Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Starting an ecommerce business on one of the major marketplaces, e.g. Shopify, can be a simple process, but what Swell’s team started to notice was that the model could only bring a business until now.

Swell works in “headless” commerce, meaning it decouples the front-end of a website, aka the storefront, from the back-end, where all the data lives, to create a better shopping experience and keep everything on the back. end can be updated and maintained without disrupting the front end.

The remote-first company offers APIs, storefronts, and a dashboard, all tools that can grow with any business. The first version of Swell was a pure API for developers, but it didn’t allow businesses to get up and running quickly, so companies turned to marketplaces like Shopify, CEO Eric Ingram told BestFitnessBands.

“The key is to get started quickly, which Shopify is great at, but you realize you’re stuck if you try to do more than the basic model,” Ingram said. “We needed to build something that was as simple as Shopify, but you could grow with. Most people can’t afford to build their own backend, so we also wanted to provide something that people can do without spending millions of dollars.”

Swell was an idea Ingram had about ten years ago that grew out of his experience at e-commerce company Digital River and then setting up a few of his own businesses, including a clothing company. He and his team took off in 2021, raising $3.4 million in a seed round.

Nearly a year later, the company is back with $20 million in Series A financing led by VMG Catalyst and Headline, with participation from Bonfire Ventures, Willow Growth, Commerce Ventures and Red Antler. Individual investors include Attentive CEO Brian Long, Gorgias CEO Romain Lapeyre, Remote First Capital and former CTO of Product Hunt Andreas Klinger, CEO Domm Holland and Warby Parker’s Brian Magida.

The opportunity for additional funding was somewhat unexpected, Ingram said, but he feels that Swell’s focus on small and medium businesses, while building an ecosystem and community, separates it from competitors like Commercetools and Fabric targeting larger businesses.

To swell

Swell’s founding team, from left, Dave Loneragan, Eric Ingram, Stefan Kende, Mark Regal and Joshua Voydik. Image Credits: To swell

“To solve the problem, it needs to be something that is accessible to everyone, rather than just big companies with big budgets,” Ingram added. “Some platforms are only good at one thing, but there are hundreds of other models.”

In the past year, Swell grew in revenue fivefold and grew its customer base to more than 1,000 by the end of 2021 after starting the year with 30 customers. It also created a free community plan, where customers start paying when they start selling, matching the standard and enterprise options.

Ingram expects to use the new funding to grow the team from 30 to 100 Swell over the next 12 months and in product development, including building an app ecosystem. Plans include building a framework for third parties to build the apps and also for customers to back-own their own data and do more with it, something that is difficult for companies building on marketplaces, he said.

“A core feature is a configurable database that can be adapted to new usage scenarios,” he added. “The market is moving fast with integrations and app building and the community will need 10 times more people to reach the next level.”

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