40. What Success Looks Like for a Behemoth in Ecommerce | Brent Bellm, CEO of BigCommerce

Episode 40

Play episode

On this episode of Driven, our very special guest knows what it takes to drive success, having led their company to becoming the 2023 Top Rated Ecommerce Platform. Brent Bellm, CEO of BigCommerce, joins the Founder & CEO of DCKAP, Karthik Chidambaram, for a fascinating deep dive into what it takes to compete, lead, and succeed in the often saturated world of eCommerce technology.

From his humble background and learned experiences, to his business savvy and forward thinking strategies, Brent shares how he targets competitors, manages evolution, and the position BigCommerce takes in the market. His insights will show that, while many companies might execute well or have a great culture as a pillar of their success, alone it is not as effective, and strategy is one of the most important things that helped BigCommerce to really thrive.


Karthik Chidambaram: Alright. Hello everyone. We are very, very excited to have with us, Brent Bellm, the CEO of BigCommerce, for our Driven show. Brent, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome!

Brent Bellm: Thanks, Karthik! It's great to have you and the team here in our Austin headquarters.

Karthik Chidambaram: It's great. So, Bachelor’s at Stanford, Masters at Harvard. It's like a dream for many. It looks like Brent was a very, very smart kid growing up. Is that right?

Brent Bellm: Uh, I was a very hardworking kid.

Karthik Chidambaram: Okay.

Brent Bellm: And there's a really important difference here because I think, you know, my success has a lot more to do with hard work and adversity than anything else. So, my quick background, my mom and my dad are both from a little farming town in southern Illinois, middle of absolute nowhere, corn and soybeans. You know, my dad grew up on a farm. And for college, he wanted to study forestry of all things, like agriculture but for trees, and do it in the Rocky Mountains. So, they moved out to the Rockies. They had me, they had my brother. They divorced, then they moved back to small town Illinois. They remarried, they moved back to the Rockies, they divorced again, and then we got stuck there.

You know, my mom was kind of stuck a thousand miles away from family trying to raise three kids on a very low elementary school teacher salary. We were on food stamps. We, you know, only kept our house with assistance from the broader family. But for reasons I won't go into, we couldn't move back. And we were also in a very heavily religious community and not members of that religion.

In fact, we stood out as being sort of the only people in the neighborhood who weren't. And seeing my mom struggle, seeing us struggle as a family, you know, sort of lit a spark in me. I can think back to when I was five or six, I was always a curious kid, but I also needed to create my own sense of being worth something. I didn't get that from the community I was living in. You know, relatives aren't around. The neighbors look down on us, and kids react to that type of situation in a variety of ways. I reacted to it by working hard and saying, ‘well, at least in school, here's a place where I can do well’ and, you know, get my math assignment done first.

I cared more about getting done first than I did getting everything right. But if I could get everything right too, then that was, that was a bonus. And, you know, so I just worked hard in school. And the broader family, my mom, again, she's an elementary school teacher, so I got some affirmation from her that that's good, but certainly no pushing and broader her family back home in Illinois let me know they were proud of me when I did well in school.

And by the time I got to middle school, I was then kind of old and mature enough to realize that there was a way out. Like, I wasn't stuck going to a local college, even if that's what everybody in my kind of high school did. Like, my high school was a big but lower middle class high school. And I think in my graduating class, only three people went to college outside of the state.

Karthik Chidambaram: Wow.

Brent Bellm: Including myself. So, nobody else went outside the state and there was nobody in the college or in my family saying to me, ‘Hey, you should aspire to something big’. It was certainly the polar opposite of a school that would feed people into elite out-of-state colleges.

But when I started looking at… All I knew was I didn't want to go to, I wanted to get out, I wanted to get away, right? I wanted to move out of state. And when I started doing my own research into colleges, then the whole world's [open]. I'm going out of state, and I don't know where. I can go anywhere.

And I did, you know, look at a number of colleges, and two of the seven I applied to were in the state of Illinois where my family was from. And I had full rides to those schools and then my family couldn't understand why as a poor family, I wanted to go to something like Stanford where I didn't get a full ride. A lot of financial aid, but not a full ride. It's just a place I wanted to go and I'd worked hard. And when I got in, then the funny thing when I got there is I just kept doing what I did in high school. Like, I felt very under-prepared, not having gone to an elite school, not having come from a family of money.

