January 2012

There’s a lot of work involved with running a shop. Inventory comes and goes as products come in from suppliers and go out to customers, orders come and go as customers make them and they get fulfilled, and there’s also the matter of picking, packing, labelling and shipping.

Bizelo eRetail Centralized Inventory Management (or CIM for short) is an app that helps you get on top of all this work. With it, it’s a lot simpler to stay informed about your inventory, know when you’re low on stock and what your packing costs are and pack, label and ship orders. It’s available in the Shopify App Store right now.

We chatted with the people at Bizelo about their eRetail CIM app and asked them some questions. Read on to find out more about their app, in their own words.

What does Bizelo eRetail Centralized Inventory Management (CIM) app do?

One of the constant struggles for online retailers is managing their inventory, keeping track of orders, and handling the various steps between the time an order is received and it goes out the door. This is made especially more complicated when you are dealing with inventory that appears in many places and is constantly going in and out of stock.

The Bizelo Centralized Inventory Management (CIM) app is specially built for online retailers (we call them "etailers") sellers to manage their inventory. It pulls all Shopify items and inventory into a central inventory dashboard as well as all recent orders. New orders are automatically pushed to the Bizelo eRetail CIM app, and we sync quantities of items in both directions with Shopify and other Shopify or non-Shopify stores. The system keeps track of both what’s available in your online store(s) as well as what you have in your warehouse. The system also allows you to create kits and bundles of items as well as import and replenish your stock in one go.

In addition, we also simplify the pick and pack process. Bizelo CIM provides a quick and easy way to create optimized packing lists to make sure you include the right items from the right shelves in your packages. The app also provides deep insight into the movement history of your inventory, telling you which items are selling the quickest, and providing insight into your profitability. The app also integrates with a number of other online services including Magento, Etsy, and Cartkeeper, with other platforms being announced soon!

What are Bizelo eRetail Centralized Inventory Management’s key features?

Pictured above: Bizelo eRetail CIM’s dashboard.

Bizelo eRetail CIM is packed with features that make it easy to…

  • Centrally manage your inventory, keeping track of warehouse as well as store quantities
  • Keep your inventory in sync across multiple Shopify as well as non-Shopify stores
  • Manage bill of materials and kit items
  • Create pick and pack lists very easily

  • Know when you’re low on stock with low quantity notifications
  • Centrally track orders and order notes
  • Get insight into inventory movement and history

Why should shopowners use Bizelo eRetail Centralized Inventory Management?

If you sell lots of things online, get a lot of orders, and/or have multiple shops, keeping accurate track of inventory is a difficult task! Our customers frequently tell us that our app saves them hours, if not days, across their month’s worth of orders and inventory. If you’re spending time adjusting inventory quantities in your stores or tearing your hair out when items sell out when you least expect it, our Bizelo eRetail CIM app is for you!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Pictured above: Ron and James from Bizelo.

Bizelo, the creators of the eRetail CIM app is a growing startup company focused on filling the gaps that small businesses need with online apps that are cost-effective (most just $25 a month), work simply, and simply work. Our company was started in 2010 by experienced Internet entrepreneurs that have started and sold a number of successful online business. In the midst of all that, one of the founders tried (unsuccessfully) to start a new apparel brand. That’s when he realized that a) he’s better at software than retail and b) the retail industry still has a ton of gaps that make being a small business in the industry tough. For this reason, he partnered up with his colleagues and started Bizelo. We’ve been growing quickly ever since! We’re so far a handful of employees with hundreds of customers, soon growing to thousands of subscribers!

You can find us at http://www.bizelo.com, where you’ll see a growing array of web-based apps built for small businesses. We’re very active on Twitter (@bizelo), and you can also find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bizelo.

Where did you get the idea for Bizelo eRetail Centralized Inventory Management?

The company grew out of Ron’s frustration with existing small business apps, especially stemming from his experience trying to grow an apparel company. After identifying no credible solutions for dealing with multiple-storefront inventory management and syncing, Ron developed the first app in conjunction with James that launched the Bizelo company. Since then, the company has been growing leaps and bounds and is about to release a whole slew of new apps for Shopify customers including a new Accounting Sync app, Pack and Ship, Returns Management, and Supply Management apps.

Where can I find out more about Bizelo eRetail CIM?

As with all Shopify apps, you can find Bizelo eRetail CIM on its page at the Shopify App Store. It’s price is $19.95 – $29.95 per month, and it comes with a 30-day free trial.

This article also appears in the Shopify Blog.

