Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Bigcommerce Mixes Business with Pleasure

By Stacy Alexander Evans
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

company_culture 1-1A recruiting event that features a cover band playing ’80’s era glam, staff avatars swiped from the Street Fighter video game, leadership who are not shy about proclaiming their love of beer: clearly the Bigcommerce team knows how to have a good time, yet their revelry is wrapped inside a crisp, clean package.

Co-founder Mitchell Harper, a native of Australia, lays it on the line: “We wanted to make all of our office locations accommodating, fun and innovative,” he says “so people didn’t feel like they “had” to come to work, but rather, that they wanted to come to work.”

This playful attitude has become synonymous with startup culture, but for Harper and his partner Eddie Machaalani—who founded the company together in Sydney in 2004 and opened their Austin office in 2009 after a name change from Interspire to Bigcommerce—their passion and enthusiasm is grounded in their mutual devotion to small businesses.

Simply put, Bigcommerce is a one-stop shop for small business: a veritable mashup of self-service tools for web design, ecommerce and marketing, but with more DIY customization options than many of the stand-alone products.

Air Plant Worlds is one Austin business that’s had some success with the Bigcommerce platform, and cofounders Leila Nazari and Sean Findley are a startup success story all their own. They launched at the end of last year, and for the month of December—just six weeks after going live—they had over 3,000 unique visitors to their site and 12,000 page views, quite a feat for a new concept featuring the artful presentation of soil-free plants in glass and wooden containers.

According to Findley, Bigcommerce outshone its competitors in the realm of expandability. “We were looking for something that would be easy enough to use in the beginning, at launch, but still be powerful enough to where it could grow with us.” In addition, Nazari says you just can’t beat the streamlined capabilities of a single provider. “Before you had to have a bunch of different accounts and go to all these different places to do different things, but Bigcommerce puts all of those things in the bag all together.”

Harper says Air Plant Worlds is a great example of what can be done with the Bigcommerce tool kit, claiming “it does make it really easy to build a beautiful online store exactly like theirs in a matter of hours.”

According to this cofounder, with his company’s tools, a client’s ingenuity knows no bounds. “This is a delicate product, but by displaying a ‘shipping made easy’ banner in bright orange on every page,” says Harper, “they proactively address a concern many online consumers may have. In addition to telling shoppers what to expect and the savings they can receive, it also links to the site’s shipping and returns policy so there are no questions left unanswered.”

In addition to this client-centered business model, Harper says he also owes his success to a solid relationship with his cofounder, Machaalani.

As evidenced by the existence of Techman-About-Town Damon Clinkscales’ cofounder matchup service Founder Dating, choosing the right cofounder is not unlike choosing a mate, with the stakes being just as high. Harper agrees.

“In my view, you don’t want to get either of these wrong,” says the man from down under, “I’m sure divorce is just as hard as parting ways with a cofounder. We were both lucky in that we seemed to stumble upon each other by chance and got along from day one.” He takes this notion of fostering relationships one step further by saying it doesn’t hurt that their wives are friends. “We’ve got their support when we need to focus on the business for extended periods of time,” says Harper, “such as when we’re raising capital or spending time on the road for public relations.”

Through it all, a common link can be found—relationships. Bigcommerce makes client relationships abroad as important as those closer to home. To this end, mixing business with pleasure becomes much more than a game of ping-pong in the office.

As Brad Feld, managing director at the Foundry Group famously said, “You can’t motivate people, you can only create a context in which people are motivated.”

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