But what do I do in college? I just keep working hard like I did in high school. And lo and behold, I did just as well in college as I did in high school. Anyway, it's a long story, but one of the things I want to just emphasize as I look back, I think at the time I was, you know, age 15 to maybe age 22, I would've thought I'd even go to a good high school because we were kind of lower end high school in the, you know, in the city that I was in.

And certainly, it's not like a lot of the elite prep schools that people go to, to a Stanford or an Ivy League. I had a great education. I look back at my teachers and how they stimulated in me a love of math, a love of history. You know, I had great teachers and subjects I didn't necessarily love, and I had mediocre teachers too. But my background combined with hard work was more than enough not just to get in, but to then do just as well as any other person. And that's one, I'm one of the big believers that the motivation of the student, the motivation I had to excel, even if it was driven by, you know, a tough circumstance is the biggest single thing that can enable any human being to get the most out of their human potential. Their human potential to accomplish their human potential, to, you know, kind of expand their own horizons and learn and be passionate about what they learn or do with their brain or their physical skills.

And number two is, that's really the most important thing in school. You don't have to have schools where, you know, they're being paid two x, three x, four x the national average. You have to have teachers that care. Teachers who do a good job and engage the students in the subject matter. And boy, I sure found great teachers. Not all of them, but I found great teachers at that high school, and at some point, I felt kind of obligated to go back and kind of say thanks.

Karthik Chidambaram: Oh, that’s very, very inspiring, Brent, thanks for sharing your background. I wasn't aware of this.

Brent Bellm: That was a long story.

Karthik Chidambaram: No, but it's very inspiring, especially for kids growing up, who are from humble backgrounds. It's very inspiring.

I'm just curious. I mean, I'm sure that hard work you put in and the grit, you know, teaches you a lot of grit and it helps in your business today. But just going to some of these big colleges, because not everybody works hard as you did, sometimes as you grow up in life you get a little more sense of things a little later, not as a kid. So, let's say if somebody go, if they don't go to Harvard or Stanford, but they say, you know, going to Harvard or Stanford really helps with connections and everything. Does that really help? And if you didn't go there, would have, you had the same kind of a career opportunity, what do you think?

Brent Bellm: I've got two very strong perspectives on this. Number one is, I am sure that for an awful lot of people, they would tell you stories about how their connections in undergrad or, you know, from a really elite undergrad or elite business school totally changed their life. That's not my story, that's not my experience. The jobs that I have gotten at every stage in my life had zero to do with connections I made, as an undergrad, either with friends that I had or with teachers. It was all my own hard work, my own job searches, my own, trying to create connections to the extent that there were connections that had a big impact on my career.

They were business connections. They weren't school connections. And I'm not saying that's a story for everybody, probably for every one person like me, who has kind of done it with their own effort at each stage in their career, there's probably another two or three or four, maybe five, ten, who would point to at least one major step and said, oh yeah, it was this friend from undergrad or this friend from business school or this connection who made all the difference.

And sure, I stay in touch with my friends from both, but they had nothing to do with the choices I have made. My friends in high school had nothing to do with it. My friends in college had nothing to do with it. My friends in business school, and part of that's just who I am. I'm a, an introvert, not an extrovert. I have, you know, a real obsessive commitment to the things I find interesting. And early in my career, I found first retail, store-based retail, and then when the internet came along, retail e-commerce, to be the things that I really loved. And that had nothing to do with other people. Other people were going after, you know, investment banking or they were going after venture capital or stuff like that, right? And that wasn't what got me all excited. It was, it was e-commerce of all things. Uh, so that's point number one. Point number two is it taught me a lot.

