Very few entrepreneurs quit their day job outright when they launch a new business version: they're often trying to make things work after business hours until they hit the tipping point where it's "safe" to go things on their own. That means the technology they use to build their initial business needs to be simple (yet professional) and (everyone's favorite adjective) cost-effective.
That's the crowd that e-commerce service provider Weebly, a San Francisco-based startup funded by the likes of Sequoia Capital, Baseline Ventures, Ron Conway and Y Combinator, is seeking to attract. The company got its start as a Web site hosting and building option for small businesses, but now it is behind more than 30,000 active online stores that generate roughly $13 million in monthly revenue.
"One of our more interesting data points is that 60 percent of our customers consider themselves entrepreneurs," said David Rusenko, co-founder and CEO of Weebly.
One of the company's biggest differentiators is mobile support: not just in helping shoppers complete transactions using smartphones or tablets, but in making it simpler for store owners to keep content updated, track inventory or check order status. (The screenshot to the right shows the mobile version for one of Weebly's customers, TheWhiskeyBall.com.)
Here are some of the other notable features:
- The ability to create a store using a mobile app that works with both Apple iOS or Android. Changes can also be made from this app.
- A filtered search feature that helps store owners highlight certain products.
- Integrated shopping cart technology that works with payment services from Stripe, Authorize.net and PayPal.
- The ability to support sales of digital services or products that need to be downloaded by customers.
- Support for receiving international payments, as well as arranging shipping for orders outside the United States.
"We're trying to take a process that can very complicated and very expensive," Rusenko said. "Our hope is that many small merchants get started on it."
Caesar Chu, creator of The Original Whiskey Ball (a way of keeping the drink cold without melting ice diluting it), uses Weebly to manage his business several hours each day after he gets home from his day job at a large technology company. It took him about 30 minutes to create the full-fledged Web site (pictured below), and he describes the platform as far simpler than many of the other e-commerce services targeted at small businesses and retailers.
His product line is rather limited: there are just a couple of variations, but his business is now importing about 10,000 units in a given month. Because Chu manages his site in any spare moment he can find, he uses the mobile app often to check statistics and orders. "It was really crucial that I find something to streamline my processes," he said.
The premium version of Weebly eCommerce is $29 per month for unlimited products. (There's a free edition, but it's limited to five products.)
Even though the company is focused on entrepreneurs, Weebly can support some pretty serious traffic: approximately 140 million people are visiting sites hosted on the platform every month.