Symphony Commerce orchestrates online sales for fast-growing merchants

Fueled by another $21.5 million in venture backing, the company's touts its tight integration with inventory, logistics and marketing processes.

Diamond Candles Ecommerce SIte

There are literally dozens of technology platforms and services vying for the attention (and business) of small and midsize cybermerchants.

What differentiates Symphony Commerce's story is the company's ability to handle other processes—such as inventory management, supporting mobile transactions or automating marketing campaigns. It can even accommodate recurring sales: like subscription services that send products to frequent buyers on a regular basis.

Merchants don't pay for the integration work that it might take to move an e-commerce site to Symphony's cloud-hosted servic. Rather, they pay a percentage of sales generated by their site after it goes live, said Henry Kim, co-founder and president of the San Francisco-based company. Symphony bills this as "commerce as a service."

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"I love that this is a revenue-share partnership," said Justin Winter, co-founder and CEO of Symphony Commerce customer Diamond Candles, based in Durham, N.C. "If I lose money, they lose money." 

The "stress" point for many small e-commerce businesses comes when they reach around $1 million in annual revenue threshold. Often, that's the point at which many enterpreneurs are in danger of becoming too focused on operational concerns, Kim said.

For Diamond Candles, the turning point came in early 2012, when the candle retailer (which apparently sells more products online than the much larger Yankee Candles) reached about $4 million in annual sales. With only three full-time employees, the founders wanted the focus to remain on innovation—Diamond is the company that invented the "ring in a candle" idea, hence the name. "Operational concerns became a huge distraction," Winter said.

The company now generates close to $16 million, without having to hire oodles more employees. Winter believes migrating to Symphony and offloading logistics and other back-office duties to the technology company were instrumental in making that shift. The migration took about one week; Kim said Symphony can get new clients up and running within eight to 12 weeks, depending on how much integration work is required.

Symphony raised its $21.5 million Series B round in early September 2014, led by CRV with participation from Bain Capital Ventures and FirstMark Capital (one of the investors behind Pinterest). The company has approximately 80 customers, Kim said.