Imagine – The Greatest Commerce Show on Earth

Posted by: Karen Saturday, April 25th, 2015

The Stars Align

Every year in the run up it’s the last one. We rumble on about how things are going to come to a close, how people are moving on, rumble rumble rumble.

Then something happens. 40+ countries come together, and this wonderful ecosystem joins hands in the real world. No longer confined to our rooms, our twitter accounts and the heavy workload of our day-2-day life we pause for a moment, and embrace each other in Vegas.

What seems to come out of that is truly magical. In my mind the main stage production (by the Magento Design Team working with The Buzz Lab, 1028 Design, Brite Ideas) really seems to set the tone. We start to get pulled into this world of opportunity, of optimism and of the future. Very different to previous years tho, it was more subtle, less flashy production. TBH that was needed.

Slowly a quiet whisper starts to go around the event, we start to once again believe, to refresh, to discuss not what’s wrong, but what a great ecosystem we are in and discuss how we can go farther, higher, and reach beyond our boundaries. And this whisper grows, by the end of Imagine we become empowered, we have a ‘plan’, we are ready to walk away and we are keen for the future.

A New Dawn

Last year at the Hard Rock Cafe I felt this complete ‘jarring’ between Magento and eBay Enterprise. We were all just totally confused by it. Was it going to compete against web design agencies, were they going to start writing extensions, and where did the community fit into all this, did eBay even realise we existed?

It seemed evident to me that eBay Enterprise was confused by us. This odd collection of individuals, some with stronger opinions(!) than others, what we now know as purple squirrels(!). We didn’t conform, we questioned and we judged fast. We had no patience for red tape, idiots or laziness. We demanded more.

In 2015 it was extremely evident that the eBay Enterprise/Magento team (hereby known as Team X) listened, and I felt that what was also evident was that there was now a solid intelligent team in place which was not at odds with each other.  The noise had been removed, and the newly oiled cogs were really starting to turn fast.  How did this happen?  Well I expect the split from eBay was like an electric shock to the heart, and after the initial shock they decided to seize the opportunity. They stepped up.

I call it Team X because what was at Imagine was not Magento nor was it eBay Enterprise. It was the start of a birth of a new company. In 2014 it was hard to spot an eBay Enterprise employee, they seemed to huddle together and not come out to play. In 2015 it was hard to tell the difference between Magento and eBay Enterprise employees, and it was hard to escape from their presence!! They were everywhere, and they were human.

I felt as if this Team X was starting to escape the shackles of and they felt empowered. Craig Hayman set the tone on Monday, I believe there was some -ve comment re the sale of eBay Enterprise/Magento as he was leaving the stage, and he turned right around and came back on stage and told the audience ‘exactly how it was’ re the split from eBay. I wasn’t there, but many people mentioned it to me.

It was a turning point, we had asked, he had responded. And what people most liked in my mind – he was transparent, honest and without spin. You could argue it was actually Craig that set the true tone of the conference, his transparency and honesty throughout is not something I’ve seen at any Magento conference, right back to 2011.

The News Summary

So much stuff was discussed at Imagine its really hard to get that down in a blog. I’m sure others will cover, so I’m just going to summarize just a few things that I saw:

  • Sherrie Rhode was appointed Community Manager – this is a great move, Sherrie is connector and very engaging, she will be a true asset and I hope it takes some of the strain off Ben and allows him to focus on the developer evangelism even more as he is doing a great job there
  • Magento Small Business was formally launched
  • Attribution will go to developers for Magento 2 contributions
  • Magento 2 is still on track for GA release at end of year
  • Options are being discussed re sale of Team X – either IPO, acquisition or Equity backing. My money is on the latter
  • A new Connect/App Store is on the way, its being actively worked on for Magento 2. It will included verified extensions so that merchants/agencies can differentiate between the offerings
  • People like hugging 😉  I hugged a lot of people. Some of them I didn’t even know. Its become a family

I think people forget, and they look back to the ‘golden years’ of Magento. But some of the moves above are significant and I think we should acknowledge that earlier management failed to put these things in place effectively when they were in charge. Just the small part about acknowledging a commit to Magento 2 is hugely significant in my eyes, it’s just about respect and partnership. Team X have removed the arrogance. They know they need us, we know we need them, but most importantly we know together we are so much stronger than apart. There is a belief things will actually get better, because they have delivered for the first time on some of their prior promises.

What do we Do Now?

Over the past few months I believe a number of us have been hugely worried about this split of Team X. I’ve had many CEO’s contact me from agencies large and small, technology companies and even logistic companies. The question is ‘What’s going to happen to Magento?’. I think you have to ask why we are asking that question. Well its because we rely on it. This is our livelihood. If Magento fails and we are ‘all in’ then we are screwed. Its as simple as that. So from a CEO perspective many of us are having to assess what else is out there, how we can ensure we don’t get burned if Magento get’s into trouble.

