does that mean that your, kind of, product strategy is based solely out of Canada or do the regions sort of ... whatever they need, they're going to build?

AC: Yeah, so it has ... you know, product direction comes from our product team and Toby, our founder and CEO, is also still loves product so him and Craig, our CPO, they all work together to create the overarching plan for our products and then depending on the strengths of different offices those products are built in those offices depending on the expertise of the engineers and designers that are there.

NH: One of the reasons we started this podcast because it's really exciting to be able to talk to other companies that are similar size and scale. There's a relatively small number of SaaS that are building platforms of this size. One of the things that we talk about in our roadshow is some of these platforms now are the size of entire markets themselves, entire countries, millions of users and just to reflect on growing from 400, 500 people to nearly 4000 is just an incredible growth story which I think, you know, anybody who works in software or SaaS would love to hear more about, I think coming back to the kind of part of the business that you work in, the platform in the app store, what sort of growth have you seen since when you started and to where you are today?

AC: Yeah, absolutely. So as I said, when I joined it was ... I think there was just over a hundred apps in our app store. We're now ... we have 2500. Earlier this year we surpassed our merchant spending ... or our developers making over $100 million on our platform through selling their apps to merchants. And every day we have ... depends on the day, but every day we have new people signing up to learn about our technology and the submissions of new apps is actually very interesting, that has increased over the last year, you know, from at one point I think we were maybe at like seven apps a week to now, upwards of 50. So we have ... I'll give a shoutout to our apps QA team who look and evaluate and work with the developers to get those apps into our ecosystem.

NH: Yeah, so there's two really interesting questions that lead from that. On the supply side, how do you kind of manage the growth of that scale, and then on the demand side for customers, how do you help the customers make sense of two-and-a-half thousand solutions in the marketplace and I know you've been making some announcements recently around developments around the marketplace so I'd love to maybe talk first about perhaps dev relations and onboarding so many partners.

AC: Yeah, totally, so ... and I think this is actually an interesting evolution because when I talk to other platforms, everybody's got a similar story. So when I joined, there was a dev rel team and everybody did everything, right? And by team I mean there was two people and an intern. And they did everything, you know, going to the events, talking to the developers, working through their submission, making sure the app store was a good place for merchants to go and find solutions, and over time as our team has grown, it's about finding the things that are the most important and then sort of taking them out of that dev rel role and creating a new role and one of the things that we did that I'm really proud and has been very successful was separating dev rel from submission and quality control of the app store. So there is a team that goes and talks to developers and partners and, you know, spreads the good word about why building on Shopify is great. 

AC: And then there's this other team that only deals with the app and the developer as soon as they submit an app to be in the app store. It creates, I think, it helps create clear lines of what your job is. It is ... that is a scale thing, you can't do that out of the box, I don't think but when you get to a certain scale, it helps allow that team that makes the decisions around who gets in, it empowers them to make really really hard decisions because if you were the person who's the friend of the developer, you know, you're the one who said "your idea is awesome and we'd really love you" and then "your design is terrible" like that's hard to be both of those people. 

AC: So we made that division and that has been really really successful and that team not only does the submission and approval process but also continuously evaluates the apps in the app store to help us make sure that every single time a merchant goes there, that they are finding great, reliable apps and I mean that from a technology perspective but also from a support perspective. We put a lot of emphasis on developers being able to offer support quickly and to put the merchant first.

NH: So you mentioned a better route connecting customers with those solutions and I understand you were talking about some changes you might be making to the marketplace. We'd love to hear more about that 

AC: Yeah. That's been a huge project. So, you know, we have this app store and to be honest, right now it's a listing, right? We use reviews and we have done work to offer better recommendations but it really is just a listing and so over the last year we've had an amazing team, full-stack, great data people, to really figure out how we get the right app to the right merchant at the right time. So there are apps in the app store that make sense when you haven't sold anything but they don't make sense if you're selling $10000 a month, right, and vice versa. So just because an app has five stars, if all of those five stars were given by someone whose business is not like yours, well then it doesn't ... that's not five stars for you, right? And then it's actually unfair, sort of, to the developer to put their app in front of someone who ... it's not gonna be useful for that person, because then yeah they're gonna get a one-star but that's not because their product was bad, it's just ... it wasn't right for that person.

