COMMERCISM Comrade Q&A: Part 2 With Shopify’s Chief Platform Officer

Jess Erickson

May 07, 2015

500 Startups has always been bullish about online commerce, despite economic fluctuations. The future of commerce is not in traditional brick & mortar stores, but in the innovative online plays from companies like ModCloth, Polyvore and Shopify.

 Shopify’s Chief Platform Officer, Harley Finkelstein, will be speaking at our upcoming COMMERCISM conference, so we asked him to share some lessons he’s learned as a serial entrepreneur + his thoughts on the future of commerce.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since founding your startup or starting your career in the eCommerce space?

A. Test and test and test and test. I think that persistence is really important in business, but in the ecommerce retail space, you have an opportunity to try something and see if it works and pivot from there – I think that’s the biggest lesson. In a traditional brick and mortar business, you can’t really try something to see if it works and then rip it all down if it doesn’t and try again; it’s just too expensive. But the digital world lends itself well to a culture of experimentation, and I think that’s really important.

Q. Who else in the industry should be on our watch list, in terms of innovation & growth?

A. I think the entire retail industry is being democratized right now. Every pillar of retail is changing, from fundraising to prototyping to the actual shopping cart. You’re seeing Kickstarter and crowdfunding platforms democratizing funding, and making it really easy to raise money. You’re seeing 3D printing making it so simple to create prototypes and samples. You’re seeing companies like Shopify making it really easy to create a store and begin selling in a matter of minutes. I think that there’s not just one company to look at, because the industry in general is going through this incredible revolution. It’s important to keep your eyes peeled.

Q.  What is the the future of eCommerce & why?

A. Everywhere. There are these rumours in the industry that e-commerce is going to kill offline commerce, and it’s online versus offline. You have companies like Best Buy saying that during last year’s holiday season, online did amazing but offline didn’t do so well. I don’t think the future of retail is one or the other. I think the future of retail is commerce everywhere. It’s all about consumer choice. Retailers and merchants need to be ready to transact any way the consumer feels most comfortable.

Want more e-commerce insights? Check out blog post #1 with Wanelo CEO Deena Varshavskaya.

Who else is leading the charge at COMMERCISM? Check out our complete speaker lineup, and join the revolution on 3-21-2014. Can’t make the conference? Be sure to tune into the Livestream here at 500.co.

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