1. My talk
2. Shopify communities to follow
3. Inspirational partners to follow
4. Point of Sale information

Good morning, everyone!

I’m Andy the Founder and CEO of Zapiet. I have been a Shopify Partner for over 10 years. For those of you who don’t know Zapiet.

We specialise in all things store pickup and local delivery related for Shopify and Shopify POS. Today I’d like to share my founder story and some of the lessons I learnt along the way.

We are going to discuss;

1. How to come up with great app ideas
2. How to decide on what features to develop
3. How to effectively work with Shopify
4. How to make competitors a none issue

My story starts back in 2010 when I co-founded a successful e-commerce agency that introduced me to Shopify. We grew the business well, but the more it grew the more I felt trapped. In 2015 I decided to leave the business as I was fed up been stuck in a bog-standard office on the outskirts of a crappy town, when I knew there was a whole world to discover!

Here’s me looking miserable.

So, I sold my equity for a measly five thousand pounds.
It had been an intense couple of years and so I decided to take some time off, go travelling and think up what’s next. I ended up San Francisco.

My idea was to find a nice coffee shop and be inspired by like-minded tech bros and come up with my next great business idea! In reality I just ended up touring a bunch of dive bars, and after 10 days I was back in the UK sleeping on my Mums sofa. It turns out £5,000 doesn’t get you very far in San Francisco.

Of course, Mother wasn’t happy that I was 27 years old and jobless. So, I quickly fell back into the agency world and found myself some freelance gigs on the Shopify forums.

It was whilst browsing the forums I noticed thread of merchants frustrated that there was no store pickup solution for Shopify. I had an idea on how I could solve their problem and a couple of hours later I had pieced together some code and posted my reply.

Here’s a screenshot of that very first version.

I wasn’t expecting any responses. Yet literally within minutes I had merchants replying asking how they could get my code added to their stores as soon as possible.

I couldn’t believe it! Had I in-fact just stumbled across one of the biggest missed opportunities in the history of the App Store. Maybe I had?!

I worked for a month straight to turn the rudimentary code into a fully working app. And in January 2015, Zapiet was born!

How to come up with great app ideas

Well as I just mentioned Zapiet was created entirely from searching the Shopify forums for merchants who are having problems. So of course that’s my number one recommendation.

There are also so many Facebook and Slack groups full of merchants expressing their frustrations.

If you speak a second language for example French, Spanish or Portuguese, join their dedicated language groups and speak with merchants in their mother tongue. Every country has it’s very own set of unique problems just waiting to be solved. There are so many opportunities!

Back to my story. As excited as I was to finally have the app published it was far from an overnight success story. Whilst I had a handful of merchants install the day it launched, I still had no money, no job and nowhere to live.

Luckily one day a merchant called Simon from the forums reached out. He had been using the app for a couple of days and had some suggestions on how it could be improved. He casually mentioned that if I was ever in Montreal that I should swing by and he’d show me around.

At the time I had no idea where on earth Montreal was! But something in my gut was telling me to get off my Mums sofa and get there as quickly as possible. So that’s exactly what I did!

I arrived in Montreal mid-winter in -30 degrees without a coat! Do not recommend.

More positively I met Simon (the merchant) and we became good friends! So much so I ended up staying in Montreal for several months. Living in an apartment above one of his bricks and mortar stores.

This time was so valuable as it gave me unparalleled access into how a retail business operated. Witnessing customers coming in-store to pickup their orders that they had placed using my app was simply mind-blowing. It also made me realise how very MVP the app was. There was so much work to do!

So how to decide what features to develop?

Well, the best advice I can give is get as close to your merchants as possible!

Whilst I agree living with a merchant and having the access I did is fairly unique. But going and visiting your local retails store or hoping on a phone call with a merchant is within reach of everyone.

At Zapiet we are fanatical about documenting merchant feedback. This is all then fed into our system to help our product team prioritise what we are going to develop next.

Another suggestion would be to travel! It’s one of the most magical things you can do both personally and professionally. This year I’ve spent 3 weeks at home. The rest of my time has been spent travelling Asia and the Middle East looking for new trends and innovations that I can bring back to the West.

Finally, you can always become a merchant yourself. By dog fooding your own products you will quickly discover opportunities and room for improvement.

On this note just last week we bought this beautiful 300-year-old building in our local town to become Zapiet’s first ever experimental retail space. It’s going to allow us to test and innovate on our own products like never before.

By the time I left Montreal I had a few hundred merchants using the app, generating a few thousand dollars a month. Not game-changing money, but enough to continue my travels.

I ended up finding myself in Lisbon, Portugal. A beautiful place! Where you definitely don’t need a coat.

It was in Lisbon that I met Emili my future CMO and business partner. She was working part-time in the hostel I was staying at whilst finishing her Masters degree.