AC: So we've been working really hard at figuring out how we surface apps and solutions that meet that merchant where they are and that's what we're excited to roll out in the new app experience and we're both serving it for that recommendations side but also just better navigation for a merchant 'cause sometimes, you know, running a small business, medium-sized business, a big business, is hard and sometimes you're just like "I don't even know what my problem is" and a search isn't necessarily gonna solve it, right? You're like "I wanna sell things." Well, that could be a lot, that could be merchandising, that could be marketing, that could be email, that could be a lot of things. So we've tried to create the navigation in a way that allows merchants to sort of go down the discovery journey in a way that is intuitive to them as a business owner.

NH: The challenge between search and navigation, you know, satisfying different use cases, there's a TV series called Halt and Catch Fire, I don't know if you've seen it or heard of it, it's kind of like the history of the internet but in a drama. The last season's set in San Francisco in the '90s and there's two competing startups. One is building the directory, Yahoo, and one's building the search engine. Fascinating, as we're thinking about putting the marketplace, I'm watching both of them and saying, "actually we need a little bit of that and a little bit of that." In the end obviously the search won but it only works when people know what they want, they know what their problem is that they're trying to solve. Sometimes people just need to browse and not exactly sure what it is they're looking for.

AC: Yeah and then, you know, hopefully you get to a point where you have what Apple has and that's power app store users, i.e. people that just go 'cause they're like "what's cool and interesting and new that can help me?" And that's the pinnacle of life, turning your app store from a place that just helps people when they're frustrated to a place that they're ... every week they wanna know what, you know, the new and noteworthy apps are in the ecosystem.

NH: One of the discussions we talked about earlier around ... you know if a business is coming on Shopify you wanna connect them to all the tools that they're needing and you have the ability for customers to purchase apps through the marketplace as well. Can you talk a little bit about the history of that and, you know, what impact that's had on I guess the partners that are billed through the marketplace and then the customer experience too?

AC: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, as most platforms always deal with like "do we do a rev share? When do we do a rev share?" When you're small you just want developers to build on my platform, I don't, you know, I don't care, growth, growth, growth, right? But what we have found is that when building robust and large ecosystem, it's really really important to lay out the business expectations, right? And so once we made the decision that we believe that a revenue share was the best thing for Shopify, our merchants, and our developers, and I say that because we knew that if this became a bigger part of our business then we can reinvest, right? We can reinvest in documentation and developer portals and events and all that kind of thing. But we all needed to come to the table to say "okay, we're all in business together" and we felt that rev share was the best way to do that. And then we realized that rev share is one thing, but billing is another thing. And that's all fine and good until you

 

AC: And that's all fine and good until you actually have someone who's running a business, who wants to buy a tool, and then you're asking them to put in a credit card again.

DY: Yeah.

AC: And so, we made the decision to spend some resources on building a billing API. Which essentially allows an app developer to build in either a one-time fee, a monthly fee, or it's like a variable fee. So you can say, okay, for every hundred emails, it's two bucks, or whatever.

DY: Yeah.

AC: And so we build that API, and what we saw right out the gate was that the apps that adopted the billing API had way higher conversion. Because of that reduction in friction for the merchant to try their app, and then that charge just show up in there, in their monthly bill from Shopify.

AC: So now we require that apps use the billing API, and that decision, that requirement, really came down to the fact that all the decisions that we make are all about the merchant experience, and we saw that this was a better merchant experience. So, that is why we do it, and why we're continuing to invest in the billing API and making that easier, more clear for developers as well as merchants. I think it was that transition from not having a billing API be required, and the billing API being required.

AC: When I say setting up business expectations, going back in time, I think if I could wave a magic wand, I would say let's make that the case from the beginning. And that is hindsight. But the effort it took to get everybody from a self-reporting situation to using the billing API took a lot of people hours, where they could have been doing something else. And I think it was worth it, because it did improve the merchant experience. But it did take away from our developer experience for a little while, because we had to focus on it so heavily. So if I could go back, we'd have a perfect billing API.

NH: It's easier to stop than it is to retro-fit, and I don't think I know any SaaS company that doesn't have a legacy of grandfathering in some fashion, or not. It's kind of like Telecom's companies have set the playbook for grandfathered price plans, and they're generally in a tangled mess. Why didn't we learn? Why didn't we learn from that?

AC: It's 'cause you're so excited when some developer is like, "This looks cool", and you're like, "Amazing! Oh, my god, they're going to build something".

NH: Everything. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get it out the door. We'll fix it later. How hard could it be?

