Part 1 Interview Summary:
Brent Peterson introduces Brent Bellm, the CEO of BigCommerce.
Brent Bellm: BigCommerce is a software as a service e-commerce platform where brands and retailers use the software to create successful fast-growing e-commerce stores. They power brands of all sizes from startups who get going for $30 a month up to some of the world’s largest companies. BigCommerce recently launched Ted Baker, a leading men’s apparel and lifestyle brand.
Brent Bellm says multi-store is one of the biggest product releases of any e-commerce platform in history. We discuss how BigCommerce lets any account or customer launch additional stores from a single account. allowing scalability to companies to expand how and where they sell. The platform was originally designed for one account, one store and to expand to build multiple stores, every component had to become multi-store aware.
Brent Bellm says when Magento went from Magento 1 to Magento 2, it was a rewrite. Brent Bellm notes that with multitenant software, everybody’s running on a single platform. They’re immensely proud of making their platform a complete platform for even the world’s largest enterprises.
Brent Bellm notes that if you go start a store for $30 a month, you’re running on the exact same platform that Proctor & Gamble is. BigCommerce versus on-premise software can be 50% lower to 80% lower, depending on the nature of the customer. Brent Bellm notes that they joined Escalate, one of the first saas e-commerce platforms, in the nineties.
Brent Bellm says in 1999, 2000 companies were spending five to $10 million to cobble together the software and infrastructure for their stores. Brent Bellm mentions that in 2015, it’s fundamentally broken if on-premise software. Brent Bellm talks about how in 2010, they saw Magento take off, but it burdened companies with having to license, maintain, and secure their software. Brent Bellm says it’s high time that a saas platform was the solution for complex businesses.
Brent Bellm notes that they’re going to create what they call open saas, and they’re going to take a saas platform and open up every component. Brent Bellm says they’re going to try to make saas as open and comparable to open source as possible. Brent Bellm mentions that it’s been seven years bringing enterprise-level openness and functionality to a saas platform.
Brent Bellm notes that if you’re a small business, you can use their proprietary solution or if you want to use someone else, they surcharge you an extra 2% of all your sales. Brent Bellm says they were doing internet payment gateways in the nineties. Brent Bellm talks about how there is no such thing as one size fits all in payments. Brent Bellm says there’s a differentiation between a Braintree between CyberSource and authorize.net.
Brent Bellm says they go to each of these phenomenal payments players and talk about, let’s get you the single best integration into BigCommerce. Brent Bellm says they don’t surcharge customers if they don’t use their own proprietary product. Brent Bellm talks about how you will see that you save a lot of money at every tier using their players because their payments players compete against each other.
Brent Bellm says that third-party checkouts are disallowed because they have to control the checkout. Brent Bellm notes that they believe in their concept of open commerce and that they make the best built-in checkout they can. Brent Bellm mentions that you can modify the source code and use a third-party checkout. Brent Bellm says they support checkouts that are different from other countries.
Brent Peterson: Welcome to this BigCommerce episode of Talk Commerce. And I have Brent Bellm here, the CEO of BigCommerce. Brent, why don’t you introduce yourself? Tell us your day-to-day role and maybe one of your passions in life.
Brent Bellm: So I’m CEO of BigCommerce. I took over for the founders about seven years ago.
Brent Bellm: BigCommerce is a software as a service e-commerce platform where basically the software that brands and retailers use to create beautiful, successful fast-growing e-commerce stores. We serve them all around the world. We’re big, of course, in north America, but also Australia, New Zealand across EMEA, and very proudly have recently launched in Mexico with further expansion plans in South America.
Brent Bellm: We power brands of all sizes from brand new companies and startups who get going for $30 a month, all the way up to some of the world’s very largest companies, for example, Proctor and Gamble runs a vast majority of its brands on sites all over the world on BigCommerce, SC Johnson, Unilever other customers of ours, just to pick one category.
Brent Bellm: We recently launched Ted Baker, a leading men’s apparel and lifestyle brand. And we’re one of the biggest software as a service platforms in the world. We IPO’d two years ago and now trade as a public company on the NASDAQ.
Brent Peterson: So we’re at ShopTalk today. And you had a big announcement yesterday. Multi-storefront. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about a multi-storefront for BigCommerce and what that looks like?
Brent Bellm: Yes, multi-storefront is the biggest and most complex product release in our history and arguably one of the most complex and biggest product releases of any e-commerce platform in history.
Brent Bellm: What multi-store does is it lets any account or customer of ours, launch additional stores for additional brands, additional customer segments and or additional geographies. All from a single account. These stores can have the same or different themes and designs, catalogs, checkout experiences, integrations.
Brent Bellm: The value of it though, is it’s a scalable way for companies to expand how and where they sell, leveraging all the efficiencies of a single account. What is so powerful about this is that traditionally one could only get multi-store functionality from the most expensive large enterprise platforms, Magento enterprise, Salesforce, SAP, and what made it really complex to launch is our platform was originally designed for one account, one store.
