Q&A with BigCommerce co-founder and co-CEO Mitchell Harper about offering a total ecommerce package to small merchants and the company’s recent $15 million funding round

By Editor August 17, 2011

bigcommerce_logoBig Commerce is an ecommerce and online marketing platform for  small and medium sized merchants. The company’s headquarters is split between Austin, Texas and Sydney, Australia. BigCommerce was founded in 2009 and recently completed a $15 million Series A funding round.

SUB: Please briefly describe what BigCommerce is, and the value proposition you bring to ecommerce.

Harper: BigCommerce is the only ecommerce marketing platform in the world. Some offerings make it easy to setup an online store, some help you drive traffic and sales. BigCommerce is a single solution that does both. It’s fully managed by us, so you don’t need any technical knowledge and it’s as easy to use as Facebook.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?

Harper: There are varying levels of competition depending on how you define the space. We have Etsy for micro-merchants, eBay via auctions and BIN, Yahoo/Amazon/GoDaddy that offer (limited functionality) ecommerce software and also the handful of players that let you sell through specific channels such as Facebook.

SUB: What differentiates BigCommerce from your competitors (or from those who have similar offerings)?

Harper: The ease-of-use and 25 built-in marketing features. Once your store is open for business BigCommerce makes it really easy to drive traffic. You can setup a store on Facebook, push your products out to eBay automatically, create Google AdWords ads in a few clicks, optimize your store using SEO to rank in the search engines and you even get a mobile-optimized store out of the box.

SUB: How are you marketing your services?

Harper: BigCommerce has enjoyed huge word of mouth and ranks #1 in all side-by-side reviews, such as those conducted by Top10Reviews. We also invest heavily in search engine marketing, display advertising, email marketing, trade shows and direct marketing.

SUB: What was the inspiration behind BigCommerce? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea longer in developing?

Harper: We had a licensed ecommerce offering that you could install on your own servers but our clients said they wanted us to manage it for them. After thousands of requests for a hosted version, that was our “aha” moment and that’s when the idea for BigCommerce came to be.

SUB: When was BigCommerce founded, and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?

Harper: It was launched in September 2009 so it’s not even 2 years old. We focused early on building out the infrastructure to support thousands of clients as well as the payment system and then marketing and positioning around what was on offer back then. Eddie and I have been involved in marketing for 10 years now so we really understood the pain points to focus on and the demographics and psychographics of the clients we were after from day one.

SUB: You recently closed a $15 million funding round. How do you plan to use the funds?

Harper: As per the blog post, we’re focusing on product, people and marketing. Adding functionality to BigCommerce that takes it from software to a platform, building out our senior leadership team and engineering teams and also significantly increasing our marketing spend to attract more clients. Everything we’re doing leads back to our goal which is to be the leading e-commerce platform in the world for small businesses.

SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funds?

Harper: All markets–including the stock market, real estate and financing—work in cycles and at the moment capital is readily available to businesses that have demonstrated fast growth and a solution to a real problem with a large total addressable market. Over the last few years we’ve been approached by dozens of VCs but wanted to raise capital on our terms. The only way to do that was to first validate BigCommerce was successful and then grow at a rate faster than anyone else in the space so we could raise money in a manner that was favorable to Eddie and myself as founders and also to our staff and company as a whole.

SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?

Harper: It’s an option but for now we’re very well capitalized.

SUB: What have the biggest challenges been so far to building BigCommerce?

Harper: Having the company split between Austin, Texas and Sydney, Australia is a challenge, but it’s something we spend a lot of time thinking about and so far it’s been great.

SUB: Where do you see BigCommerce in about a year from now?

Harper: A lot closer to our goal of being the market leading ecommerce platform for small businesses. In a year from now we’ll more resemble a true software platform, we will have well over 100 awesome people on the team and we’ll have helped tens of thousands more small businesses achieve growth they didn’t think was possible—until they found BigCommerce.

BigCommerce – www.bigcommerce.com