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GC AMPLIFIED

BigCommerce and the Evolution of Online Retail

  • August 5, 2020
  • by Larry Bohn

The well-worn phrase “this is a marathon, not a sprint” could not fit a sector better than it does ecommerce. While it may feel that we’ve seen a large-scale consumer shift to online shopping, this decades-long transition is far from complete. From the first secure ecommerce sale on the internet in 1994 — a compact disc of the pop artist Sting — until now, more than 25 years on, just 10% of global retail spending has migrated online. More is coming. 

Ecommerce Goes Mainstream
In 1995, Amazon and eBay entered the market creating an entirely new consumer shopping experience. Yahoo launched an ecommerce platform, later called Yahoo Stores, to help small, forward-thinking merchants get online while companies like ATG, Intershop, and Blue Martini serviced larger retailers in their move to capture the digital consumer. Thus began a broad expansion of retail into new online buying experiences. But, that transformation came with a hefty price tag for the early adopter retailers building on these nascent platforms. 

Cloud services changed the market for commerce software dramatically. Companies like Demandware (a GC company) at the enterprise level and Shopify with SMBs delivered dramatic cost and time-to-market advantage for retailers who did not want to “own” their software infrastructure. Meanwhile a company called Magento became the dominant “build it yourself” software platform, appealing to both B2B and B2C midmarket retailers due, in part, to being the first major offering with the flexibility of an open source approach. 

Concurrently, a wide range of marketing services like Hubspot, an early GC investment, came to fruition to help retailers not just build commerce sites but find, acquire, and better monetize customers through content and experience optimization. Another wave of ecommerce innovation hit mobile apps, dramatically extending the size and accessibility of the ecommerce retail platform.

As ecommerce began to mature as a retail platform, some of the legacy technology platforms were beginning to show their age. They were expensive to own and operate and retailers were looking for easier, less expensive solutions that came with more flexibility and robust analytics. While Demandware dominated the top of the market at the enterprise scale and Shopify was bringing Main Street shops online, mid-market retailers were hungry for new solutions tailored to their size of business.

BigCommerce Debuts
BigCommerce, a company with Australian roots founded by two developers, Eddie Machaalani and Mitch Harper, debuted their cloud-based shopping cart technology in 2009. They bootstrapped the company for a couple of years while building an innovative service for a global retail market. The team subsequently opened an office in Austin and in 2011, GC had the opportunity to lead the BigCommerce Series A financing round. What’s been built since with BigCommerce is nothing short of extraordinary.

Today, the company is led by CEO Brent Bellm who joined with experience from both PayPal and HomeAway. The team has built a robust cloud-based ecommerce platform that hits on exactly what the mid-market and beyond require: a combination of cost-effective cloud solutions paired with flexibility with an open source architecture. Layering on top of that open architecture is a wide ecosystem of partners in payments, shipping, and marketing services that can offer their customers a vast range of capabilities. 

This approach has also enabled BigCommerce to become a leader in what has been termed the “omnichannel revolution,” where retailers want seamless integration between brick & mortar, online, and channel sales where brands can build bespoke sites that also integrate with Amazon, eBay, Facebook and other sites that have become major and indispensable channels. As the company expands its capabilities and ecosystem, we believe it is ideally positioned to capture much of the ongoing growth of omnichannel ecommerce for both B2B and direct to consumer companies. And we’re especially excited about the opportunities created as the worldwide market catches up to US retailers. 

BigCommerce benefits from an impressive executive team who, under Brent’s leadership, are united in their belief that the opportunities at BigCommerce are limitless. We couldn’t be happier for them and what they’ve accomplished. We hope today’s IPO is a validation of the hard work done to date and inspiration for what’s yet to come. Congratulations, BigCommerce!

Larry Bohn & Team GC

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