Journey into Tech
Hi Harry, tell us about your journey in technology. You are a pioneer in the Headless Commerce technology market. What inspired you to start with Elastic Path?
When we first started Elastic Path, we were building custom applications for clients but a few years in, we realized there was a huge trend developing for brands to sell online. When we looked at the technology available, organizations were quite limited with their options. If they chose a solution with the strength to scale, it was fairly rigid in terms of how it could be customized to a business’ individual strategy. If organizations chose to prioritize flexibility, their solution choices were too brittle to ever scale to the needs of an enterprise or even mid-sized companies primed for future growth.
Our creation of headless commerce was driven by the proliferation of customer touchpoints as the age of digital experience began to take over. We operated the online store for the very experiential Vancouver 2010 Olympics and saw the potential for organizations to make a wide variety of experiential touchpoints shoppable and as these touchpoints emerged at such an accelerated rate, headless commerce was born, incorporating “shopping APIs” to create a purchase experience in any device or touchpoint, whether it was invented yet or not.
We saw some of the biggest M&As in MarTech in 2019. What cue did you take from these MarTech M&As in your deal with Moltin?
Within the M&A landscape this year, there were a few key takeaways that we also saw during our acquisition of Moltin, specifically the need for organizations to not only be able to differentiate with experience, but do so in a way that is easy for their internal team to deliver at scale, and customizable to their unique business model and proprietary difference.
How would this acquisition help your customers, tech partners, vendors, and employees?
Our acquisition of Moltin essentially creates an “easy button” for microservices. To date, the technical sophistication required to realize the full benefit of microservices has generally been out of reach for most organizations. This new technology makes the power of microservices accessible to all business leaders and gives our customers the power to create shoppable experiences anywhere.
We know consumers talk about quality experiences, generally more than product or service value, price, etc. We want to make it easy for the organizations using our technology to have consumers talking about their experience, more than any of their competitors.
When it comes to our employees, all of Moltin’s talented employees have joined Elastic Path which for me, along with our partners, creates an even more exciting ecosystem for the organization.
Our larger combined R&D team paired with our incredible partner network will create a flywheel when it comes to commerce innovation, adding a huge amount of business value to what is available today and will only accelerate. This also means an expansion of the portfolio of services we offer in our Elastic Path Marketplace.
Insights and Predictions
What are your thoughts on Marketing and Sales alignment? How do you align your Marketing and Sales team at Elastic Path?
Marketing and Sales alignment is important but, I think many organizations confuse transparency with successful alignment in a common, shared goal. Seeing what other teams are focused on is great but it shouldn’t stop there.
Within Elastic Path, we don’t stop at transparency and alignment between Marketing and Sales. I make sure teams across the organization have an understanding of how others work, but I encourage them all to go one step further and ask how can this transparency be put into action?
Going back to Marketing and Sales, how can their pursuit of a shared goal be symbiotic in nature? Their expertise should be used in mutually beneficial ways, so each team is supported by the other to do what they do best. This, I’ve found, has always been the key to not only establishing a positive working relationship between Marketing and Sales but a way that encourages growth and strengthens the power each team brings to the organization.
What kind of coordination do you maintain with your CMO, CIO, and CTO? What are the usual points of disagreements in these functions?
I coordinate with our Strategy, Marketing, Product, and Engineering leads to help marry long term, 3-5 year strategy with engineering and near term product roadmap.
Our teams bring different perspectives to new ideas and challenges and I think it’s important to encourage passionate debate – you need contrasting ideas to keep a revolutionary mindset rather than maintain the status quo.
What are your predictions for Headless Commerce markets for 2020-2024?
In the next four years, I think orchestrated microservices will have a big influence on the headless commerce market. There is such pressure for organizations to build seemingly effortless unified commerce experiences, but they’re in a position right now where delivering on that isn’t easy. It requires complex technology environments that don’t leave much room for creativity and innovation.
Pairing our Cortex API Orchestration layer with microservices helps pull the right pieces of technology together when, and how, they are needed to deliver the experience a business can individually shine through. And, most importantly, it does it in a way that doesn’t require expensive upgrade projects in the future. Organizations can innovate as they need without limitation or risk to their business or other technology investments.
This Is How I Work
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
I hope to inspire my employees to work with technology by encouraging them to play with it, try all the new technology emerging around them and most importantly, to give them space and time to be creative with it. It often takes experiencing a technology first-hand for its potential to click.
Especially being in e-commerce, we’re all consumers, we’re all here because we love technology. It’s important our team has time to play around with what is possible when it comes to experience and get excited about how that can be applied to commerce innovation.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
It’s owned by Facebook, so not an independent startup, but Oculus is one company I’m really excited about right now. VR technology has come such a long way and there’s huge potential for AR and VR technology in both consumer and B2B commerce applications.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
One piece of advice I always try to live by is to listen more than you talk. Pretty simple, but it’s amazing what happens when you do that.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
Garrett Camp, the inventor of Uber. I’ve always been impressed with the seemingly never-ending ideas he has around convenience and the breadth of things he’s done with those ideas.
Generally, we’ve all at one time or another thought of how something could be more convenient or a way we could have extra time to focus on more important things. He’s been able to take those ideas and make them a reality in our day-to-day lives.
Thank you, Harry! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Harry is a consummate entrepreneur, having started Elastic Path in 2000 when he was fresh out of university. With only a $15,000 start-up loan from a non-profit organization, Harry’s optimism and energy drove the business forward, turning Elastic Path into the world’s leading provider of commerce software designed to maximize revenue from the next generation of digital experiences. In 2005, Harry received the Young Entrepreneur Award for being the youngest CEO on the PROFIT Hot 50.
Today, Harry is responsible for leading corporate strategy and driving Elastic Path’s vision. He believes that in this connected world, digital commerce is all about generating business value from great digital experiences across all touchpoints. A successful digital commerce platform must help enterprises unlock that value and generate revenue.
Elastic Path develops the world’s most sophisticated API-based enterprise commerce platform.
The company’s flagship product, Elastic Path Commerce, has helped the world’s biggest brands generate $45 billion in over 170 countries. Customers from industries as diverse as travel, telecoms, publishing, software, and retail enjoy the benefits of a flexible, open architecture that drives brand-defining customer experiences.
Elastic Path is a private company based in Vancouver, Canada with sales offices in the UK and US.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.