From Hello World to IPO
tl;dr We often talk about how Shopify supports entrepreneurs from the first day of their journey building a business all the way to huge merchants that grow to become unicorns, or go public, and are just plain successful. Now it’s time to show the role of developers in helping this growth, but also how our developers themselves can grow from sustainable businesses to having their own IPOs.
When I joined Shopify, I wanted to understand what was unique about the platform and ecosystem, and the role that developers play. Shopify is merchant obsessed, so it was important to understand the role of merchants.
Supporting the merchant journey
I was very excited at the long tail opportunity, and how we deeply care about helping someone from their idea around commerce all the way to becoming a huge merchant. In a general sense, you can see how the life cycle progresses, and how developers come into that journey.
- Have an idea? To get started it’s as simple as creating your store on Shopify
- There is a world of configuration available to you, and with free themes and apps available you can make your store yours
- Once you make some sales and prove to yourself that this is working you can then decide to invest more. This ability to delay capital expenditures is really important, and can allow you to try a few things without the cost of each shot.
- You can look at paid themes
- You can outsource development to the app store and install apps that work for you from the ecosystem
- Now your sales have gone from strength to strength, you can once again invest more:
- Hire an agency that can help you really customize to your needs, building your own apps and themes
- It may be time to hire an in house developer
- As your needs for customization grow, you may find yourself wanting to build some headless commerce experiences, with your developers looking into Hydrogen and other options
You have as much as possible out of the box, and in the ecosystem, and you have room to expand along with your business. This is exciting, especially when you compare wanting to build an app and having to put $10k or more to get an MVP… and you have no idea of the returns.
It’s vital that we allow entrepreneurs to do more with less, helping them to prioritize both time and money.
If you look at the developers role in the life cycle above, you see how they help the entire ecosystem scale.
The core Shopify platform will always be looking to enable the core functionality that all merchants need.
It is also true that the platform itself will never be able to offer all of the customizations that merchants need. We won’t be experts in every niche that is “commerce”. Even if we were, the admin UI would grow to be unwieldy and infinite. At our heart we want merchants to be able to be creative, innovative and unique. We understand they need to differentiate. We understand that they want to build long term relationships with their customers. It is through this legion of commerce that we all differentiate from the large online silos that offer relatively similar transactional experiences.
This is where the entrepreneurial developer comes in.
You can find a niche that serves many merchants. It may not make sense for an individual merchant to build certain functionality as the cost doesn’t warrant the LTV boost. However, this is where the power of aggregation comes in. An entrepreneurial developer can build that functionality and sell it to many merchants, and now the math works out for everyone.
For example, a developer can build the functionality that allows you to point your phone at your feet, and you see what they look like with those socks or shoes on. Just like that, every merchant who sells footwear can get that functionality.
There are so many opportunities to come in and solve problems for merchants. You can target types of commerce, experiences and their brand, integrations, helping with conversion, helping them understand their business, making commerce more enjoyable and fun, and so much more.
Here are some exemplars, from solo founders to small teams who are at various stages of growth.
It’s a perfect time to become a Shopify Developer. You can build a business quickly, and with the growth that we are seeing, Harley won’t just be tweeting about the brands that are IPO’ing, it will be time to showcase you, the developers. Can you tell I’m excited?