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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Tobias Lutke

Shopify logo on black backgroundOttawa Mayor Jim Watson delivered his “State of the City” address yesterday, during which he honoured some of the capital city’s remarkable citizens. Among them were Shopify’s CEO Tobias “Tobi” Lütke and CPO (Chief Platform Officer) Harley Finkelstein for their work in building Shopify. Ottawa Business Journal calls Shopify Ottawa’s fastest-growing company, and it’s one of Canada’s most successful high-tech startups. We often like to say that Shopify is a Silicon Valley company that just happens to be located in Ottawa, and they make my job easy: it’s a damned easy company to evangelize.

Congrats, Tobi and Harley – and thanks for the job!

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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Shit Silicon Valley Says

by Joey deVilla on January 25, 2012

After a wave of “Shit $SOME_SUBCULTURE Says” videos comes one whose lines you might find hauntingly familiar if you work in tech: Shit Silicon Valley Says.

Created by husband-and-wife team Tom Conrad and Kate Imbach, it’s bang-on – I’m guilty of having uttered most of the statements made in the video, including:

  • “I reblogged it and retweeted it.”
  • “I met so-and-so at $SOME_CONFERENCE …or was it Burning Man?”
  • “I miss seasons”, which I said during my stint in San Francisco, back in the days of “The Bubble”, and finally,
  • “How is this different from Facebook?” which I asked the CEO of the worst-run startup I ever worked at.

Watch, enjoy, and cringe slightly if you need to.

[ Found via TechCrunch. ]

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog and The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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Well, it’s finally happened: Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have stepped down as co-CEOs and former co-COO (does RIM have to have two of everything?) Thorsten Heins has been installed as the new boss.

As a proud Canadian, as someone who doesn’t live too far from Waterloo (Toronto’s a bit over an hour east of their home base), and as someone who had an original email-only BlackBerry back in 2000 as one of the perks of working at a startup during the dot-com bubble, I can’t help but root for RIM and Thorsten Heins. It might also be that working with a brilliant guy like Tobi has conditioned me to automatically trust CEOs with German accents.

The fact that Heins has said that he wants to stay the course set by Balsillie and Lazaridis is not encouraging, and a number of the tech sites and blogs have said so. While a statement like that should be a reason for concern, you need to keep in mind that Balsillie and Lazaridis installed the guy and it’s been said that they’ll still play active roles in the company (we’ll see). I hope it’s a case of his being unable to step in and say “I’m coming in to undo the damage wrought by my predecessors, and here’s my plan”, as much as we’d all like to hear those very words.

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Search and Social Rank Symposium: A Night of Ideas

2012 Jan 23 - Starts at 6:00 pm

If you’re in the Toronto area and looking for a gathering of interesting people in the areas of SEO, social media marketing and selling stuff online, you should come down to Archeo restaurant in the Distillery District and catch the Search and Social Rank Symposium tomorrow night (Monday, January 23rd).

The organizers bill it as an evening where I and a number of other speakers will “showcase weird science at the intersection of search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing”. Here’s a list of the presentations and presenters:

Joey deVillaLeverage the Strength of Shopify to Build Your Dream Store, presented by Yours Truly, Joey deVilla, Shopify

As the self proclaimed “Tech Evangelist” Joey deVilla’s offers his quirky technical genius through the new e-commerce platform Shopify. Shopify allows online businesses to create and design easy to use digital shop fronts. This widely popular platform is host to over 16,000 retailers, including Angry Birds, Tata, Pixar and Amnesty International. The Queens educated Joey deVilla splits his time as master of Shopify by also writing his immensely popular blog Global Nerdy. If these ventures weren’t enough for this fast-paced techno-king he also frequently rocks out onstage as the “Accordion Guy”.

Geoff Whitlock

Harness the power of the social coupon, presented by Geoff Whitlock, Direct Response Media Group and Click Clip Deals

Geoff Whitlock is one of the top frontrunners in the interactive media industry. With over 10 years experience he has helmed many different ventures, including President and Lead Digital Strategist for Lifecapture Interactive in Toronto, Research in Motion’s new position of Director of Social Media, and finally striking out on his own to create Direct Response Media Group (DRMG). As well as leading the industry in social media marketing, he is the co-founder of Click Clip Deals. Click Clip Deals is the number one online coupon trading site, which has been adapted to become one of the most popular Blackberry and Apple Apps.