As the app continued to grow, I was working ever more crazy hours. Most of my day has been taken up with merchant support, leaving very little time to build new features and fix the issues they were reporting.

It turns out sometimes all you need is a little outside perspective. Emili suggested maybe I should hire someone to take care of the support side of things. So, that is exactly what I did!

I managed to convince one of my best friends to join the team. Welcome employee #1 Sam Forde.
It turned out this was a great move! By allowing me to focus full-time on the product, and Sam full time on support we were quickly able to reduce our churn and increase revenue.

Although not long after I hired Sam I receive an email from Shopify saying that the app was to be unpublished and banned from the App Store!

They weren’t happy with how we were manipulating the checkout.

For the OGs of you out there might remember there was once an awesome Google Analytics hack, whereby you could pretty much inject any code you wanted into the checkout.

We took advantage of this to create a more native like pickup experience for the end-customer.

I was told this kind of manipulation was only allowed for “game-changing” apps.

Of course, I strongly felt my app was indeed “game-changing” and so I argued my case. I explained how that in North America in-store pickups weren’t hugely popular yet. But in the UK and Europe they were rapidly becoming the preferred way for customers to receive their orders.

I stood my ground, and it was quickly agreed that the app was indeed game-changing, and a few days later we were back on the App Store. What a couple of days!

How to effectively work with Shopify

Whilst I can’t condone these kinds of work arounds and of course we wouldn’t do anything like this now a days. I do though highly encourage you to stand your ground and fight for what you believe in! Shopify are always open for feedback, ready to listen and do own their mistakes.

The best way I’ve found to work with them is by making personal connections with as many of their team as possible. If they can see that you honestly have the best interests of the merchants at heart, they will be reward you greatly for that.

So put on your networking shoes and seize the day!
Not long after we were relisted on the App Store, I was able to finally convince Emili join the team.

Even more amazingly I also managed to convince her to become my girlfriend.

And on Christmas Day 2018, we made our one millionth dollar. An unbelievable achievement for such a small team.

We continued working hard refining the app and grew at a nice steady pace.

Then in Jan 2020 our lives changed forever.

As the world went into lock down merchants were left were fighting to save their businesses. The only way they could continue to operate was if they were offering pickups and deliveries. Our exact expertise. We were very much in the right place at the right time.

We saw a lifetime’s worth of growth in just a matter of weeks!

We worked tirelessly to help as many merchants as we could to save their businesses. But nothing we did was enough to keep up with demand. We would work for 16-hours a day, 7 days a week for months on end and still go to sleep with over a thousand emails in our inbox.

If you think you’ve had a bad day when you get a 1-star.

How about getting 11 x 1-stars in the same-day! Well, that’s exactly what happened to us in May of that year. It was a tough day.

We had to scale our team fast! We went from 6 team to 36 in a matter of weeks and since then have continually worked as hard as possible to grow and refine our business to ensure both ourselves and our merchants we never face the same issues again.

Since the pandemic we have become the first app in our category to achieve 1,000 five-star reviews and our revenue, installs and retention has never been greater.

It’s safe to say we learnt a lot!

So that brings me to my final lesson of the day.

How to make competitors a none-issue

Well first off create a POS extension. Merchants using POS are much less likely to churn as they have had to spend time training their physical in-store staff on how to use your app. It’s not worth their time re-educating their team to save a couple of dollars per month. Since launching our POS Extension last year we’ve seen our retention skyrocket.

My second tip is to build an unbeatable team! At Zapiet I have been very fortune to work with such incredibly talented and passionate people. Unless our competitors invent a human duplication machine, they just won’t ever have the advantage or experience that we do.

Of course, retaining such a talented team can be difficult, but by creating a great working culture, compensating them well and providing clear career progression they will stay with you on your mission.

Finally, focus partnerships! Network with like-minded developers and agencies. Find ways in which your apps can help solve their customers problems. I still firmly believe that word of mouth is the best and most cost-effective way of new driving business.

So that brings us up until today.

Sam and Emili are now both seen as a global leader in their respective sectors. Both are regularly invited to talk at events and conferences around the world and are always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Whilst personally.

  • Last year I was able to complete my entire bucket list.
  • I was able to fly my entire team to Barcelona for a week’s long Mediterranean cruise as a thank you for the handwork and energy they put in to helping me build Zapiet to what it is today.
  • I met my hero, Sir Richard Branson whilst enjoying a game of beach tennis with him on his private island.
  • I was also able to re-pay my Mum for the time I spent on her sofa, by paying off her mortgage. Helping her to retire early.
  • And I finally managed to convince Emili to become my wife. And we lived happily ever after.

To summarise; with a little hard work, a bit of luck and some great friends anything is possible!

2. Shopify communities to follow

3. Inspirational partners to follow

4. Point of Sale information

Thank you so much for your time.