I live here in Austin, Texas now for the last 13 years, and I moved here from, you know, more recently, the Bay Area. I've lived in four European countries. Austin is a great place to live. There are many great places to live. Austin has a lot of business opportunity, and I would say the educational backgrounds that would help you the most in Austin are Texas based schools, the networks here, University of Texas, A&M, TCU, SMU, Baylor, Houston Rice, those networks are dramatically deeper, wider than the Ivy League, and there is no sense in this very thriving business community of inferiority, in fact the opposite. If you don't have one of those degrees, somebody comes here with an Ivy degree, it's almost a liability. You gotta explain yourself as not being, you know, snobby or arrogant because of that accomplishment degree, you almost have to overcome it. You certainly don't have a network here, in my experience that catapults you to relative success.

And I think that's actually a very positive and constructive thing because it may be quite different in the Northeast or California, where an educational pedigree is required for at least a giant advantage in getting job opportunities. It’s not going to hurt you in Austin, but it's certainly, in my opinion, not going to put you ahead of the many quality schools that are here in Texas.

And okay, so what if you move to Texas and you don't have one of the Texas schools? There's nothing wrong with a degree from another, you know, SEC school or, you know, and an Oklahoma school, a Kansas school. I mean, you can, you can thrive here. If you're hardworking and you're capable, you do not need those pedigrees, and that's a real breath of fresh air.

You know, I've got three kids and who knows if any of them will get into an elite school. But, as you know, somebody who graduated from those, it doesn't stress me out. As long as I know that they're hardworking and they're capable and they're smart, I'm certainly not going to try to micromanage my kids to the same degrees, because I wasn't micromanaged.

I mean, how did I wind up there? I mean, my sister didn't even graduate from high school. You know, my brother didn't graduate from college, right? It's not like I come from a family where this is the expectation or the norm. In fact, I'm the only person who's ever done it in my family from, you know, elite schools like that.

So, I don't stress out about it and I don't overemphasize it relative to, you know, advising my kids and others. The most important thing in life is you figure out who you are. Meaning what's your, what are your interests? What's your personality type? What makes you tick? What gets the best out of you when you work on it?

And then having a work ethic applied to that. Because when you combine an intersection of your passions, your aptitudes, and hopefully a strong work ethic, you know, you can absolutely thrive in your life, and you don't need some pedigree. Not that pedigree won't help. It may not be an avenue for exploring all of that, but it's not the only path.

Karthik Chidambaram: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Sometimes it could be a liability, like you said, and you always have to be willing to work hard. So thanks for that wisdom, Brent.

Let's talk business a little bit. So, you are the CEO of BigCommerce, publicly traded company, and even prior to BigCommerce, you were with HomeAway, another publicly traded company as well. How is it to be a CEO of a public company? Is there a lot of pressure, or how do you deal with that?

Brent Bellm: Uh, I'm, I've always put a lot of pressure on myself. And so, the pressure of being a public company is just all part of the course. I'm not somebody who wants to shy away. There are extra obligations of being a public company - SOCs compliance, you know, quarterly reporting, you know, the real having your feet to the fire because you have to guide Wall Street. And if you miss your numbers, then Wall Street punishes you. If you beat your numbers, then you get rewarded. There’s a lot to it, but I'm a believer that the majority of things, that being public brings out in the company, make the company better, stronger internally in terms of operations, in terms of discipline, in terms of aspiration setting, goal setting.

But then there are parts that are out of your control. The hardest part for us, and the big reason I wanted to be public is that in the world of e-commerce, there are hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of e-commerce platforms around the world. And if you're a business or a partner of ours saying, I'm going to bet my company on this platform for my digital transformation, on my e-commerce future, or a partner who's saying, ‘I'm going to devote a material percentage of our time and attention to this platform’, having the credibility and transparency of a public company where you can see, oh, they've got a balance sheet with 300 million of cash on it, right? They've got whatever the number is, 16 investment bank analysts who review and rate the stock and they all rate the company a buy or a strong market performer, right? Nobody with a sell rating.

You get the transparency around your growth rates. That gives us a leg up, right? On all of those private companies, the vast majority of the 500 plus, where they don't have that transparent credibility, that's valuable to our customers. And, okay, ‘I'm in safer hands’ with this company because they're public, they're strong performing, and it also helps to neutralize a disadvantage we used to have relative to the big market cap.