Brent Bellm: You could have multiple stores, but they each had to have their own account, their own infrastructure. You’re basically duplicating all your effort. To build multiple-store, every component of our platform had to become, multi-store aware. Catalog had to know which store it’s referencing, checkout, which store it’s referencing tax.
Brent Bellm: Every single component themes URLs had to be rewritten to understand which store am I talking about storefront for a given owner. And that rewrite took us three years. We did it all while on a multi-tenant SaaS platform, meaning without disrupting the 60,000 roughly stores that are running every day, their stores keep running.
Brent Bellm: And then at the end of this path, they suddenly have the ability to add more stores without anything breaking on the stores that they had historically. That’s really hard to do. Remember when Magento went from Magento one to Magento two, it was a rewrite. And a component of that was trying to significantly improve their multi-storefront capabilities.
Brent Bellm: They had the benefit of being on-premise software. They could just throw away Magento one, rewrite it as Magento two and say, Hey customers, if you want this set of improved capabilities, you have to migrate. It’s a total migration. You throw away your Magental one. And now you start over on Magento two.
Brent Bellm: You can’t do that with multitenant. Software as a service multi-tenant means everybody’s running on a single platform. And when you make changes, they have to not break the stores of everybody running. You can’t tell them to version or upgrade or migrate. You have to fix it all while the train is running.
Brent Bellm: And that is what we have done. So we’re immensely proud of it. It truly makes us a full featured complete platform for even the world’s largest enterprises. And it’s a very big differentiator, for example, from Shopify who cannot do this.
Brent Peterson: I want to back up just a little bit and just talk a little bit of a more more about SaaS as well and how much savings clients can realize in their SaaS offering versus the on-prem.
Brent Peterson: You did mention that the having to upgrade and some of those breaking things. The upgrade path in a on-prem version, you do have to shut down and start up and spend money on doing that. Where are the savings then met from BigCommerce for the client when they’re on just the SaaS platform,
Brent Bellm: When you’re on SaaS a large portion of your software hosting and everything is included in one price.
Brent Bellm: You don’t have to pay separately for hosting. You don’t have to have an army of software engineers to maintain your code. You don’t have to worry about security and bug fixing. It’s all included. That starts for as little as $30 a month, and believe it or not on BigCommerce, if you go start a store for $30 a month, you’re running on the exact same platform that Proctor and Gamble is and all of our largest and some of the biggest companies in the world they’re running on the exact same platform.
Brent Bellm: We’re maintaining hosting, constantly improving performance, speed each and every day. Our agency partners who are familiar with on-premise software in particular Magento often tell us that total cost of ownership of BigCommerce versus on-premise software can be anywhere from a 50% lower to 80% lower, depending on the nature of the customer.
Brent Bellm: And the complexity of their site. So it’s a dramatic saving. I’ve always believed that this was the best solution for most companies who are, if you’re a retailer or a brand, you’re usually not a technology company and don’t have world-class software engineers and IT professionals. I believe in this for 22 years.
Brent Bellm: In fact, in the nineties, I was a retail consultant first, starting with retail stores, physical stores, and then going to. Internet stores. And when I cut the cord on consulting and said, I’m going to now bet my career on a single concept. What is the concept? I most believe in the world of e-commerce at the end of 99, I joined a company called Escalate, which was one of the first SaaS e-commerce platforms back in the day.
Brent Bellm: I remember there being three or so others, I could name Yahoo stores. Volusion, Blue Martini. We were number four. There might’ve been a few others around the world. They didn’t even call it SaaS back then they called it ASP. But at the time, this is like 1999, 2000 companies were spending five to $10 million to cobble together the software and the infrastructure and the hosting for their stores.
Brent Bellm: And Escalate came along and said, we’ll do that for you, but only charge you 6% of your sales. But that scales and you don’t have all the upfront costs. Incredible idea before it’s time. That company didn’t end up surviving and succeeding Yahoo stores and Volusion did, but they never really were able to modernize their tech stack as technology moved faster than they did.
Brent Bellm: But today I came back into BigCommerce and into this industry in 2015 with a total conviction that in the year 2015, it’s fundamentally broken if on-premise software, no matter how good. And I knew how good Magento was because I partnered with them when I was at PayPal. My boss ended up buying them into eBay.
Brent Bellm: I was part of that evaluation in 2010. So I saw Magento taking off. I had all the respect in the world for what a great platform it was, but it was on-premise software. It burdened companies with having to license their software, then customize it, maintain it, secure it, host it. And most companies can’t do that well.
Brent Bellm: They certainly don’t like the versioning and the upgrading. And I said it is high time that a SaaS platform was really the solution for the world’s complex businesses. We’d already grown to number two in the world for serving small business. Shopify was number one, they had a five-year headstart on us.
Brent Bellm: And in 2015, I said we’re not going to catch them. We can’t overcome their five-year headstart. They’ve already IPO. We have not yet. So we’re going to do something they’re not doing and nobody else is doing something that’s new to the world. We’re going to create what we call open SaaS. We’re going to take a SaaS platform and open up every component and turn it into little microservices, catalog and checkout tax service, everything with our own API layer and SDK, so that the world’s complex businesses.
