Starting an e-commerce business on one of the major marketplaces, for example, Shopify, can be an easy process, but the team at great wave Began to notice that the model so far could only take one business.
Swell is working in “headless” commerce, which means it’s disconnecting a website’s front end, aka storefront, from the back end, where all the data resides, to create a better shopping experience and So that whatever is behind the end the end can be updated and maintained without disturbing the front end.
The remote-first company provides APIs, a storefront, and a dashboard, all tools that any size company can develop with. The first version of Swell was a pure API for developers, but it wasn’t enabling businesses to get up and running quickly, so businesses were turning to marketplaces like Shopify, CEO Eric Ingram told Nerdshala.
“The key is getting started quickly, in which Shopify is awesome, but you realize you get stuck when you try to do more than the basic model,” Ingram said. “We needed to build something that was as simple as Shopify, but enabled you to grow. Most people can’t afford to build their own back end, so we also want to provide something that people can do without spending millions of dollars.”
Swell was an idea that Ingram stemmed from his experience at e-commerce company Digital River nearly a decade ago and then built some of his own businesses, including a clothing company. He and his team got things off the ground in 2021 by raising $3.4 million in a seed round.
Nearly a year later, the company is back again with $20 million in Series A funding 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 LaPere, RemoteFirst Capital and Product Hunt’s former CTO Andreas Klinger, Fast.Co CEO Dom Holland and Warby Parker’s Brian Magida.
According to Ingram, the additional funding opportunity was somewhat unexpected, but he thinks Swell’s focus on small- and mid-market companies, while building an ecosystem and community, sets it apart from competitors like CommerceTools and Fabric. Which are targeting large companies.
“To solve the problem, there needs to be something accessible to everyone, rather than big companies with big budgets,” Ingram said. “Some platforms are only good at one thing, but there are hundreds of other models out there.”
In the past year, Swell grew revenue five-fold and expanded its customer base to over 1,000 at the end of 2021 after starting the year with 30 customers. It also created a free community plan, where customers start paying as soon as sales start to go with the standard and enterprise options.
Ingram expects to use the new funding to grow Swell’s team from 30 to 100 over the next 12 months, and in product development, including building out the app ecosystem. He said the plans include creating a framework for third parties to build apps and for customers to be able to own their own data on the back end and do more with it, which is something that’s on the market. It’s tough for businesses that do manufacturing, he said.
“A key feature will be a configurable database that can adapt to new use cases,” he said. “The market is moving fast with integration and building apps and the community will need 10 times more people to get to the next level.”