AC: Yeah, exactly.

DY: Exactly. And, so you mentioned your devro team are just doing everything.

AC: Yes.

DY: We had kind of a similar thing, way back when we first kind of opened up our API. We kind of had a bit of a loose, I guess, partner programy thing, and expectations weren't really clear internally and externally. One of the things that we've put a lot of time and effort into is setting those expectations for our partners, put more of a formal partner program.

DY: From a Shopify perspective, when did you reach that point where you're like, "Hey, we just need to do this formally, and we really need to tighten up our partner"?

AC: Yeah, so, it's interesting because we view our partner program holistically. We have partners who build Shopify stores for people, set up Shopify for people. Then we have app developers who build apps for app eco system. We have affiliates who run affiliate programs. And then, we're looking at a whole bunch of other types of partners. So, at Unite, we talked about 3D modelers type of partner. We're opening up a services marketplace that will include everything from visual design to photographers, and everything in between. So we look at it holistically. 

AC: And we were in some ways fortunate, because the partner programs, the people who build Shopify stores for people, that was where the partner program started. And that actually became formalized quite quickly 'cause it was a little bit easier, right? It's like if you go and sell Shopify to somebody, we will give you money for that. And everything else has come out of that. And we are all one team now.

AC: So, in terms of the formalization, it was almost like it was almost always kind of there, it just, the scope of the formalization has grown over time. By the time I arrived at Shopify, we had a pretty clear ... Like, Shopify partners brand and program. But again, it was really on those referrals partners versus technology partners. 

AC: But I think it's just ... The needs of the business and the changing landscape outside of your business means that I meet with the legal team every two weeks. Not because we want to create terms of service that are super, super long or complicated. It's just like, "Okay, are we responding to the market? Are we keeping our merchants safe? Are we protecting Shopify"? All those kinds of things.

AC: And so it's a never ending process, I think.

DY: Totally. And I'm wondering, maybe it's a tricky question, I'm not too sure. Controversial, controversial.

DY: I'm sitting on the edge of my stool. My legs are going numb.

NH: Is it getting hot in here?

AC: It's okay. We're a bunch of ... You know, the Commonwealth countries. We can do this. We can do this. We can be cheeky, yeah.

DY: When you start to formalize programs like this, and maybe partners who had everything from the beginning, now all of a sudden fit into a separate bucket, I feel like. Was there any friction when you formalized your program around some of those partners? Or what?

AC: Yeah. You know, I think ... You know I said 'tongue in cheek' before, you're just so excited that someone's excited, and that's real. And I think that one of the things that has made our partner program amazing has been that we really capitalized and loved anybody who would join us at the beginning. And we have spent a lot of time thinking about who we are in the market. And because of the way that we started, we really felt like we were investing in people's, these partners businesses. And they could get on the phone with Harley, who's our COO now, but he was the one who started the partner program. 

AC: If you go back on Harley's twitter, it's just like, "Congratulations to so-and-so, and these people", and he was friends with everyone. So, over time we've had to scale that, and you get to a point where you're like, okay, we can't talk to everybody. So we've been really thoughtful over the last little while, like how do we put that into the product, in and of itself? 

AC: And I don't think we have it totally figured out yet, but we are trying to find ways to have that sense of friendliness and commitment to those peoples' businesses, show up in everything from blogs to their ... We have a partner dashboard that they log into. How do we constantly tell them that we care without having Harley on the phone all day long, because he has other jobs now?

AC: I think your question about the people, I hate this one, but people say in start-ups all the time, "The people who got you here aren't necessarily the people who will get you there". And I think that's only true if you don't invest in them, so I've seen a lot of companies sort of abandon their original partners. We have tried, regardless of what the circumstance is, to, if they're not up to par of what our new standards are, then we'll invest in helping them get there. That doesn't always work, but it is something we've tried to do.

NH: You touched on something earlier, which is if you only favor the long-term existing partners, then naturally all the demand flows to the ones that are already successful. How do you ... Part of the value of the platform is that you create innovation on the platform. You don't know what the next successful app's going to be. You want a path and an opportunity for people that work with you to begin with, but you also want to recognize those that have invested for a long time. So it's a challenging dynamic to manage, and I think is why you mentioned in a start-up, the people that get you to launch are not the same people that grow the business.

NH: Also true in the early days of a startup, you want to say 'yes' to every opportunity, and everything.

