What the Founder of Shopify Taught Me About Product Validation

Tobi seems to be a pretty down-to-earth, casual German guy that came over to Canada when he was 21. In doing so, he needed a way to make some money, so having studied programming in his apprenticeship in Germany, he began to sell snowboards in the winter and skateboards in the summer online. He was using various e-commerce platforms, trying to find something that worked.
Why did he need to build his own online store platform? Because a lot of what existed was built for companies that already had an online presence and were just add-ons to the website. He wanted to sell something new and provide an entire website experience, not just a store add-on. He needed something for his business that didn’t exist at all – something that was “easy” to get started.
He also had to dig up $20,000 to get things started when he was launching. Realizing this wouldn’t be possible for most businesses, he needed to develop something that included hosting and all of the extra little things a small businesses didn’t know about. People kept asking him to replicate the same thing for them and Shopify was born.
That’s about as much as he talked about Shopify.
The reason I enjoyed his interview so much was NOT because Mike Rezendes, the interviewer, mentioned his “limo driver” seven times, but because Tobi seemed a little miffed at the idea of the entrepreneur getting the shaft in the building of their dream. Yes! I agree! Hence the reason I’m starting to build an entire segment of our business around mentoring entrepreneurs in the world of branding and marketing.
Every 60 seconds, someone gets their first sale on Shopify. That’s the start to someone out there saying, “I need what you have to offer.” It’s validation for that business owner. Just a little at least. Think about it. When that person’s product or service is purchased over and over, it reenforces something. As a result, more people are hired and the economy grows.
When we purchase something, we are making a statement that we support everything that company stands for.

Now, the big question. How do we enable entrepreneurs?

Tobi said, “We don’t need 10 more companies with 50,000 employees. We need 50,000 companies with 10 employees. We need 50,000 different companies pushing the limits and creating new ideas.”
Small businesses encompass 99.7% of firms with paid employees.
From 2014-2017 small businesses accounted for 65.9% of net new job creation in the period.
I was in the audience for this interview at Inbound, and it’s interesting that all of this is being said at a conference put on by HubSpot. The reason why is because HubSpot will tell you they are there for the little guy. They are here for help you from the start up phase all the way to going public.
I think that’s a load of you know what. HubSpot is not a tool for the micro business. Sure, they have tools that can help small businesses, but there is nothing they are doing that can’t be done with another tool for much less money.
I know this is a bit of a tangent, but it just made me think. Let’s stay in our lane early when it comes to being the saviors of the marketing world. I’m seeing such a need for small business assistance in the brand and marketing space.
Businesses understand there’s a need to help these entrepreneurs. They try to tailor solutions around that, which is great. The unfortunate side of it is they often fail because they don’t want to abandon those gigantic corporate fish that make their shareholders happy.
I had never heard Tobi speak before this. His story was quite inspirational and confirmed a lot of what I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve often thought to myself, “Hey, I’m a small business. I need some help with certain things.”
Which then leads me to the question:
What can I do to help the 99.7% of businesses that may struggle with positioning themselves in the marketplace, creating more brand awareness, creating more structure when it comes to marketing their business, or designing something beautiful that doesn’t cost $100k?
I’m close. I can feel it. Contact me directly, and let’s talk about branding and marketing your business.


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