Ecommerce was booming this year, with more businesses and shoppers than ever turning to websites and apps as a safer, socially distant alternative during the current global health pandemic. Today, a startup that built a platform to help individual companies and brands create better websites announced a round of growth funding to meet that challenge with faster, better-designed interfaces.
Shogun, which allows companies to build websites that build on ecommerce backends like Shopify, Big Commerce, or Magento to sell goods and services, today announces it has $ 182 million in funding as their business grows raised 182% last year, with 15,000 companies – including Leesa, MVMT, Timbuk2, Chubbies, and K Swiss, as well as Fortune 500 household brands whose names are no longer mentioned – using Shogun's now Tools, up to 5,000 in the past eight months.
Finbarr Taylor, the CEO who co-founded the company with Nick Raushenbush, said the startup plans to use the company to further improve its two main products – Page Builder for larger companies and agencies; and Frontend, a headless commerce solution for smaller businesses that offers faster page load times – and helps improve market strategy.
So far, much of the company's growth has been organic, with a marketing team of two and only two salespeople. "So it will be about growing these teams, as well as our engineering, design and product teams, to deliver on the promises we have made to our customers," said Taylor.
Series B is led by Accel with the participation of Initialized Capital, VMG Partners and Y Combinator. The round also has a number of high profile people speaking for Shogun's credibility in e-commerce and web design. The list includes Bryant Chou (CTO at Webflow), Mark Lavelle and Mark Lenhard (former CEO and SVP of Strategy at Magento, respectively), Alex O & # 39; Byrne (CEO of We Make Websites, a leading Shopify agency), Brian Grady (CEO) of Gorilla Group, a leading Magento agency) and Romain Lapeyre (CEO of Gorgias).
Growth is an indicator of how hot the market is for what Shogun is doing. In addition to Shogun's own growing roster of users, the company estimates (citing figures from Adobe) that it has had approximately $ 94 billion in additional global revenue since March (above original projections).
Another marker is the funding itself. This is the second round the startup launched in eight months: Shogun completed a $ 10 million Series A in February of this year, led by Initialized (below Participation of YC and VMG).
And a third marker is valuation. Taylor said the company is rated in the "solid nine numbers" but declined to say where in the hundreds of millions of dollars that could be. In some cases, the company was valued at $ 50 million in February, according to PitchBook.
Shogun's news comes at a pivotal time in the world of e-commerce, not just in terms of general macroeconomic trends, but who's putting the wheels in motion.
Amazon and other marketplaces now dominate how many people shop online: after all, they offer one-stop shops for anything you want or need, free shipping, and a familiar user interface. Similarly, social media platforms have created something of a new “business,” a place where brands are already interacting with prospects and now given the tools to sell them.
That doesn't tell the whole story, though: Brands and companies want their own space to present things the way they should look, to better control the customer experience, and to ensure that they are not obligated to third parties (both physically and financially) for their online survival.
Yes, some consumers may just be interested in where to get what they want at the cheapest price, others know exactly what they want, or feel loyal to a particular company and want to shop there without the rest of the noise always be a business opportunity for them to build business.
And the predictability of the user interface of a marketplace like Amazon or a “shoppable” photo on Instagram suggests how frustratingly weird it can be at times. I don't want to see 15 different Danish whisks at slightly different prices. I just want one that arrives in one piece and won't break after a month and takes me down a rabbit hole to find someone to offer a refund. Likewise, I might want to buy from a brand, but maybe not the specific item they are offering me in a story or pin.
Shogun's suggestion to the companies it works with is to give them more choice and speed after making the decision to create their own "real estate" online using backends like Shopify.
The chance is that even if an e-commerce business is viewed as a "tech" game, it is not often its core competency.
"Retailers large and small are fed up with maintaining their own tech stacks," said Ethan Choi, partner at Accel. While the platforms are becoming more sophisticated with the shift to areas like shipping and logistics alongside payments and order orders, etc., they still have to extend to web design.
“Shopify only has 15 templates,” he said. "There's no design control and you look like one of a million other websites." If you have the resources and the energy to create a custom website, he added, "It's expensive and it can take a day to change just one piece of text."
Speed is an issue that Shogun identified and addressed in another way: Taylor says website speed is the most important consideration in converting a browser into a buyer, giving customers the fastest page load times.
As with so many startup stories, Taylor and Raushenbush stumbled upon their niche in the market by chance.
The couple worked at Y Combinator – Taylor, an engineer from Glasgow, Scotland, had developed tools for YC to manage the huge inbound volume of applications it received for its incubator. (Side note: One offshoot of that was the Startup School, which the company set up to better approach work with startups at the regional level: Taylor built that.)
As a side project, he and Nick had developed a page builder based on Ruby on Rails. It didn't get much resonance, but a friend of Nick's who worked for an ecommerce agency said if the two of them could optimize it specifically for building ecommerce sites, his agency would use it, and they would, too pay.
"So we did," he said.
That eventually started with more customers and more usage, which led them to eventually switch to the other side of the company, become part of a YC cohort, and eventually start their own business.
Looking ahead, a particular focus for Shogun will be to develop more tools to improve mobile commerce, according to Taylor. Typically, mobile devices make up 80% of all ecommerce browsing, but only about 20% of sales.