Craig Backman

Optimizing the P3 Presentation for SEO, presented by Craig Backman, McLellan Group

Craig brings a unique juxtaposition of left and right brain business thinking to his work. He holds a Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo and an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurial Studies from York’s Schulich School of Business. He spent 14 years at marketing giant Procter & Gamble where he delivered breakout results in Product Development, Advertising and Sales.

Benjamin Allison

Don’t Talk to Strangers: The Art of Smothering Your Brand to Death, presented by Benjamin Allison, Jib Strategic Inc.

Benjamin Allison is a graduate of OCAD University. He has worked in the advertising and design field for more than 12 years. He has been with jib strategic since 2004. He has worked on campaigns for clients such as Apple, Coca Cola, and Honda. Ben is an accomplished musician / composer and brings a unique perspective to his work.

Rob Campbell

How planting, tending and growing fields of content makes clients rich, presented by Rob Campbell, Lenzr

Rob Campbell, the artist formerly known as Smojoe, is a relevance producer that handcrafts business stories to show up in search engines.  He now manages a clever marketing company called Lenzr Corp that manufactures a natural ‘social relevance’ for clients using a mixture of proprietary tools that both collect and distribute user submitted content. People listen when he talks process because he’s one of the few speakers who will actually get specific with the science and teach empiric knowledge alongside anecdotal accounts of past failures and successes.

Alex Blom

TBA, presented by Alex Blom, SalesChoice

Alex Blom is currently the CEO & Co-Founder of SalesChoice, a sales pipeline management and automation tool. Prior, he was the CTO & a Partner of Helix Commerce, where he lead large technology / web initiatives for public, global companies. Prior, he was an organizational troubleshooter and created / exited several web startups.

Want to know more about this event? Check out Rob Campbell’s blog entry.

Where and When

  • The date: Monday, January 23rd, 2012
  • The place: Archeo restaurant in the Distillery District (55 Mill Street, Toronto)
  • Doors open / social / food: 6:00 p.m.. Sandwiches and a glass of beer or wine are included with admissions.
  • Presentations start: 7:00 p.m..
  • Wifi: will be available at the event
  • Admission: $25 + HST, available either online or at the door.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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The First Four Shopify Fund Projects

by Joey deVilla on January 18, 2012

We’re pleased to announce the first four projects to be funded by the Shopify Fund, our million-dollar fund to encourage developers to build apps on Shopify’s ecommerce platform. We’ve put together a video to announce these projects; you can either watch it above or keep reading to find out who the “First Four” are.

Listed in order of project name, the first four Shopify Fund Projects are:

Booking Engine, by Conrad Decker

Shopify grew from a shop that sold snowboards online, so when we built it, we had selling physical, shippable goods in mind. This proposed app takes Shopify’s great ecommerce engine and extends it to support rental- or appointment-based services — things like bike rentals, hair appointments, hotel and bead-and-breakfast bookings, photo studios or any other service where you borrow something or book an appointment. Conrad has also proposed integrating Booking Engine with Twilio’s voice and SMS service so that customers can get automated voice or text message reminders of their appointments.

Deepmine, by Ryan Alyea

Deepmine is already an app in the App Store, and it’s a data mining app that lets you sort, sift through and analyze your shop’s data “like a boss”. It lets you see which items are moving well, which items are the laggards, what’s backordered, whether or not your campaigns and promotions are effective. In short: it reveals what’s working for your shop and what isn’t. Ryan wants to be able to work full-time on improvements for the next version of Deepmine, and the Shopify Fund will allow him to do just that.

When we told Ryan that Deepmine was getting funded, he was quite pleased:

Landing Page Optimization

This is a landing page optimization and personalization app that shows customers different products on the page they land on, based on the search engine query that brought them to the shop, their browser navigation history and product match. It customizes your shop for every customer who visits!

Shopify Platform Book, by Dave “HunkyBill” Lazar

This one isn’t an app, but the idea was so good that we hand to fund it. Dave’s been working with the Shopify platform since it was in beta and has written apps for a number of shops and helped them grow their business. He’s worked it from both the technical and business angles for years now, and he’s decided to collect his knowledge in a book. We think this will be useful for both shopowners and developers, so we’re funding him so he can work full-time on this book, which we’ll then distribute free to Shopify shopowners, partners, developers and anyone curious about the Shopify ecommerce platform.

What’s Next?

shopify_fund_cool_million

As the “First Four” moniker implies, this is only the beginning. We want more apps, utilities and other useful things to make Shopify’s great ecommerce platform even better, which is what the Shopify Fund’s all about. We’ll be talking about the Shopify Fund regularly here on the Shopify Blog and the Shopify Technology Blog to keep you up-to-date on the projects we’re sponsoring.