So, who are our biggest competitors? They're large market cap companies. They include Salesforce, it includes Adobe, who owns Magento. It includes SAP. It includes Shopify. Historically it's included Oracle and IBM, though no longer. I mean, those are all very large market cap companies, and when we are ourselves public, we don't have their market cap. But we show growth rates that are, you know, higher than in 2022. Last year we grew 27% for the year. Way above global e-commerce, which was close to zero, way above any of our public competitors.

You know, so even in a bad economy, that type of transparency can help us even relative to the large market cap competitors that we have. So, I like all of that. It's not all beneficial, though. I mean, as an example, any tech CEO would tell you that 2022 was a hard year, because when we started 2022, very few people anticipated high inflation, high interest rates, possibility of a recession, and a total whipsaw in the public markets and private markets from years of valuing growth over profitability to now valuing profitability way ahead of growth.

And you have a financial plan that's weighted towards growth over profitability. And you realize ‘uh-oh’, even if you're hitting your numbers, Wall Street's not going to be happy about that, because they no longer want the numbers you plan for, they now want profitability. Uh, and so that's very hard. And, you know, even though we were sort of hitting our numbers every quarter last year, and our competition, you know, for the most part did not, we had to kind of change our own plan going into this year and bring profitability into this year.

And that's tough, but it's not any different public versus private. Had we been a private company, our investors would've demanded the exact same thing of us. It's just that doing it in the public markets and having to make big changes in how you're planning your future and managing your cost and your growth rate, it's harder to do in the public markets.

It's been, that's been challenging. I found the last year more challenging than IPOing and leading through the pandemic, for example, or more challenging than the, you know, we IPO'ed HomeAway in 2011 and then I was there for four years as president, COO, as a public company. You know, the last year has been more challenging as a public company than any other because again, Wall Street just completely changed the equation for success that it values. However, I think it's probably in some ways easier to do that as a public company because we, as a public company, we're able to raise, before any of this happened, a very big, you know, rounds of both equity and debt issuance. And so we had a very strong balance sheet going into all of this, and we're in strong financial shape to basically manage through all of it.

Karthik Chidambaram: Very interesting. So, for people who don't know about what BigCommerce is and why BigCommerce, what is BigCommerce? And what do you guys do?

Brent Bellm: Very simply, we are an e-commerce platform. And by platform it is the fundamental software that a business would use to create and manage its e-commerce store or stores.

So, your e-commerce stores can be selling to consumers, they can be selling to businesses, on BigCommerce. You can do both. Because we're very strong at both B2C and B2B e-commerce. And we're a Software as a Service, in that model. So, you're not actually buying and licensing raw code from us. It’s served up over the internet with API’s to access, if you want to extend, modify, or customize.

But this model of Software as a Service makes it really easy. Like we, we like to think of it as enterprise e-commerce, simplified enterprise, because we focus on serving complex businesses with enterprise like needs. Meaning they need to make sure that their e-commerce platform adapts to the, you know, all the other technology and systems and customer segments that they serve.

Whatever their accounting or ERP is, whatever their marketing automation is, whatever their supply chain and order management is. And we have a lot of enterprise capabilities built in, but we simplify all that complexity. We make it faster to deploy, lower cost to manage and operate, um, built in performance and security. You know, we think that we, better than anybody, simplify enterprise e-commerce.

Karthik Chidambaram: Talking about e-commerce. You also briefly touched on competition. So, let's say five, six years ago, if you talked about e-commerce, it's mostly Adobe Commerce, the owners of Magento, and then Shopify, big, you know, Salesforce Commerce. And now, BigCommerce is also on the reckoning. You know, it's a force now. And you guys did some great marketing and people talk about BigCommerce. How do you look at competition and how do you differentiate from the competition?

Brent Bellm: Yeah, so I've been in e-commerce software since the late nineties. In fact, I, in 2000-2001, I worked for one of the first ever Software as a Service e-commerce platforms. Back in, back when there were only maybe five from the nineties where it was like Yahoo stores, Volusion, Blue Martini, and Escalate, the one I worked for.

So, I've believed in this Software as a Service model since before it was called that. When I came into BigCommerce in 2015 and took over for the founders, the company was six years old. We had risen to the number two platform in the world serving small businesses. As a SaaS platform. But we were a long way away from number one. Number one was Shopify, and they had a five year head start. They had already IPO'ed. And as good as our platform was for small business, it could do a bunch of things.

