Bold Commerce has raised another $35 million to continue its pursuit of more and faster growth as the Winnipeg e-commerce tool developer has its sights set on the next phase of digital commerce.
After bootstrapping the company for seven years — meaning they funded the company from their own pockets and actual revenues — the four founders only brought on venture capital partners two years ago, raising $22 million at that time.
This round was led by OMERS Ventures, the transatlantic growth-oriented investment arm of the large pension-fund investor. Toronto-based Whitecap Venture Partners and Round 13 Capital who got in on Bold’s first round two years ago also invested again.
Now with additional funds in hand, Bold’s CEO Yvan Boisjoli said they will be able to continue to expand their suite of pricing, subscription and promotion checkout tools.
"Anyone in the Canadian ecosystem knows OMERS is a top investor," Boisjoli said. "We’re thankful they got excited about the opportunity and the journey we’re on."
Laura Lenz, an OMERS Ventures partner will join Bold’s board of directors.
Since shortly after its inception in 2012 Bold has been the largest third-party Shopify app developer — and remains so — and it was exclusive to Bold until a couple of years ago.
Since then the company — with about 375 employees in Winnipeg and another 25 in Austin, Texas — has been working at being e-commerce platform agnostic. As such its apps are now available on the other platforms including BigCommerce, WooCommerce and Commercetools.
Boisjoli said that does not mean Bold’s relationship with Shopify — which is now the largest company in Canada by market capitalization — is any less strong.
"The e-commerce space is massive and the tide is rising," he said. "The opportunity in e-commerce is not going to be owned by one person. We will continue to be partners with Shopify."
In addition to broadening out across the platform spectrum, the company is also developing what is referred to as "headless commerce" applications that would allow customers to interact with brands outside the confines of their websites or mobile apps.
"The transaction is so locked down," he said. "We want to open that up. We want brands to be able to build experiences through the transaction consistent through all their different channels including social media."
In a blog post on Tuesday after the investment was announced, Lenz wrote about the kind of seamless transaction Bold is looking to facilitate.
"Bold aims to address this market by focusing on what it calls ‘transaction experience solutions’ including: checkout, subscription, and pricing management," she said. "Bold’s vision is to help brands let their customers transact wherever they happen to be — a website, mobile app, messenger, smart speaker, or on social media, using its modular... technology."
In an interview, Lenz said when OMERS Ventures invested in Shopify five years ago they thought e-commerce was large but it has become even more massive than even she and her team predicted.
In the third quarter when OMERS was doing its diligence on Bold, U.S. retail e-commerce reached US$210 billion, up 44.5 per cent from the same period a year ago.
"There is still a lot of room to deliver solutions for retailers and brands that are trying to be more agile and more responsive to consumers during pandemic," she said in an interview.
The pandemic has likely accelerated the growth in e-commerce, many believe it will not go away.
Bold needs to add another 100 people to its team in Winnipeg and Austin. Its prior bootstrapped growth — in a smaller city like Winnipeg — has now provided Bold with the kind of bona fides that make it that much more attractive to investors like OMERS.
Last week, another OMERS partner, Brian Kobus, wrote a blog about why you don’t need to be based in Silicon Valley or Toronto to build the kind of software fee-generating company like Bold.
Lenz said achieving the kind of revenue growth and scale Bold did before they raised their first round of venture capital financing speaks well of them.
"It puts a cultural mindset into the business, of operating lean, really testing before launch and making sure you retain those really important assets — the customers," she said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.