AC: Yes, yes.

NH: "Oh, my god. People want to bill to our API. Yes, yes, yes! And then over time, you realize you have to say no more, and be strategic around how you do that. Whether that's protecting the customer's data, whether it's ensuring the support and the quality of service, and the experience is great, or whether it's just not in line with your company's strategy. And that's a tough conversation to have.

NH: To a point, you have to spend a lot of time with lawyers thinking about how you programmatically make that available But nobody reads all the terms.

AC: No, no.

NH: They do a lot of cycles of engineering before they get to the part where you're like, "I see this doesn't quite fit with what we're doing". And it's challenging to have those tough conversations, but really critical to preserve the platform. I think we ... You mentioned dozens of apps a week joining the marketplace. What your customers probably don't see is the many dozens that don't.

AC: Yes, yes.

NH: And don't make it through. And the quality control that goes into ensuring that it's a robust platform.

AC: Yeah, and that quality bar is also constantly, it's not constantly changing, but we're constantly evaluating it. And what's interesting, and something I didn't see when we started this quality team, was I thought it was all about externalizing, and telling the community what was quality, and what that meant. And I think I underestimated the amount of internal explanation that we had to do. 

AC: So, it became apparent that we had not done a good enough job of telling the rest of the company that we were continuously looking at the quality standards of the apps in the ecosystem. Because you do get this, for lack of a better term, a hangover from those days of like, everyone join. So, there's, "Okay, are we even monitoring this? What's happening?"

AC: And you have to go, and especially if your company grows, and ours grew really quickly, of explaining that it's not like the old days of just like, "You build an app, you're in the app store". This takes multi steps, and it takes a while, and there's an entire team that does this.

AC: And then, we're also taking apps out of the app store every week. It's important that the rest of your company understands that, as well, so they continually trust in that product, and in that offering.

NH: Yeah. And I think one of the things we often think about is, how do we scale it? How do we create more automation and self-serve? But knowing that part of our brand, part of what made us successful was being an open platform, was encouraging development, having really good relationships with those developers. Much the same as Harley, Rod would be tweeting people and meeting them in person.

DY: Handling support tickets.

NH: Handling support tickets. Even now and then, he still does. I still get a note from him.

DY: Or the email I would get from Rod would just be question mark.

NH: And so you ... That's your special source in a competitive environment. Fostering those relationships with your develop community is very important. But not scalable in the way you do it. We're often kind of challenging ourselves to maintain that human face on our API, that one-to-one relationship, even though a lot of what we do is one-to-many.

AC: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And that's a hard ... It's hard because also you're running a business. It's really easy to say, "We need 50 people all over the world to go to meetups". And your CFO's looking at you, being like, "Sorry, what?"

AC: And so you have to ruthlessly prioritize what is the most impactful. And that doesn't mean no relationships. It just means, okay, which relationships? And then, how do we put the rest of it in the product and in the content, and do the one-to-many in a way that feels connective to those people? And it's not just like, "Okay, well now we're just going to hold a big event, and you're going to feel good about it".

NH: Our hope is that being programmatic about it is transparent for those that aren't in the tent, so to speak, and they have the opportunity to build that close relationship with us. I think in the old days it was, "Well, I've got to find a way to have coffee with Rod, and then Xero and I will do a joint go to market campaigns together". It wasn't necessarily clear what it took to work really closely together, whereas now we've kind of opened it up with a program, we sort of have milestones and tiers. And our partners know where they have to invest in order to get on the radar of what is now a very big business with Xero. And I'm sure it's the same with Shopify.

AC: Yeah, and I think you guys on this podcast have talked about tiering in the past, and we have looked at that in different kinds of ways. I do think that we're trying to be better at externalizing what you guys have done a good job at, which is, "This is what you have to do". Or, "This is our expectation".

AC: And that can feel icky at some point, 'cause you're like -

DY: So you're going corporate?

AC: Yeah. And it's like, "what's your KPI?" And you're like, "Not this email. I swear".

AC: So it's just, I think, it's that fine balance of always like, okay -

 

AC: Just, I think it's that fine balance of always- okay, we have business realities, but then we also have this business reality of the fact that partners make us who we are, so how do we constantly balance that.

DY: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

AC: Yeah.

NH: One of the opportunities that's obviously available for partners that built your APIs is to become part of the company, and this is something that you guys have announced today, I believe?

AC: Yeah, we acquired a company called Return Magic.

