I’m proud and excited to announce that SMOK Ventures co-led the $1.5M seed round of Vue Storefront. Read the full article to find out why.
What is Vue Storefront?
Vue Storefront is setting the new standard in e-commerce by providing shopping experiences like native apps while boosting site performance. Technically it’s a headless frontend that works with all the popular backends like commercetools or Magento. With Vue you can upgrade your dated e-commerce store’s look & feel without the need to migrate all your products and the backoffice. Vue Storefront is currently the world’s fastest-growing open-source e-commerce frontend.
What do you mean open source? Do they give the software away for free?
Yes! And it’s beautiful 🙂
I’ve always been an open source guy. I’ve used GNU/Linux on my desktop and vim for text editing for the last 20 years. I’ve been on Signal since it launched. I closely followed the growth of MySQL, Git(hub), WordPress, Docker, Elasticsearch, MongoDB, Nginx, Redis and others. I understand the power of open source in terms of community building.
Open source model specifically works when your product is primarily used by software engineers. Engineers put more trust into those tools that they can verify themselves by looking at their source code and documentation. Open source model means free distribution and potentially exponential growth with little marketing. However, it can be a challenge to monetize.
The best companies in this space find a way to provide value to customers with their free product while upselling them with premium features like cloud hosting and storage, add-on marketplaces or services. Vue Storefront is no different here. Its free Vue.js frontend library Storefront UI is being used by 250+ e-commerce stores globally already with zero sales efforts. The company can focus on the bigger enterprise deals while not ignoring the long tail of users who are good with the free version. I think it’s brilliant and very future-proof as a significant fraction of users of the free version sooner or later converts to a premium, fully hosted & supported edition.
Mobile e-commerce market is booming, but still uses legacy desktop-centric software
Currently e-commerce merchants are experiencing a mobile gap. Consumers spend much more time than money on mobile devices. Conversion on mobile is much lower than in desktop browsers. This is caused by shitty user experience as the majority of e-commerce websites are created in a responsive web design paradigm, i.e. the design originally created for desktop is fitted into much smaller mobile screens in a responsive way.
Vue Storefront is using a Progressive Web Apps (PWA) paradigm. The mobile frontend is created from scratch, using the state of the art user experience and design tricks, previously only known from the native apps. This greatly increases the mobile conversions, making the merchants more money.
PWA also has a huge impact on improving site loading times. 53% of mobile site visitors quit when the site takes more than 3 seconds to load. Vue Storefront makes sure this is never the case.
If it’s so obvious that PWA gives so many advantages, then why haven’t all the merchants switched to a modern architecture already? Well, the problem is that migrations suck. No one wants to leave the backend tools they are used to, reimplement the products database, or connect the new backend to all the external systems, etc. This is where Vue Storefront really rocks. Vue does not force the merchants to change their backend at all, as the system works with all the popular e-commerce backends like commercetools or Magento. With Vue you can upgrade your frontend to a modern, lightning fast, mobile-first experience while keeping all the good old backend systems intact. And when the time comes, they can still migrate to another backend while keeping the frontend. Decoupling the two and adding flexibility for merchants is why Vue Storefront became so popular so fast.
How have we met the founders?
Vue Storefront is a rare example of a software house spin-off that worked. The product has been incubated by Divante, a Wrocław-based e-commerce agency founded by the Karwatka brothers, Tomasz and Piotr.
I first talked with Tomasz and Piotr about potentially investing in Vue back in October 2019 during one of the founder meetups set in the beautiful region of Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska in Poland. Pre-COVID times, we do miss you!
Back then Vue was still part of Divante, but the brothers made the decision that the project’s potential was bigger than the company and that the only way to grow exponentially is to go separate ways. I’ve been in constant touch with the team ever since, advising the early founders and former Divante employees, Patrick Friday and Filip Rakowski on product, marketing and general vision of the company. Patrick is an experienced sales & bizdev guy and a previous founder. Filip is an quially experienced product manager and engineer. A match made in heaven! In January 2020 Bartek Roszkowski joined the team as COO. Bartek is a serial founder responsible for the success of startups like mfind and Nexto (both have been acquired). The founding team was set, and now it was the time to do the fundraise. I’d love to say the process was as lightening fast as the Vue Storefront frontend on mobile devices, but the truth is, it was rather long and painful (spin-offs are hard!). However, we were able to add Movens as a co-investor and we quickly agreed on the major terms with the team. We’ve been supporting the team together for most of 2020 and we eventually closed the deal in December 2020.
So, why have we invested, again?
It’s rare but Vue Storefront basically checked all the boxes for a SMOK investment into an early stage startup:
- amazing founding team in Patrick, Filip and Bartek, best suited to disrupt the e-commerce tools industry,
- fantastic advisors in Tomek and Piotr who support the founders on a daily basis,
- phenomenal traction with the open source version of the software,
- a good commercialization plan with positive early signals from enterprise customers,
- great access to customers via founders’ network in the e-commerce world,
- fast-growing e-commerce market with a number of legacy, not mobile-first systems waiting to be disrupted.
Are you working on a startup relevant to SMOK?
If you read the above, liked what you saw, can relate to how we think, communicate and act as a fund and you know of a startup we should be talking to, please read our investment FAQ and send me an email with the deck at firstname.lastname@example.org!
SMOK Ventures is a Polish/American venture capital fund investing between 50k and 1M USD in early stage startups in Poland and CEE. We like gaming and software startups run by serial founders who think market domination.