September 6, 2021

Flight Plan #009 — Checkout with Carted: Building the next generation of Commerce

Our investment notes in Carted. An API commerce business building the world's biggest shopping destination.

Written by

Lachlan Duffy

Holly Cardew and Mike Angell joined forces to build new solutions in the ecommerce space together in early 2020, these are the type of founders that you love to support at the early stage — ambitious and innovative in their plans, extensive experience in their domain, early execution at pace, and a balanced duo taking on the next generation of commerce.

We’ve known the team for many years and have been waiting for them to dive into their ‘next thing’ after building multiple successful products and businesses on their own, thus investing in their pre-seed round last year was a quick and easy decision to support for us at TEN13.

History

Holly Cardew and Mike Angell first partnered up and started building an app that enabled brands and influencers to create shoppable TikTok feeds. Within three weeks, they launched on the Shopify app store and it began trending with over 2,000 merchants and influencers over the coming months.

Their original vision was to evolve this offering into a social commerce app with shoppable short-form video leveraging their experience involved with TikTok and aligned with many trends in the ecommerce space. As the team dove into building this platform, it quickly became apparent that for them to build a great user experience, they would need to integrate and then maintain integrations with thousands of merchants and platforms across the web to allow for online checkout to happen in a seamless fashion. They explored the web to find the API integration engine or service that could help them connect and enable their grand plans, finding nothing, they believed they had found a problem and potential opportunity that was huge and worth pursuing above all else.

Solving this problem and providing the connecting service which would allow any developer and creator to enable ecommerce experiences to ‘checkout’ anywhere online — this could change the way commerce is transacted today, alas they launched Carted, building the universal commerce API (UCAPI) as the middle layer to achieve this.

Future of Commerce (ecommerce 3.0):

Ecommerce infrastructure and enablement tools are core to the future of ecommerce growth and allow for new experiences to be created for end consumers — they are the underlying layer and what we refer to as the plumbing of the internet.

Amazon and Shopify have built extensive platforms to date.

Amazon allowed merchants to sell online to a large market whilst taking care of the logistics and enabled their customers to purchase and recieve nearly any product they wanted in a standardised fashion.

Shopify ‘armed the rebels’ by giving entrepreneurs software to build an ecommerce store without having to code a store and checkout from scratch, thus enabling new and creative ways to sell products and Etsy allowed for anyone to start selling products online.

Carted believes they are at the beginning of ecommerce 3.0 which moves past these offerings whereby content and commerce are coming together. Carted is building the missing piece needed to allow this shift to happen.

The Problem:

Ecommerce over the last ten years has transitioned from being an integrated stack, where ecommerce store providers had to solve for each of the core technical components themselves (hosting, payments, checkout, SKUs, inventory, shipping, etc.) to a more modular solution which is tied together with different API and platform offerings.

This has led to a substantially improved customer and overall ecommerce experience for end customers. Many different companies have devoted themselves to creating ‘best-in-class’ products that service each of the constituent parts of the ecommerce stack. Examples of this include Square, Stripe, Afterpay or Paypal solving payments.

Enter…. headless commerce. Shopify is one example of the current state of ecommerce. Influencers, retailers, and product businesses will focus on building the best possible front-end experience for users and outsource all of the back-end functions to an integrated plug-and-play solution.

The problem here is that you need to still have a store (hosted by Shopify or other ecommerce platform), manage customer orders, inventory, delivery, warehousing, logistics etc. Hence, a lot of content players have never been able to take the leap of connecting their users with a shopping and checkout experience that makes sense in order to retain and monetise their audience.

To do so, they would need to integrate with ecommerce platforms (Shopify, Bigcommerce, Magento, Woocommerce etc) & brands that have their own sites in order to create a seamless experience, this requires maintenance of thousands of integrations continually and diminishing returns if you are a platform having to deal with upkeep. It’s fallen in the too-hard or too expensive basket yet the most innovative retailers realise that they need to deliver a purchasing experience wherever the consumer is.