DY: Yeah, and you've had a few acquisitions recently as well.

AC: Yeah.

NH: I wanted to talk a little bit about the recent acquisition and what the opportunities are there, potentially what some of the challenges are when you acquire a partner in your ecosystem.

AC: Totally. Yeah, absolutely. So, I think- inside Shopify, we always say that we build what most people need most of the time, and that we enable everything else to be possible. 

DY: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

AC: And every product team is responsible not just for the most of the time, but also building the platform to enable everything else to be possible. Now, over time, what most people need changes.

NH: Yeah.

AC: Right? So, I think returns is a really good example. It's the good thing about being in e-commerce; everybody shops. So companies like Amazon have changed consumers' expectations around shipping, fulfillment, and returns, right? So now we all expect that you can get- well, if you live in the United States- you can get something anywhere from an hour to two days, but no longer than that, and if you don't like it, you should be able to send it back for 90 days after you bought it, and they'll send you a new one in three days. It totally changed the game on consumers' expectations.

AC: And at Shopify, we really want to enable everyone- a small business, someone who's just starting a business- to be able to compete in the market and be successful. And, so four years ago, returns, the ease of returns, that was not necessarily as much of a consumer expectation. So we didn't touch returns. We allowed the ecosystem to handle it; we have a couple of different apps that do this. But it's changed, and so what most people need most of the time now is an easy way to do returns. And so, because we had these apps in our ecosystem who have been doing this- every company always thinks, "Do we build it? Do we buy it? Do we partner?" And we looked at all three options, and Return Magic is great. They're a small company, there's four of them, they're based in Montreal, where we have an office, and they've built a really great product, and so it was sort of a no-brainer for us.

AC: Now, the idea that your app ecosystem is just like this pool in which you go shopping in is not good, right? Because we want people to come and build businesses as apps in our ecosystem, and we are really, really careful about not using the app ecosystem as that store for companies. However, because we're all in it for the same reasons, it's a great place to look. When we do acquire someone out of our ecosystem, though, it's very clear- we do not take out everybody else. This is not- we don't close returns. Returns is a complicated thing; there's tons of added value that you can put on top of the product in terms of- you can offer a return product that offers upselling, you can do different kinds of marketing, et cetera. 

AC: And so we're leaving room for that, and we take the time to contact all of these developers who are in the return space. It's important to us that they don't read it in the newspaper, that they hear it from us, and so yesterday, after the markets closed, that's what we did. We called everybody and explained what we were doing, and I think it's that kind of action that helps people still jump into the ecosystem. We've acquired companies that, in the chatbot area kit, which is an amazing product, but I think because of the way that we're viewed in the market and the effort that we put behind it, there's people still coming and building new and different kinds of chatbots into Shopify, which I think is great. And I think if we ever lose that, that's the day I'll quit and say I'm sorry. And leave- such a Canadian thing to say. But it's true, and I think it's always viewing them as partners first.

NH: Yeah, I think if it's true to your philosophy of being a platform, you have to- your behaviors have to demonstrate that. And I think being proactive with your partners, making them feel that they're still valued and there's still an opportunity for them is part of how you live up to your brand. But then secondly is, do you create demand in the platform for all those solutions? Because at the end of the day, if they still see the business opportunity, they'll still continue to participate. 

NH: So we've been through this, recently releasing products where there's some crossover with our marketplace, an expense management tool and project management tool- 

AC: Yup.

NH: For similar reasons, the landscape changed; we found that lots of users are coming onto Xero, and the users needed features that weren't in our corset. But with approaching one and a half million small businesses using Xero, it's a big, big market; even our most successful solutions or most successful features- we're lucky if we get even 10, 20% share of our customers using them. So we might release the best expense management tool for a particular segment of customers, but we're never going to solve the need for all of those one and a half million small businesses. And we see, actually what we see is when we start talking more about expense management and raising awareness for our customers, we create more demand in the marketplace, because suddenly we're doing the marketing on behalf of all of those solutions as well. We're raising the problem in the minds of customers, and so I think it comes back to if you are a platform, and you believe it's important to remain open. Then if you demonstrate through your behaviors and then creating opportunity for everybody, you can navigate what are challenging waters sometimes.

AC: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's that commitment that flows; if all of your product people believe in it too, then they build these amazing APIs that enable even more. I always- people ask, you guys know- people like us, we talk about this all the time. But the idea that building features or product that compete, but if you build it right, instead of taking a piece of the pie, you've actually just made the pie bigger.

