A Q&A with Ecwid CEO Ruslan Fazlyev. The startup is a spinoff of Ulyanovsk, Russia–based Qualiteam Software, which was founded in 2001. Ecwid launched in September of 2009.
SUB: Please describe what Ecwid is, and the value proposition you bring to ecommerce.
Fazlyev: Ecwid is an instant store builder that easily adds an online store to any website, blog or social network page. Our widget works with existing sites, takes less than five minutes to set up, and allows users to sell on the web, Facebook and on mobile devices.
SUB: What are your target markets?
Fazlyev: We’re targeted primarily at small- to medium-sized businesses and web studios, which can sell though to our end-users. Ecwid is free to users with fewer than 100 products, with monthly plans for stores larger than 100 products starting at $17.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Fazlyev: Competitors include Payvment on Facebook and Shopify—not a widget, i.e. can’t be embedded into an existing site.
SUB: What differentiates Ecwid from the competition?
Fazlyev: Ecwid is the world’s first and only 100 percent AJAX store builder. It creates the store right on your website or social networking page, seamlessly integrating with the existing design, in just five minutes. It’s as easy as embedding a YouTube video.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Fazlyev: Ecwid was officially launched in September 2009, but our team has specialized in creating online stores since 2000 when we created X-Cart, the first mass PHP store builder software. In that ten years, the web changed tremendously, so the need for an easy-to-use, drop-in store builder became apparent to us, and Ecwid was born.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Ecwid? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Fazlyev: Throughout our 10 years with X-Cart we faced the same type of customers: they had a website, and they wanted to add ecommerce to it. What we had to do with X-Cart, and what is needed with any type of competing solution, is to take the ecommerce platform and make it look like the existing site, so it fits the overall design. We decided to take this step away, building the world’s first ecommerce widget capable of creating full online store functionality within any existing site.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Fazlyev: Our first startup, X-Cart, was the first PHP ecommerce platform. We did not have to think about messaging. We did not have to think about marketing. People desperately needed our product, so our company has easily grown from three folks to over 100 employees—with no funding.
It was all out of a small provincial Russian town of Ulyanovsk, in a middle of snowy nowhere. I’ve met the first client personally only after our company was already five years on market.
But with Ecwid, our second startup, it was different and way more difficult. There are hundreds of companies providing online store builder solutions now. And our message is heavily leveraged by the market to the point when customers do not believe “online shop on your site in five minutes” to be possible. Every competitor says “in five minutes”, “instantly”, etc. But all of this applies to creating a website on a separate domain name and with different design. “One more month to make it look like the rest of your site” is a message in fine print. But Ecwid can start working seamlessly with your existing site and design, in minutes, no tech knowledge needed, free of charge. This comes as a surprise—customers don’t expect this to happen until they try (Ecwid customer testimonials: www.twitter.com/ecwid/favorites).
SUB: You recently raised $1.5 million (U.S.) in Series A funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Fazlyev: With over 40 percent of our customers in the United States, Ecwid will use a portion of its funding to open its first U.S. office in Mountain View, California in early 2012, with the goal of growing sales to small business owners and web studios through channel partnerships. Ecwid’s first U.K. office will also open at that time in London.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Fazlyev: We were profitable prior to the round and don’t think that we’ll need another one. We do have VC companies queuing for the next round, and we don’t mind considering relationships with them. We are unsure at this point.
SUB: What are your goals for Ecwid over the next year or so?
Fazlyev: We’ll improve our social commerce features on the SMB side, and on the channel partnership side we will provide embedded ecommerce functionality to all top website builder solutions.
Ecwid – www.ecwid.com