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Building a Global Software Company From Australia: Bigcommerce Co-Founder Mitch Harper (Part 1)

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 30th 2014

We seldom see global software companies emerge out of Australia. Bigcommerce is a rare exception.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with the beginning of your personal story. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What’s the back story of BigCommerce?

Mitch Harper: I was born and raised in Sydney in Australia. Bigcommerce was also born in Sydney five years back in 2009 when I was about 27 years old.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do before starting Bigcommerce? What did you do for education? What was the journey before Bigcommerce?

Mitch Harper: When I was about 12, I taught myself how to program and started building games and programs. That really sparked the initial curiosity of building software and understanding technology and design. When I was about 17, I built my website that taught other people how to program. I built that out over a few years and eventually sold that when I was about 20. That’s my first startup.

After that, I met Eddie who’s currently my co-founder at Bigcommerce. Prior to that in 2003, we had started another business called Interspire. We ran that until about 2008. Essentially, we built software that helped businesses grow and manage their customers. We built an email marketing tool, a knowledge base, and support desk. This was before SaaS was popular when Software was still delivered on-premise. You’d install that on your own web server and run it yourself. The business was built before Bigcommerce. We grew that to about 50,000 customers.

Sramana Mitra: 50,000 in Australia or globally?

Mitch Harper: Worldwide, primarily in North America.

Sramana Mitra: So you were selling it on the Internet and people would buy it and download it from the Internet?

Mitch Harper: Exactly. We had a small team of six, mainly engineers, running that business. Back then, just because of the Internet and Google AdWords, you could acquire a customer by spending $2. Obviously, it’s a lot more expensive now but that’s how we grew that business by completely bootstrapping. We grew that to about $6 million or $7 million per year with just a small team of eight people in Sydney.

Sramana Mitra: Wow! What did you do with that business?

Mitch Harper: We essentially took one of the products, which was a shopping cart product, and spun that out to become Bigcommerce.

Sramana Mitra: What happened to the rest of the product portfolio and revenues? What did you do with the company?

Mitch Harper: Over time, we discontinued all of the products.

Sramana Mitra: You just took the money that you made from that and split it between yourselves, and focused on Bigcommerce?

Mitch Harper: We actually invested all of the money in Bigcommerce. As we started discontinuing the product, Bigcommerce revenue was growing. So we had more confidence to start discontinuing the other products faster.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building a Global Software Company From Australia: Bigcommerce Co-Founder Mitch Harper
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