DY: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

AC: Right, so I take something like our discounting. We made a choice that instead of just building discounts, the ability to do discount codes right into Shopify, which you can do now, we built an API called the Price Rules API that we built discounting on top of, and we built the highest demand discounting, like buy-one-get-one, those kind of things. But through the process of building the Price Rules API, we have opened up our platform to an infinite number of discounting, and being able to build that not just into discount apps but into apps generally, it just made the pie that much bigger while serving the immediate needs of every business- which again, that expectation of the market: that you can always find a coupon code. Yeah.

DY: Alright, so we have a cool news segment coming up and just a-

AC: I love being a guinea pig!

DY: In just a few moments. But last question for you, AC: what does success look like for Shopify in the next few years?

AC: Shopify as a whole?

DY: Oh yeah.

AC: Ooh, okay. I think at Unite, we started talking about international and about internationalizing our product. We have translated our core product into a number of different languages; we have started to translate support into a number of different languages. We have built technology to allow apps to use local params to translate their apps based on where the user is at any given time. I think, the fact is commerce is global, and it doesn't stop at your borders, and we need to meet that demand of both merchants and customers. So in five years, we'll take over the world. No, I don't know. That wasn't approved.

NH: And what about for you and your team in the next year ahead? What's the big rocks for you?

AC: Yeah, our team covers both the go-to-market side as well as the product development and engineering, and I think they're two big things. One are these marketplaces, so recommitting to the app store to make it a much better experience for merchants, number one, and our development partners, number two; and then we're launching a services marketplace to bring service providers and merchants together in a similar way that we've seen be successful for apps. We say commerce is a technology problem, but it's also a human problem, and so bringing humans into the mix is important. 

AC: And then I think for us, it's continuously developing tools for our internal teams to continue to build platform first. So it's our team's job to build that technology to help constantly extend the platform and make it easy for those development teams to do that, so we're going to continue to invest so that partners can engage in all of the places that Shopify built. We have POS, retail, and we want app developers and partners to come and make that as successful as our online store and our other channel-based commerce solutions, so all the things.

NH: Exciting, isn't it?

AC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

NH: Yeah, if the last four years is anything to go by, I'm sure we're looking forward to seeing everything that comes out the door. Okay, quick fire, quick fire round: we've got five questions. Don't think too hard!

NH: First question, first answer that pops in your head.

AC: Okay. Uh-oh.

NH: I'll go first. Apple or Google?

AC: Apple.

DY: Build, buy, or partner?

AC: I'll say partner.

NH: Online or in store?

AC: In store.

DY: Canada or the US?

AC: Ooh, that's not fair. I'll go Canada.

NH: Easy one: Australia or New Zealand?

AC: Ooh, New Zealand.

DY: Correct.

AC: Correct?

DY: Well-played.

AC: I feigned hesitation, just to put people on the edge of their seats. I've never been to either, so I need an invite, I need an invite, guys.

NH: And you still got the right answer; amazing, isn't it?

AC: I know, I know, I've seen the pictures. I'm in.

NH: We love Australia, for all our Australian listeners.

AC: Yes, as do I, for all our Australian partners.

DY: Okay, awesome. And so, people listening, if they're interested in developing on the Shopify platform: where do they need to go to get started? 

AC: Yeah, absolutely. If you're a developer, developers.shopify.com, and partners- so all other kinds of partners- partners.shopify.com, and we'd love to have you!

DY: And which of the four Twitter handles that Shopify has should I be following? 

AC: Shopify, and Shopify Partners.

DY: Excellent.

AC: Yes.

DY: Alright, and if- everyone is obviously keen to be building against the Xero API, but if you haven't already, head on over to developer.xero.com.

NH: Or follow either of us on Twitter, and I'll leave Dan's cell phone number in the blog post at the end of for any specific questions. Speaking of scaling the platform, that's the way we still do things. 

DY: Thank you very much, human touch, absolutely, and of course follow of us on all the Twitters and Instagrams and all of those cool things as well.

NH: I think that's it; we're going to run out we're off to do the roadshow. Thanks so much for coming in; I've really enjoyed this chat.

AC: Yeah, thanks guys!

DY: Great. 

NH: Ciao.

DY: And then the music fades in.

AC: Du-du-du-du!

Read more>

You may also like