Holly Cardew is no stranger to startups. She is the founder of Pixc and Vop, has built Shopify apps, eCommerce stores and marketplaces, and helped companies all over the world build their online presence.
Fuelled by her deep passion for eCommerce, Holly's latest endeavour is Carted, a universal commerce API to power commerce experiences anywhere on the internet. Through Carted, you'll be able to buy any product, from any merchant via any content on the web. At Blackbird we believe in backing big ambition - and Holly and Mike have buckets of it.
We caught up with Holly on her ambition for Carted, the lessons she's learned as a founder and how to manage globally-distributed teams.
B: Carted was initially built as the infrastructure to support another startup you founded with Mike, Vop; can you tell us a bit about that journey and how the idea for Carted grew from this initial problem space?
H: Mike and I have both been in ecommerce for years. I have four apps in the Shopify app store used by thousands of merchants and Mike has both been a software engineer at Shopify and also ran one of Australia’s largest ecommerce stores, Culture Kings, as COO.
When we saw TikTok and video commerce taking off last year, we decided to build an app, Vop, to make TikTok feeds shoppable for brands and merchants. Influencers started using it too. They were using existing affiliate links to tag products and redirect to different ecommerce product pages and different checkout experiences. Rather than building an integration with every merchant, we wanted to create a multi-vendor checkout experience.
We realised that we were not the only content platform that needed this tech, there were a ton of others. So, we decided to spin out the tech from Vop to create a universal commerce API called Carted.
B: Carted is not your first startup endeavour. What's different this time around from founding Pixc and then Vop, and how have those learnings impacted your approach to Carted?
H: So much! Timing, idea, team, and resources!
Pixc was bootstrapped so it always made it challenging to build out the vision I had. We were only able to hire talent when our revenue and customers grew. Having said that, Pixc is a profitable business and I have learnt so much about building a team, creating a culture, partnerships and customers with limited resources.
I am lucky this time around to have a co-founder. Everyone says you need a technical co-founder and while it’s not essential, life with the right co-founder can make it easier. You can tackle multiple problems and have different opinions which is actually a benefit for the company, team and customers. I learn so much from having Mike as a business partner.
What’s exciting and different this time is the resources and backing from some amazing investors and to be able to take a massive swing at a large problem and change commerce in a meaningful way.
B: Universal commerce is something a number of other startups have tried (and failed) to do, and there are others working in this space. Why will Carted succeed?
H: Carted is going to dominate the space because of our coverage and unique approach. We support over a million stores and a billion products. We want end users to be able to purchase any product.
I also truly believe that Mike and I have an extensive background in ecommerce and understand our customers from all perspectives: retailers, brands, consumers and platforms. Having experience, an awesome team and amazing industry investors definitely helps.
B: You've worked with remote-first teams long before COVID. Any advice or tips for managing teams across countries and timezones?
H: I do try to hire people within a similar time zone if they are on the same team. If that’s not possible, then I made sure I build a very flexible work culture and expect the same of employees. This way if we need to have an early morning or late night call we can. I also recommend having scheduled calls at least once per week per team, that way you can be on the same page and have structure around what the goals and next deliverables are.
We also always build a conscious culture right from the beginning and share our vision, mission and values with the team and those who are joining. It can be isolating working remotely so the more you can be a part of something other than a “task” or a “job”, it can help to motivate team members.
Another tip is to send birthday cakes or give team members gift vouchers to a restaurant to take their family out or have ‘Pizza Fridays’ where you send pizza to their house - It’s the little random things that count when creating a culture!
B: What most excites you about the future Carted is creating and why?
H: Everything! I love helping businesses grow and I love commerce so being able to empower developers to build new commerce experiences is really exciting. I also am excited for the next generation of commerce - commerce is moving to the platforms.
As consumers we want to be able to checkout anywhere and want to be able to find the best product, at the best price and receive it as soon as possible - with our API we will be able to provide this. I can’t wait to see what people build. The opportunities are endless for both enterprise companies and new startups.
Holly's Spotlight On:
A book you couldn't put down: "Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork" by Reeves Wideman - I found this fascinating.
A podcast worth the listen: I usually search a topic that I want to learn about, but How I Built This is always a go-to.
The last great article you read: This piece by Celine Halioua is an interesting read for those who are trying to raise.
Someone to follow on social: Chad Hurley because he is fun! And doesn’t take life too seriously.
Carted are hiring for a number of roles right now. Want to join Holly, Mike and their team? Learn more here.