Brent Bellm: Can customize can modify can extend when they don’t like our native functionality use partner functionality. We’re going to try to make SaaS as open and comparable to open source and on-premise as possible. And so that is our mission. It’s been that for seven years bringing enterprise level openness and enterprise level functionality to a SaaS platform.
Brent Bellm: So that the world’s businesses can really optimize for whatever complexity or uniqueness they have, that’s our vision for what BigCommerce is doing differently than any other company. It’s religion for me. I think it’s what a big portion of the world’s companies need when they embark on the best path of e-commerce.
Brent Peterson: I liked the concept open SaaS, maybe talk about some differentiators, especially around the checkout and the payment section, BigCommerce does offer a lot of savings as well in that area. And maybe against some of the competitors, what are they doing in checkout and what can’t you do?
Brent Peterson: Yeah. On some of the other platforms,
Brent Bellm: When I came into BigCommerce Shopify was already offering Shopify payments and more or less shoving it down the throats of their merchants. If you’re a small business, you can either use Shopify payments, their proprietary solution. Or if you want to use someone else, you better hope they’re integrated because that’s up to Shopify.
Brent Bellm: And if you do, they surcharge you an extra 2% of all your sales. Now I come from a payments background too. I was doing internet payment gateways in the nineties. I was eight years at PayPal. I helped create express checkout and build their whole merchant services business I ran PayPal Europe. For four years, I ran global product at PayPal.
Brent Bellm: I know payments. And one of the things I know best is that there is no such thing as one size fits all in payments. The needs of a business in Mexico , I was there last week, are completely different when it comes to payments and the needs of one in the United States or Canada and a solution built by Shopify a white labeled solution for north America.
Brent Bellm: Sorry. United States and Canada is not going to work in Mexico. Let alone pick any other country around the world. It’s not going to work in B2B, but even for Plain Jane credit card processing, there’s real differentiation between a Stripe between a Braintree between CyberSource and Authorize.net.
Brent Bellm: Chase GoTo Europe, Adyen, Checkout.com. All of these companies do something different and special. It’s not one size fits all. And so rather than in the pursuit of trying to take as much money from our customers as we can, which, what happened if we had a proprietary payment solution, our strategy is the opposite.
Brent Bellm: We go to each of these phenomenal payments players, and we say, let’s partner, let’s get you the single best integration into BigCommerce that you have with any platform in the world. So that if ever a business goes to you and says, Hey, we like your payments. Which platform can we best take advantage of it on, we want that to be BigCommerce.
Brent Bellm: I believe that statement is true for PayPal and Braintree for Stripe, for Chase, for Adyen, you go on down the list. We give customers choice and we don’t surcharge them if they don’t use our own proprietary product, because we don’t have a proprietary product. We believe the specialists in payments are far better.
Brent Bellm: And especially with their diversity of solutions then we would be, and that Shopify is by the way, if you want to know how you benefit from this, it’s very straightforward. Just go to pricing on Shopify and compare that to pricing on BigCommerce. And you will see that you save a lot of money at all at the exact same size of merchant at every tier, you’re saving a substantial amount of money using our payments players because our payments players compete against each other.
Brent Bellm: Whereas Shopify says use us, or, and we’ll charge you more at every level. And if you don’t like it, we’ll surcharge you 2% to use somebody else. Now let’s go to checkout. So if Shopify is making let’s call it 2.9% off a small business. When they process the payments if they don’t use Shopify, they want to charge them the 2% surcharge.
Brent Bellm: That means they have to control the checkout to know how much GMV, how much in sales of businesses getting so they can charge them that 2%. That is a core piece of the rationale around why at Shopify third-party checkouts are disallowed. You have to use Shopify checkout. They used to have third-party checkouts built by Bold, built by Bolt, different companies, D versus T fast.
Brent Bellm: Or merchant specific ones and they said, no, we don’t allow those any longer because we need to know every single piece of data, every single sale. Cause we’re going to charge you 2% if you’re not processing the payments through us. Okay. That’s how they make money. And they’re really good at making money.
Brent Bellm: We, on the other hand, believe in our concept of open, which is that we do our best to make the best built-in checkout that we can. But if you need to modify that checkout, you can do that. You can download the actual source code. I don’t think this is possible. Any other SaaS platform you can download the source code that powers every single pixel in the BigCommerce checkout, modify it, re upload it.
Brent Bellm: Now you’ve got a custom checkout running on BigCommerce that you’ve modified that this still maintains PCI compliance. That’s pretty cool. You can also use a third-party checkout. We support proudly Bold and Bolt. And Fast and anybody else who creates a custom checkout, we support checkouts that are different other countries around the world.
Brent Bellm: You can have your own proprietary checkout. You can have a checkout modified for B2B and all the various B2B payment methods. We support that type of openness because businesses are complex businesses need to optimize for their geography and their customer and their use cases. And what we specialize in is instead of a one size fits all playbook, open SaaS, flexibility, the power to let a complex business optimize for its complexity. And win that way.