Shopify couldn't, but I knew that we couldn't keep doing exactly what we were doing and, given the later start, expect to overtake Shopify, which has a very, very good platform for small business. So, the day I came in, the board and the management team, you know, part of the interview process asked me, where would you take the company as CEO? And I said, no hesitation, the day I arrive I will announce that our target competitor is no longer Shopify, it's Magento. Magento in 2015 was the 800-pound gorilla. They probably had 20% share of, you know, the mid-market and enterprise. They were global. They were B2C and B2B, but they were on premise software.

They were, they, you bought Magento or you did the free open source version, but you had to own manage Virgin's cure, upgrade bug, fix your software. And it was really hard. It was very expensive and most companies don't want to have to do that and don't have the expense or the financials to do that. But they didn't have a choice in 2015. Why did they not have a choice? Because nobody had taken Software as a Service and made it as enterprise ready and open and flexible as what complex businesses needed. Not that they didn't want it, it's just nobody had done that yet. And I knew all about Magento.

When I was, uh, in 2010, I was in my 10th year at PayPal in eBay. I was running global product management at PayPal and we were evaluating what, we were evaluating Magento. We had seen it rise from day one as a partner of ours. Ultimately, my boss at eBay bought Magento after I left. So, I saw the whole growth and evolution of Magento. I had extreme respect for it, on every dimension other than the fact that it wasn't Software as a Service.

And I said in 2015, we're going to create the Software as a Service alternative to Magento. Now that, that took a lot of work, you can't just say, we're now focused on complex businesses, mid-market and enterprise, and therefore be everything that they need. That takes time and it takes a lot of hard work and success as you manage the evolution.

But what we did is we took what was kind of a monolith for SaaS in 2015, and we just very systematically decomposed it into microservices. We took each, every other product, gave it its own API’s and ability to integrate, extend, uh, upgrade for merchants and, and just one by one kept adding first the flexibility and then the enterprise functionality on top of it. And today, I would say that we're completely an enterprise solution. Forrester, Gartner, IDC Paradigm, everybody will tell you that we're, you know, sort of a leader or pecking on the leaderboard for enterprise capabilities, both B2C and B2B, because we have successfully done that. So, that's sort of the evolution of BigCommerce.

And I would say this, the commitment to open, we call it open commerce, um, this commitment to open commerce and open SaaS. As the alternative to open source, which is what Magento had done. Magento was open source, right? You buy all the software and it's open to you, but you're dealing with the source code. Whereas with Open SaaS, you don't get all of our source code, but it's open because of all the APIs and the flexibility. But has built in security, built in performance, built in lower cost of ownership, faster deployment, all the advantages of SaaS, and now the vast majority of the benefits of what you used to have to buy, which was licensed or open source software to get.

That's, that's sort of our positioning in the market and it's very different than our top competitors. Those top competitors, going back to the competitor question, all compete as conglomerates. They don't believe in openness. You know, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a very, very small cog in the wheel of Salesforce, which is really focused on CRM. And, uh, analytics and various types of CRM sales, CRM service, CRM, et cetera.

You know, Adobe, it's not Magento and Adobe. Now, commerce is a very small cog in the Adobe wheel, which is fundamentally all about a bunch of other businesses of which they make more money. Commerce was always small to Oracle and IBM when they did it, it's very small to SAP. Even, you know, Shopify, they make 70% of their revenue off payments and merchant solutions, all these other businesses that they have added and tacked on, right?

So, they all compete as conglomerates and they want their customers to buy not one but ten products from them, or at least five. Um, what we learned from Magento who became world number one in the on-premise software era, they did that by having the single best platform, the most open, flexible platform. And they didn't try to shove every other component or five other products down their customer charts. They didn't have five other products. Now they did once they got by Adobe, but they grew to be number one. When they were open. They were the definition of open and flexible, right? And so, for complex businesses, what are the odds that a single company's suite of products is going to be the best fit for you?

