Ask any independent retailer who has tried to add an e-commerce feature, like a shopping cart or a checkout, to his website or mobile app and he’ll likely tell you it’s no easy feat. Whether he’s employed a web developer to custom-design his site or gone the DIY route with Shopify or Magento, bloated code bases and a lack of extensibility—not to mention demanding maintenance requirements—mean most small businesses are struggling to compete online.
Enter Moltin, a British start-up that claims to simplify the process with a cloud-based application programming interface (API) that allows developers to add e-commerce functionality with only a few lines of code. (For the uninitiated, an API helps different software systems communicate with each other.)
“We’re finally breaking down the barriers between e-commerce developer communities and we are bringing e-commerce functionality to communities that never had these capabilities before,” said Adam Sturrock, CCO, who co-founded Moltin with CEO Jamie Holdroyd and CTO Chris Roach in 2013 after all three experienced firsthand the limited features and never-ending frustrations that traditional platforms offer to developers. “Nothing truly fulfilled our needs,” he recalled.
Moltin, meanwhile, provides programmers with the building blocks they need to quickly and easily develop bespoke e-commerce experiences on all types of devices. By moving the core e-commerce components and interactions to the cloud and converting them into basic calls, developers can pick and choose what they need—as well as add their own custom logic—and have total freedom over what their website or app looks like.
“The API-based approach is radically different [from other platforms currently on the market], allowing developers to work fluidly in any programming language of their choosing, making Moltin the first e-commerce platform to natively support every platform, including mobile,” Sturrock said. “Using a cloud-based approach means the site’s back end is hosted and managed by us, eliminating the need for client-side maintenance and ensuring client satisfaction for the duration of the site’s existence.”
While the company set out with a clear vision in mind, Sturrock said it has “drastically changed” how it chases new business. “We now believe that the best way to attract developers to our product is by providing the community with top quality educational resources in the form of webinars, tutorial videos and high quality documentation,” he shared. In addition, the onboarding process has been polished and streamlined so users can accelerate their site’s speed to market. As Sturrock noted, “It now takes users only three minutes to make their first API call.”
Since its launch, Moltin has attracted more than 2,900 developers to its toolkit and received a big boost when the founders were invited to move to San Francisco to join start-up incubator Y Combinator’s Winter ’15 cycle (alumni include Airbnb and Dropbox) and got the opportunity to pitch their product to an audience of investors.
“Y Combinator was crucial in allowing us to break into the U.S. market, which has been highly receptive to both our platform and ambitions,” Sturrock reported. “Being on the program helped us to hone our vision, enabling us not only to explain clearly what our product was, but also the many benefits our API-based approach offers.”
He acknowledged that going up against established e-commerce solutions such as Shopify, Magento and Bigcommerce wasn’t easy, but said it helped more than hindered Moltin as it “required us to encourage a paradigm shift in how people think about e-commerce.”
A generous free tier allows developers to try out Moltin with no commitment—their first 30,000 API calls per month are completely free. After that, users can select a monthly subscription package ($49-$499) based on the number of API calls and storage required and scale up or down as needed.
In the coming weeks, the company plans to enhance its mobile e-commerce functionality offering with the introduction of an iOS SDK (software development kit) with Apple Pay support.
“This is just the beginning,” Sturrock said. “We will continue to break down barriers and level the playing field for developers and stores everywhere.”