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Building a Global Software Company From Australia: Bigcommerce Co-Founder Mitch Harper (Part 2)

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 1st 2014

Sramana Mitra: Is it the same team that you had in Sydney that got Bigcommerce off the ground?

Mitch Harper: Not really. As I had mentioned, I used to be an engineer and built the first version along with Chris who was one of our early employees from that initial team. He’s still with us today leading a team here in Sydney.

Sramana Mitra: Was Eddie also involved in Bigcommerce? What was his progression in this story?

Mitch Harper: Eddie and I started Interspire together. We’ve been working together since 2003, for about 11 years now. We’re both co-founders and up until recently, co-CEOs of the business. We’re still involved. All the way from the Interspire days up until now, it’s been Eddie and I.

Sramana Mitra: Is Bigcommerce bootstrapped or did you raise financing? How did this business get built?

Mitch Harper: Initially, we were against raising venture capital because we bootstrapped our previous business so well and made it profitable so quickly that we didn’t feel the need to raise money. We thought that if in one year, we can bootstrap Bigcommerce to 10,000 customers, we will know that we’ve got something that’s real. If we can do that, we’ll shut down the Interspire products and raise some money. By the end of the first year, we had something like 9,850 paying Bigcommerce customers. We just missed our target but it was enough for us to go and raise our Series A, which was $15 million. Then we started discontinuing the old Interspire products.

Sramana Mitra: Let me get some more details about how Bigcommerce got built in the first year. 9,800 customers is a lot of customers. Bigcommerce is an e-commerce platform, right?

Mitch Harper: Right.

Sramana Mitra: How did you acquire customers? What was the customer distribution in that first 9,800? Give us a bit more color on how that first played out. What did you do to make that 9,800 customers happen?

Mitch Harper: It was a few things. I’m always big on guerilla marketing. I’ve ran marketing in our business up until we were 100 employees. I really understand product and marketing. They’re my strength and passion. Two main things helped us get to that many customers. As I was building Bigcommerce, I actually had a blog that I would update every day and show people what we were building. Every day, I’d put up a post and show screenshots and say, “Here’s the ordering page we’ve just built. What do you think?” Then people would give feedback. It was almost like a lean startup approach. That was one thing we did.

That blog got up to 15,000 visits a day. It was really popular because no one was doing what I was doing, which was posting real-time blog posts as software was being built. On that blog, we also set up a pre-order facility where you could buy the product at some 50% discount. By the time we launched, we had 2,000 people who had pre-ordered. That generated a few hundred thousand in revenue right away. Really, it was just content marketing.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Building a Global Software Company From Australia: Bigcommerce Co-Founder Mitch Harper
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