What is Carted?

Carted will solve the above and can turn all content platforms into commerce platforms, all creators into merchants, and all content consumption into potential revenue-bearing commerce transactions. When they pull this off, they’ll be front and centre as a key infrastructure player in the global $5 trillion ecommerce market whilst growing the market through new ecommerce experiences, made possible with Carted’s UCAPI engine.

Carted’s UCAPI will be able to programmatically submit orders to any ecommerce site.

Similar to what Plaid did with banking, Carted is doing with merchants. Plaid did not ask for permission to build into each bank, neither is Carted integrating into each store (this has been tried and failed by others before). They are building an API around the existing sites allowing their customers to place an order at each merchant site, given data structures for making ecommerce order are the same — it can be programmed to make orders and checkout on a consistent basis.

UCAPI has the ability to trigger any and all affiliate systems, settle currency differences, trigger coupon codes, checkout, pay via third-party solutions, and much more.

Think about why can’t you buy products directly in Pinterest, or Whatsapp, on your favourite blog or media site, or comparison site. The solutions created by Carted are endless and bounded only by the creativity of each platform and developers.

Carted is pursuing a complex problem that requires significant resourcing & engineering talent to make the product a reality. Yet given the size of the prize, it wasn’t long before Carted started to attract investor interest for their ambitious plans.

We are super excited to supporting Carted for a second time as an investor in their Seed round joined by new investors they brought on board in this US$10m funding round announced here. It’s great to welcome Blackbird Ventures, Grok Ventures, Tidal Ventures, Streamlined Ventures, & stellar US-based operators.

Why we invested

  • Strong team: It was true when we first invested and it remains true today, we couldn’t be happier backing Holly Cardew and Mike Angell as they set out to shake-up the ecommerce industry. Between them, they have more than 30 years of ecommerce experience. Holly has previously built four apps in the Shopify app store used by over 25,000 merchants. Mike has built and sold an ecommerce app, been the COO of a multi-million dollar retailer and ecommerce player, Culture Kings which was acquired earlier this year for $600m, and had seen the technical challenges while working internally at Shopify & Fast. They’re intimately aware of the challenges faced by the ecommerce industry and we believe they’ve got the opportunity to make a significant impact on the future of ecommerce.
  • Major opportunity: Ecommerce is fragmented and massive ($4.9 trillion). The next evolution of ecommerce will be referred to as ‘headless’ whereby players that have large audiences will provide instant shopping experiences to their audiences and monetise their eyeballs — it’s the convergence of commerce and content and focus on exciting consumer-facing offerings. This is being made possible by the infrastructure central connecting layer that companies like Carted are building. Think instant shopping on platforms such as Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, Whatsapp, Clubhouse, news and media sites, and more. Carted has the ability to evolve the face of ecommerce for the consumer — making content instantly shoppable and bringing to life new commerce experiences.
  • APIs as global giants: Once upon a time, application programming interfaces (API) were an invisible software intermediary seldom recognised outside the developer community. Today, massively successful VC-backed API companies like Plaid (banking API — US$5bn+), Stripe (payment API — US$100bn+) and Twilio (communications API — US$50bn+) have emerged off the back of similar trends seen by Carted in other verticals. Carted is aiming to become the next major API player to emerge for the category of ecommerce.
  • Strong network of investors and funding: Between Carted’s existing investors, like David Wurtz (the founder of Google Drive, Google Fonts and First Advisor to Shopify) and incoming investors including Ryan Hudson, the founder of ecommerce unicorn Honey, Mike-Cannon Brookes, the co-founder of Atlassian and Blackbird Ventures, Australia’s preeminent VC and investors in Canva and ecommerce platform Redbubble — we believe that Carted has the right people around to help them succeed. Plus are raising one of the largest ‘Seed’ rounds in Australian history to allow them the firepower to build the engine, hire top-tier talent, and execute on the vision.

Carted will be hiring soon for engineering, product, technical writing & design.


Safe Travels,
Lachlan Duffy

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