Earlier this summer, I compared the excitement at the inaugural MACH One conference to the same excitement that surrounded the early days of SaaS. The trend towards building websites and applications with composable architectures – the combination of microservices, API-first, cloud-based SaaS and headless, hence the acronym MACH – creates a tremendous opportunity for its early adopters. Just as the advent of SaaS spawned a new breed of cloud consulting firms back then, including Appirio, Bluewolf, and Cloud Sherpas in the Salesforce ecosystem, this new trend will likely see the emergence of a similar group of Pureplay integrators.
That’s the thinking behind an $11 million investment announced today in MyPlanet, a Toronto, Canada-based consulting firm that has been fully committed to composable commerce projects based primarily on Commercetools or Elastic Path since 2020. The investment comes from Tercera, a boutique investment firm founded by Chris Barbin, former founding CEO of Appirio, who is bringing that experience to a new breed of advisory firm that is serving emerging vendors in what Tercera has dubbed the third cloud wave operate arithmetic.
This is MyPlanet’s first outside investment and is expected to fuel growth from its current 200 employees to approximately 500 as the company expands its footprint in North America and beyond. Jason Cottrell, CEO and Founder of Myplanet believes this is the right moment to accelerate its growth. He tells me:
This category will explode even more. It’s going to be mainstream in 2022, 2023. These are pivotal years in the development of this category. Our position was that it was time to invest, to double down. We wanted to see that we had a capital partner on hand to make these investments, make them confident and adapt to market changes.
Rather than relying on a single vendor’s platform, the MACH architecture that defines composable commerce allows each component to be plugged in or unplugged. This means that there is no commitment to a single provider. Cottrell Comments:
Customers who can truly explore the potential of composable understand that this is their final platform transition. After that they have something to curate, theoretically for decades to come. But they should never have to do a major lift upgrade ever again. You can swap out a trading provider, a CMS frontend, a data service – that can change, it can be curated. But this idea of a one-time conversion should be the last they ever have to do. It should be curated to meet the evolving needs of their business.
To help customers manage this heterogeneous collection of moving parts, Myplanet has developed its own toolkit called Composable.com to provide 35+ pre-built integrations for various MACH solutions. The result of nearly $2 million in bootstrap investments by the company, this toolkit is now being actively used by the vast majority of its customers to accelerate project delivery and demonstrates the value a systems integrator can bring. However, working with a composable MACH architecture requires different skills than working with a classic SaaS architecture, as Cottrell explains:
They’re doing similar things, but it’s the move from SaaS to infrastructure. This opens up completely new potential. It also means it’s different to work with. Firms that have specialized and built an Adobe practice or a Salesforce or even a Shopify/BigCommerce practice do not translate one-to-one to work in this category.
In 2019, after realizing it was developing capabilities that could give it an advantage in an emerging market, Myplanet made the decision to fully transition its business to this new category. It was a calculated risk after a decade of successful operations, but the company had already seen the new architecture work for brands and retailers like New Balance, UNTUCKit and Harry Rosen – the latter of which won the MACH Award for Best Retail Project last MACH One -Event. Cottrell explains:
We had built up a very good customer list. But we recognize that more is being done for those who push boundaries than just “Here’s a catalog and a buy button”; For those whose operations were complex – multi-region delivery, omnichannel shipping – these new API-centric infrastructures were truly a powerful opening. This was a better way.
Ultimately, the timing turned out to be coincidental, as the pandemic hit just months after the decision, increasing pressure on customers to move to a more flexible architecture. He elaborates:
Suddenly COVID hits and puts all this pressure on the system. I think it was this great gathering power. For those who could see the potential, they suddenly realized that this would only accelerate, it would happen years sooner. So it was almost a positive force for us to just completely catalyze the transition to that full surrender in that space. And I would say as of early 2020 we haven’t looked back.
With a strong cash position, the company was able to take a long-term view and prioritize its investments in Composable.com and complete the category’s transition to Composable Commerce, he adds.
This is paying off now that customers are looking for solutions to pain points that are becoming more acute as e-commerce needs grow. He says:
The brands that go well with Composable have what I call the multi problem. There’s a complexity to their business that’s why it doesn’t do well on Shopify or Salesforce. And that’s so often [because] They run in multiple regions and ship from multiple DCs [distribution centers], they ship online and in stores, they run multiple brands, they run multiple banners, they run multiple commercial models. It’s when you get into that multi, that “and” scenario that’s often what breaks traditional systems. You can talk to them for about five minutes and find out how painful this fragmentation has become for them – the burden it places on their operations, the cost it imposes as their revenue grows…
While either Commercetools or Elastic Path typically anchors these implementations, there is often a surrounding ecosystem of vendors that need to be connected, including various front-end and CMS components, personalization, POS, store order management, payments, and checkout. Reconfiguring the customer data stack in Twilio Segment or connecting other flows via Google Cloud Platform is also a common requirement.
A timely move to adapt to the shift to composable animalless architecture.