My concern was that the ‘suits’ at eBay Enterprise didn’t understand. I spoke with one guy and he said to me ‘this affects me too’. I agreed, but my point to him was that each month he walks home with a known salary, if this screws up he just moves jobs. For many CEO’s in this space (where there are a high proportion of bootstrapped businesses) if we get it wrong we literally don’t get paid. And that can have a very real effect. But its not just if we get it wrong, its if Team X get it wrong. And thats what I think really frustrates us, because we are in part reliant on Team X keeping their side going.

So my conclusion (finally I hear you all gasp!). Well I see it like this:

  1. We have a wait out now to see what rolls with this spin-off. I don’t think its going to be too long, Paypal has announced Q3 so I’d expect around that time too. Certainly before Magento 2
  2. There is strength in the team Mark Lavelle has built. I think(hope!) they walked away from Imagine pretty pumped up, and I think together we can build something truly fantastic. We are reliant on that team staying somewhat in place over the next few months, if it fractures it would indicate problems
  3. If you can split your eggs then do so. It’s always a bad move as a business to rely on one customer, one source of revenue, and with Magento we are in a way doing this. But given its market share, its possibility and the great ecosystem we reside within its a relatively low risk

These are only my views. I don’t pretend to be right, I don’t pretend to see Imagine as everyone else. I can only go on what I see, how I feel.  If you feel different blog it, or post in comments below. I share my view because I like to record ‘moment’s, because maybe it helps others, maybe it provokes conversation, and maybe it then shows me what I need to do with my company, my strategy, my future, not because I think my view is the only view.

Maybe I had a good week, maybe I was ready to see Magento in a different light, but I’ll be honest, when I arrived in the keynote Tuesday morning I was was still wary, but the low marketing of the conference, the honesty, and the fresh spirit changed me. It was the small things aswell, like having a beer with Ted Pietrzak, talking TDD with people like James Cowie. I’m prepared to believe, to trust, to risk things. Because this community and eco-system is totally unique, you would seriously struggle to find or reproduce it again in your lifetime. And that’s worth fighting for.

I could dribble on about a lot more, including Steve Wynn, Saunders Howard, Phillip Jackson kicking Jamie Clarke in the balls, niches, purple squirrels and duct tape. But I’ll stop.

Magento, its not dead, its just moved on. Let’s hope Team X stay strong, stay together and join in our continued quest to evolve and redefine the commerce space.

For those of you worried about ‘Magento’ the word and the fact its being used less and less I’d say it’s a word, get over it and move on. I hope they rename it, because apart from a few exceptions like MageTalk I feel like the Magento brand has been de-valued by Mage<x>.com. And its time for us to step into a new future. It’s no longer 2008, 2010 or 2012.  We aren’t the same, and neither is Magento.  Breaking free from eBay could well be the best thing to happen since it was launched.

About WebShopApps

WebShopApps is a Gold Technology Partner specializing in shipping extensions around rate calculating and manipulation. They have the most popular shipping extension on Magento Connect, the most intelligent rate management software in the world on, and recently announced their UPS Ready status, making them the only UPS Ready rating focused company within the Magento ecosystem.

7 Responses to “Imagine – The Greatest Commerce Show on Earth”

  1. Erik Hansen says:

    As always, I appreciated your thoughts in this post. I too came away from this conference with a great feeling about where Magento is headed. I was encouraged about the fact that Magento seems to be sticking to their Q4 GA timeline for Magento 2.0.

    In regards to “I hope they rename it”… *I* sure hope they don’t. While I think Magento’s brand has been devaluted by the Mage and gento’s of the world, it still has massive brand recognition, and I think that’s valuable.

    I wish I could have talked with you more this Imagine, but we’ll have to catch up next year. I love what you’re doing with ShipperHQ and am recommending it to clients whenever I can.

  2. Damián says:

    Great article Karen!

  3. Karen says:

    Thanks Erik, and yes I agree there is massive brand value of Magento, of course also the SEO impact, and the re-designs required by agencies etc to take into account. Its a difficult one, pleased I’m not deciding 😉

    Take care Erik.

  4. Thank you for this, Karen. I haven’t had a chance to share the joy of Imagine in person this year but now that I’ve read this it almost feels like I have. Please put me on the hugging list for 2016, it’s always a pleasure to see you!


  5. I was the person who asked Craig as he headed out along the aisle Monday “If you think Magento’s so great, why is it getting spun off?”. Kudos to him for turning right around, climbing back up on the stage, and sharing what he could about the change. He clearly gets the value of open source and community participation: “Open source wins every time”.
    Thanks to you for similar candor, and all the great WebShopApps support.

  6. Joe says:

    The Buzz Lab really appreciates the shout out, but can’t take credit for the stage production. We’re proud to have introduced our friend and collaborative genius, Mike Russek and to the creative mix a couple years ago. He made the amazing 3D projection mapped stages. We do make most if not all the video for Imagine, but you all knew that already. 🙂

  7. Vadim says:

    Great article Karen!

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