In some cases, yeah. But, in most cases, a big conglomerate trying to sell you a suite of services leads you to compromise in both what you get and what you pay throughout the system, right? With BigCommerce, you're going to get a lot more for what you pay for our core platform. And then you get to pick the payment solution that's best in the world for you, pre-integrated. You get to pick the ERP, the marketing automation, the point of sale solution, right? All of the other points of the stack.

And it's not that everybody wants to put together a best stack for their business, but I think the majority of complex businesses are better off when they do it that way, which is why Magento became bigger than all the suites. It became bigger than IBM, Oracle, um, SAP, right? Back in the day.

Karthik Chidambaram: Very interesting, right. So, they say good artists copy, great artists steal, [like] Pablo Picasso.

And I was fortunate enough to watch a lot of things you did starting 2015, leading into the IPO. But at that time, you know, my learning was limited and a lot of that did not make a lot of sense to me. But now, as you IPO-ed, ‘Hey, Brent did this. Hey, they did that. They invested a lot in marketing’. So, it looks like you really executed the plan well, starting in 2015, leading into the IPO.

Can you talk us through that journey? I mean, let's say for example, right, you have a set of things to do and what if you don't need it? I mean, you actually meet the things that you set to do. That's really interesting. So can you talk us through that journey leading into the IPO, and how do you do that?

Brent Bellm: Yeah. You know, there are management books and leadership books that are a dime a dozen. And, you know, probably every book has some real amount of wisdom that has worked for some number of companies.

So, what we did isn't necessarily what other companies should do. And I run into other companies and other theorists and other leaders who will say, you know, it's first and foremost all about culture. Or it's all about execution, or it's all about strategy. I'll tell you what we do. So, what I'm best at is strategy, and I came in with that strategy day one that I told you about.

So, first of all, in my opinion, if you execute well or have a great culture, but your strategy's wrong, or if your industry's super competitive, you're doomed. You might be able to get away with a, an adequate strategy in a less competitive industry, but when you have 500 plus competitors like we do, who are all trying to out execute and out culture and their way to the top, you don't have a chance unless you, unless you first have a differentiated and better strategy for a segment of the market that you're going to focus on.

And so that's the first thing I do, but I'm the last person to say that strategy is more important than culture and execution on the culture side. Which is about ‘how do you attract and get the best out of the best people you can?’ I was really fortunate because we already, at BigCommerce, were great in that regard, and I always give credit starting to, of all people, our CFO, Robert Alvarez, and despite being a CFO, he's the best culture leader I've ever worked with at any company.

And he had an incredibly good culture here. The values, the energy, the, you know, the ability to attract and retain wonderful human beings, that goes back to him. We needed to compliment it with a real performance ethic. So, now you get over to execution and operations and, you know, that's a continuous journey. Every function, every, even every leader like me is trying to get better every year. I'm not, I'm not a good enough CEO for where the company needs to be in two, three years, right? So every function in the company, every leader in the company has to keep growing in order for the company to keep advancing.

What you're good at today is what's going to keep you from getting to your full potential in the future. If you keep relying on what you're already good at, you got to figure out how to get good at new things, you know? So, it's all three of those things. And I would emphasize that in an industry as really competitive as ours, it's been competitive a long time.

In 2002, the year after I left that, you know, e-commerce platform escalate from the nineties that I joined, and I went to eBay and I was explaining to eBay the reason why we shouldn't get into store platform technology at eBay. And I said, look, in 2002, I've got a list of 250 different platforms around the world that I can name. This is 2002. Over 20 years ago, 250, and not a single one of them has more than 3% market share. Why? Because merchants have different needs, different category needs, functionality needs, geographic needs. There's no one size fits all. And, you know, it would be hopeless, I said, for eBay to get into this industry and expect to out-compete those 250 companies, especially when it's not even your core business.

Your core business is an auction platform. You know, it's a marketplace. You can't create some new division competing against it. It's a tough industry and I think it has been proven that success in a competitive industry like this requires really doing well on all three dimensions. Having the right strategy, which I've explained for us. Having a great culture, which I credit to Robert Alvarez and then, you know, executing as well as you can, but even better at each step along the way.

Karthik Chidambaram: Strategy, culture, execution. Looks like a masterclass to me. But yeah, thank you for sharing that. It's really very interesting.