If you’ve got any questions about the Shopify Fund, the projects or our plans, please don’t hesitate to ask — feel free to post them in the comments or email us at fund@shopify.com!

This article also appears in the Shopify Blog.

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How Shopify’s Apps Team Gets Things Done

by Joey deVilla on January 13, 2012

shopify apps team meeting

Pictured above is the team at Shopify to which I belong. It’s the Apps Team, and while it may be small, it takes on the company’s most ambitious projects: theShopify App Store, Shopify Experts, Shopify Partners and Shopify Fund as well as the company’s business development and developer advocacy efforts. It’s our team’s job to take the Shopify platform and see how far we can take it.

As a small team charged with a lot of responsibilities, we have to do things in a way that maximize the effect our actions have. Over the past year, we’ve worked out a number of ways of doing this, some gained from experience, others from experimentation. They’ve remained what’s called "tacit knowledge" — practiced by the team but not written down or formally codified in an operations manual — until team leader Harley Finkelstein, our Chief Platform Officer, collected them into a set of slides.

The way we get things done boils down to the general principles listed below. Your team may not be like ours, but I’m sharing these principles because you might find at least some of them useful:

  • Act like an owner. You don’t "just work here", you own a piece of a company and have a stake in its success. Work as if your livelihood, career and reputation were riding on it, because as an owner, it is! Be entrepreneurial and own your domain: if you have an idea and it lines up with the company’s goals, make that idea happen.
  • Know what to work on and what things to ship. While owners have the freedom to work on and ship whatever they like, they also work in the real world. 80% of what makes the company go is often achieved by doing the most important work first, which typically makes up 20% of the available tasks. Sometimes these tasks can be tedious and feel like drudgery, but if they’re what makes things happen for our customers and their customers, they’ve got to be done, and with the highest priority.
  • Done is better than perfect, or "the best" is the enemy of "the good". Perfectionism is a form of procrastination. It assumes that time is an infinite resource, that other tasks can wait while you add "just one more touch" and that "perfect" is attainable. You have to be able to make the call and say "done" at some point. A good feature that our customers use and enjoy is infinitely better than a perfect one that "will be available soon". As they say at Apple, "Real artists ship".
  • Have high standards. While done is better than perfect, good still remains better than bad.
  • It’s okay to fail; just fail gracefully. The only sure-fire way to not fail is to not do anything. Since we can’t do that and remain in business, never mind take the company to the heights we want to, we have to accept failure as part and parcel of trying. Sometimes we’ll make mistakes, other times we’ll do things right and still our best-laid plans won’t work because of circumstances outside our control. The trick is to learn from failure and make sure our failures aren’t fatal. As our CEO Tobi likes to say: "If I’m not failing every now and again, I’m not trying hard enough."
  • Communicate good news quickly, communicate bad news ever more so. The first part is easy: it takes no effort to tell the team your project is a success. It’s a good thing to do so; good news bolsters the team and success often breeds more success. However, a combination of pride and fear (and in some companies, a "cover your ass" culture) makes it difficult to tell the team that you’re having trouble or that something’s not working out. It’s best to tackle problems as soon as possible, while they’re still small and manageable, and the best way to do this is to communicate bad news as quickly as possible — remember, it’s okay to fail.
  • Understand and respect the makers’ and managers’ schedules. As Paul Graham wrote in his essay, Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, makers and managers operate by different schedules. Managers’ days are determined by their appointment calendars, which divide the days into hours and even half-hours, and things like meetings fit into the manager’s schedule easily. Makers, on the other hand, do things in half-day or even full-days blocks, and things like meetings are disruptive. Some of the team operate on a maker’s schedule, other operate on a manager’s schedule, and many of us switch between the two, depending on what day it is and what tasks they have on that day. Know who operates on which schedule (and when), and understand and respect those schedules.
  • Operate lean and mean. We’re made up of multi-talented, capable, autonomous, ambitious go-getters, and that means we don’t have to operate like a big, lumbering beast. Unless the circumstances are unusual, there really should be 2 people maximum per deal or project. Meetings and calls should be kept to 30 minutes or less, not counting brainstorming or design pow-wows. And full-on meetings aren’t always necessary: you should be able to "just pop by" anyone’s office or desk or call them up on Skype.
  • Update often. Because we operate lean, means and independently, communication is vital. Keep your teammates apprised of your progress! 
  • Draw the owl. In the end, that’s what you’re trying to do…

how to draw an owl

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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