There is nothing like a crisis to focus the mind. Last year eBay was pushed into a corner by their major investor Carl Icahn around splitting up the monolith. In January a split of Paypal/eBay was announced and as an almost footnote there was mention that eBay Enterprise was also to be sold/spun off. And Magento? Well that wasn’t even mentioned in the earnings call.
Since then we have seen more action in the Magento space than since it was acquired in 2011. Just yesterday (15th July) the Merchant Beta 1.0.0 of Magento2 dropped on our laps). Never before have we seen such engagement of the management at eBay Enterprise/Magento as we have these last few months. We are a powerful ecosystem, and Team X realised that we needed them to step up and play an active part in this ecosystem. Why? Because it benefits them. By working together we can achieve so much more than alone. They realised the power and they embraced it.
But Team X also realised they needed to form this cohesive team, because they were getting sold off. And that provides focus. I’m sure they have had to live in a kind of ‘startup’ mentality much like Roy and Yoav were in with Magento in the early days – to justify their decisions, to pitch, to inspect, to clear out the dead wood, to have an agile robust and forward-thinking strategy. The monolith of eBay was no longer there to protect them – they were allowed to think freely, to dream, to imagine what could be and to act upon that.
The Monolith that is being left behind
When I worked at Reuters (which incidentally became Thomson Reuters whilst future @ebay CEO Devin Wenig was on the senior team) it was pretty easy to just be a number. To clock in, do your work, go home and forget about it. The amount of influence you had was minimal. And projects could be canned on the spin of a coin, if the management changed then you almost stopped working until you had the ‘town hall’ meeting, as you knew it meant priorities had shifted. People came in with great ideas and great plans, the red tape often prevented those ideas from ever being a reality. The managers moved on/around and as an employee you were left wondering what the next quarterly call would result in, and often were more concerned with the share price than you were with your actual workload. Now I’m not sure thats how it has been at Magento, because clearly its a very different beast, but I’d assume some of that has gone on, and its evident that there have been periods of time where the ecosystem has been advancing a damn sight faster than the machine that fuels it.
The Hidden Gem
eBay Enterprise actually has a few little gems. And one of those little gems is Magento. Forget the news around Toys’R’Us, go take a look at the sites that Magento is propping up, it’s some of the largest online sites in the world. And there are lots of them, lots and lots and lots. Plus we don’t deal with that heavy stuff like warehousing, order management, customer support, Magento is all about technology. From my experience its a lot easier being about technology and not having to worry about the physical tangibles. Because it scales. You can see that in the reach that Magento has over eBay Enterprise.
We know there is a potential for massive profit – go take a look at Shopify. This is an ecommerce platform that (with all due respect) mainly powers Etsy sellers who decide to go for it. It floated with a $2Bn valuation on its first day. $2Bn. All Magento need to figure out is how to monetise on both sides of the coin, not just the Magento Enterprise licenses, but what I call the ‘back side’ – the per transaction revenue that’s entirely doable (a look at the Shopify filing reveals 38% of their revenue was in non-subscription, most of it via their payment gateway). Magento is a true gem in the eBay Enterprise crown.
The Sale Price
Just want to address this. The stats are that GSI sold for 2.4 billion, Magento for around 180M. And now the rumour is that its going for 900M. Why so low? Well a big chunk of GSI got sold off to Kynetic, so GSI is not as it once was. And I get impression its been resting on it’s laurels a bit since the eBay acquisition, as, let’s be truthful, so has Magento for a while. Ultimately these are just figures on a balance sheet, whats 1.5billion between friends ;). What investors, shareholders, boards look at is whats the next 6 months, the next year, the next 3 years going to be like. And if they see its a good price on both sides then its a sale. Thats where we are here. Nothing more, nothing less.
What Really Makes Magento Special
Someone asked me this the other day. Whats the unique thing about Magento? I think there are 2 fundamental things:
1) You could not put a team of developers in a room and produce something better than what Magento and it’s ecosystem has today – because its not just about Magento the product, its what the ecosystem has added to that which makes this solution so powerful. As long as Magento the company/platform continues to innovate and developers choose not to switch to a new system then its always ahead
2) Magento is very very interesting to developers, because of its extensibility, flexibility and open source nature. Personally I get bored with technology pretty easily, but Magento has kept me in it for the last 6 years. And I still find it fascinating to play with (although I gotta admit its pretty damn frustrating sometimes aswell!)
Magento is not the “be all and end all”, I’m not that naive to think so. It has its place, and if its not careful it will get eroded by the likes of innovative, agile and ultimately easier to configure platforms such as Bigcommerce, and also pushed on from the top by the likes of Demandware, Hybris and Oracle. Right now tho Magento has pretty big momentum tho, its the #1 IR500 platform in Europe, growing globally faster than Hybris and Demandware combined.
Why will the Split Help?
eBay Enteprise and Magento are no longer a footnote in a long eBay call. We are about to leave our famous older siblings and go off alone and make our own future. The news is on us. And it is us, this product is not just owned by eBay, its owned by all of us in this ecosystem. Because we are so heavily invested in it, many of us have relied and still rely on the Magento product for a large percentage of our income.
Additionally, I see Private Equity group acquisition just punching a bit of fresh air into the proceedings. Yep there will be change, and yes the equity group need to learn a lot fast, and realise what they have on their hands here, but I hope they will trust the management team that has lead so well in this last year, and really just enable this bird to fly. Because its ready to, and it needs to break free as technology is not waiting, customers buying online are not waiting, and merchants are not waiting. Keep the meetings short, listen to the ecosystem, work out your monetization strategy, trust the management and watch it fly.
What can go Wrong?
Well probably a lot. Could have some idiot who decides to turn it into some weird ‘Magento Go’ (or as I used to say ‘Go Go Go away’) like product. Good luck with that one. Everyone could leave from the management team and that in itself would provide instability – but I’m guessing as part of the deal they have locked in the key players for a certain period. There could be a disagreement about strategy. There could be an arrogance around ownership. There could be a lack of appreciation for what Magento is all about. But actually I trust the likes of Craig Hayman and Mark Lavelle to have spelled this out pretty plainly to the future purchasers.
And if it goes wrong, well there is a bloody great big ecosystem that probably won’t let that happen. And hey always github forks if the worst comes to the worst (I’m kidding guys, honest!).
For me, personally, I think its a very exciting time for us all. Bring on the next chapter I say.
When will it happen?
As always all thoughts are my own opinion/perspective and should be read as such ;).
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 ShipperHQ.com, and recently announced their UPS Ready status, making them the only UPS Ready rating focused company within the Magento ecosystem.