According to the Interactive Media In Retail Group, global eCommrece sales will surpass $1.25 trillion by 2013. Naturally, everyone and their mother is eager to capitalize on the growth of online commerce, as it hurdles into a new renaissance. Shopify is one of a number of startups that want to help both newcomers and old hands get a piece of the action. The startup’s platform allows individuals and businesses to set up their own online storefront in minutes, quickly adding items to sell, images, tags and group items, and integrate PayPal or other credit card payment processors.
To showcase its platform and demonstrate how easy technology is making it to build a successful eCommerce business, Shopify is teaming up with four industry veterans to help aspiring entrepreneurs build a million-dollars business in just a few months. This morning, the company announced the launch of its third annual Build-A-Business competition, in which the team compete for seed funding while being mentored by 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss, FUBU founder and Shark Tank resident Daymond John, swissmiss creator Tina Roth Eisenberg, and Lean Startup author Eric Ries.
To participate, all entrepreneurs have to do is come up with a product to sell — it doesn’t matter what — choose one of the four mentors, enter an existing Shopify store or create a new one (signup here) and get to building a kickass business. For entering, participants receive a free .CO domain for 12 months, $100 in Google AdWords Credits and $100 in MailChimp Credits.
The competition runs from July 10th to February 28th, with the four mentor-judges offering advice and guidance along the way. At the end of the two months, the four stores that sell the most doodads or doohickeys receive a $50,000 seed investment for a 5 percent equity stake from their chosen mentor, with the investment valuing each company at $1 million. On top of that, the winners are also flown to NYC to meet the mentors and receive an additional $20K-worth of AdWords credits.
Shopify founder and CEO Tobias Lutke says that the competition is a great way to incentivize entrepreneurs to focus on their online storefronts. New technologies have made it easy to open an eCommerce storefront, and the competition allows businesses to learn from a group of businesses and follow the leaders forward as they learn how to build more engaging, sustainable online businesses.
Past competitions, the CEO says, led to the creation of more than 4,400 new businesses, which sold over $15 million worth of products — which is both good for Shopify and participating startups. With Tim Ferriss, Eric Ries, Daymond John, and Tina Eisenberg on board this year, Lutke expects the third competition to produce the strongest companies yet.
Tim Ferriss says of Shopify’s competition:
This is intended as a benevolent and encouraging kick in the ass. This stuff isn’t rocket science, but it does require stepping outside your comfort zone for a bit to realize this isn’t that hard. It’s just unfamiliar. If you do it now, a lot of people will be in the same boat and you’ll take the trip together.
Shopify currently hosts over 25,000 active online retailers, including Gatorade, GE, Tesla Motors, LMFAO, Encyclopedia Britannica, and CrossFit, among others. The company is backed by $22 million in financing from Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Georgian Partners.