Any e-commerce business has to constantly change its digital storefront to ensure accurate inventory is represented. But to launch a new product or test a homepage placement often requires the need to tap busy developers for guidance, slowing down the process.
Builder.io believes customers should be able to create the kinds of commerce experiences they want, like a drag-and-drop system, that they could plug into their tech stock without that developer support.
Today, the company announced $14 million new funding from Greylock, with participation from Imaginary Ventures and a group of angel investors, including Everlane founder and CEO Michael Preysman, Hopin CTO Anthony Kennada and Datadog COO Adam Blitzer.
Company co-founders Steve Sewell and Brent Locks saw this problem play out when they worked together building web applications at the fashion e-commerce company ShopStyle. CEO Sewell said the company was one of the first to go “headless,” meaning to separate the front-end applications from the back-end so they can be independently updated without affecting the other.
However, while updating the ShopStyle pages, they ran into a flood of non-developer requests for assistance updating and testing pages and it became overwhelming.
“We did not really think about content management at all,” Sewell told TechCrunch. “We weren't prepared for that. We had this nice API infrastructure, but didn't have a way to manage these things.”
Typically to get something like a new button on a webpage, that request might go to an engineer and be done in a month, if even prioritized at all.
To get around the timing, the marketing team would often create their own pages using other software and then integrate it into the company’s site, which slows down the website, he added.
“Code is a bottleneck for merchants, and the reality becomes that they don’t build anything new or test anything because it takes too long and is too expensive,” Sewell added.
Instead, Builder.io provides the proper web flow with a drag-and-drop visual editor and headless content management system so that marketers, product managers or designers can use existing components, or create their own, to build out the content, run the A/B tests and measure the conversions they need.
Since launching the commerce tool in 2019, the company is seeing six times year-over-year customer growth and now works with over 400 customers, including Everlane, Alo Yoga, Afterpay and Vistaprint. It also brought in Angular founder Misko Hevery as its chief technology officer.
That growth led to the company going after new funding to hire additional staff in support and sales. It launched a native integration with Shopify in 2020, and with the funding announcement, also is unveiling universal connectors so that commerce companies can integrate with any headless commerce platform or API without code changes, as well as for developers to build their own connectors to data sources.
“We want to get to the point where every person can make something easily and know how to create anything they can imagine,” Sewell said.
Mike Duboe, a partner at Greylock and a Builder board member, says he also saw this problem firsthand while working at Stitch Fix, where he was the first in-house growth hire.
One of the problems he was looking at was reducing dependencies on developers and allowing more headless operations. For every new page that someone wanted to spin up, it would go to the end of the cue. Merchants don’t often have engineers, or just a few, and any byproducts added to the site slows the speed down, Duboe added.
“Steve and Brent were living this stuff before it became the lexicon,” he said. “They are also interesting complements: Steve has the caliber of a technical leader, and recruiting the founder of Angular to be CTO has resulted in the company being a talent magnet. We invested before that happened, but he has passion and cares about performance. Brent is a leader on the product and business side, and they both have deep empathy.”