So, talking about commerce, you are at the forefront of what's happening in the digital revolution, and BigCommerce is at the forefront of the digital revolution that's happening, not just in the US but across the world. And we do a lot of work with distributors, and we help integrate their systems, let's say, BigCommerce with other platforms, with our integration platform. How do you think that this digital revolution, how can distributors or the B2B businesses leverage the digital revolution that's happening?

Brent Bellm: Well, they really need to, B2B companies, they're slower to adopt e-commerce, but they have to because every person who buys from them is also a consumer. And as consumers, the human beings that they distribute to have learned all of the competitive, all of the conveniences of buying online.

I mean, during the pandemic we were all forced to, right? We couldn't go to stores. And so every human being in most of the world has become very, very deeply aware of what e-commerce has done right is like to experience. And if you are a distributor, for example, who is not giving your consumers, your customers, your business customers a really good buying experience, you're still stuck in old paper-based offline ways that are an inconvenience, that slows them down, that costs them time, that costs them money.

You are disadvantaging yourself relative to your competition. Or maybe even if you don't have competition, you've got customers loyal to you. Those customers might not buy as much. They might not buy as frequently. They might not buy as widely as if you give them a really great experience. And so one of the things that I think gives us a BigCommerce a giant advantage in serving B2B companies is that, with the exception of Magento, almost all of the other B2B platforms that are out there began as B2B platforms. They don't have a B2C background. They don't have the business to consumer front end design tools that we have. They don't have the consumer experience optimization mindset that we have.

And so when we bring that to B2B, we're also bringing all of the capabilities that many of the world's best and biggest brands used on BigCommerce. Yeah, to your option set for your B2B selling. And then for example, our new buyer portal that we just launched a couple weeks ago, early May 2023, we're getting feedback from our agency partners that it is the best buyer portal user experience that they've ever seen in a B2B platform.

It's incredible, you know, so we're bringing in a lot of B2B functionality native into a platform that also has all the attributes of world class B2C. And that makes it so much easier, faster, and more effective for a B2B company to create a great buying experience. But with the capabilities that are required in B2B, you know, company permissions, order lists, you know, purchase order capabilities and invoicing, all the B2B specific functionality that you have to have in there too.

Karthik Chidambaram: Very interesting. So, they just have to get out there and try different things and experiment.

And you talked about strategy. I have a follow up question on that as well. So, let's say for a distributor out there who wants to improve on their strategy, or for anyone for that matter, let's say they're not really good at strategy. How can you improve yourself in strategy?

Brent Bellm: Oh boy. Uh, that's a long question and I'm going to try to give you a succinct answer. I started my career from scratch. The first job I ever got was as out of college. And then back after business school I was a management consultant. And I quickly found retail and focused on retail management consulting straight out of college.

I didn't have any experience. I mean, I could do numbers really well and I could do analysis really well, which was my role on teams. I was an analyst. I wasn't really telling the companies what to do, I was analyzing what my bosses told companies to do. We're analyzing the customer's business. In my experience, the key to doing strategy well always begins with a deep understanding of who your customer is, what your customer most needs, and how to do that differently and better than what anybody else is doing.

It starts with the customer, doesn't start with market sizes and outside in analysis. You have to understand your customer really well and keep learning from your customer. It's not always that your customer can tell you what it is they want. I mean, Steve Jobs famously said, ‘why would I ask the customer what the customer wants?’ Only I can tell them, you know?

And that's what the great visionaries can do. That's if you're creating a new market in a new area, new product, you know, like Steve Jobs did so famously. Regardless though, you have to know your customer and you either have to ask the customer and understand what they're looking for. You have to imagine something and then go test it on them and see is this the right, you know, music, portable music player for you? Is this a nice, the right portable phone concept? It starts with the customer and then, and really understanding your competition. Because you got to do something a lot better and different than they do.

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah. Start with the customer and do better than your competition. That's cool.

Talking about the distribution businesses and even distributors in general, one of the challenges they have is they have a great site and they are always marketing the site. ‘Hey, this is the site, just go to this website’ and yeah, it's all great, but then the orders don't take place online. So what do you think distributors can do there? Or sometimes, you know, one of the concerns distribution businesses have, even when I talk to some distributors, is, even today some distributors do not have an e-commerce store and some of them tell me that, ‘Hey, you know, we tried e-commerce but then we are not getting enough orders, so we don't really want to invest on that.’ Yeah. What have you got to say for that?

Brent Bellm: Uh, couple things. So, the first is, even if you create a good website, how do you get traffic to it? How do people know about it? Right? If your existing customers aren't forced to go there and they've got old ways of doing business with you, they may not themselves go there because you haven't forced them to. So, insight number one is that, and we'll take it from the world of B2C insight number one is that when we look across our customers around the world, mature businesses usually of, you know, more of them are not digital natives.

They've been around for years, decades, offline before online. Okay. Today, if we look at their transactions in any given month, roughly half of them last click source from a third-party website, the customer did not go straight to the merchant's url. The customer got there starting on a search engine or an affiliate site, or a display ad, or a content site, or a social network.

They're coming in from a third-party website. And so a big part of the game in succeeding in B2C and for some B2B sellers, some is what we call omnichannel. And omnichannel is your ability to get your products and your store or brand distributed to the place on the web where your target customers most likely spending time, okay. And may even be looking for products like yours, okay. And that's why we bought a business called Phenomics. They're the world leader for enterprises, basically feeding their product catalogs optimally into Google, Microsoft, and the search engines. Because remember, in the search engines, it used to all be about SEO.

SEO is where they're crawling your website and looking for the keywords they want. But now SEO is pushed way down the page. If you're on Google and somebody does a shopping search, it's going to be Google Shopping first, and then paid ads, or in other places. They also have free ads and listings. Now, and the only way to get into Google Shopping or to really perform in these PAs is you have to feed your catalog in.

If you don't do that, you can't even appear, right? And it's going to be all your competition. So that's how Google works. Facebook Tech talks, social networks have their own schema where they need. Product catalogs fed in optimally in order to do things like retargeting, lookalike targeting, you know, selling affiliate networks. You have to feed your catalog in. You need to optimize that. Phenomics is what does that, and so that is part of the game, and that's relevant to any B2B distributor too. If you are looking for your products to appear on third party websites, and they also do marketplaces, so 180 marketplaces, and there may be B2B marketplaces, distributor marketplaces, you know, just like there are marketplaces like Amazon, right?

Are you trying to sell on Amazon, B2B through their marketplace, et cetera. So that is the first lesson, is just designing a good site isn't enough. You need to get people to it, and you need to do that at the best return on ad spend you can.

The second is then once they go there, you need to convert them. And converting has everything to do with, have you actually provided a buying experience that is better than the offline alternatives? If you haven't, meaning, you know, let's say that you're forcing the company to pay with credit cards and they don't pay with credit cards, or vice versa, you only let them pay with credit cards and they want to do an invoice or purchase order, and you don't support that.

You have to have the key characteristics that your purchasers need to facilitate both the creation of the order or the shopping cart and then the actual checkout. What if you're selling complex orders and you want to load it with 300 items into a shopping cart? Can the shopping cart handle 300 items? Most shopping carts can't. Ours used to not be able to, but it can now, right? You can get zero conversion. When fundamentally, your own e-comm platform can't handle, you know, what it is you're trying to sell. So, the right buyer portal, the right checkout, and payment options, the right permissions, options, it has to work with the permissions, the order process, permissions of your buyers.

All that has to be built in, in order for the site to convert. Now, let's say you do all that optimally, and for some crazy reason your customers are getting, you're getting target customers to your website. You've got the products you want for sale there with a good, good customer experience. You're giving them the tools they need to, to actually check out and purchase the way their businesses need to do it. And if they're still not converting there. I'm, show me that, show me that customer. I think it's pretty darn rare. I think it's pretty darn rare when you check those boxes and you don't get substantial conversion of offline to online purchasing.

Now, we do have businesses who really use BigCommerce, not even as well. They use this for Brochureware, first and foremost. Sure. Right. They're still, for whatever reason, dedicated to offline purchase behaviors due to channel conflict, due to regulatory, due to whatever. They'll use us simply as brochureware. Right? This is how their customers go and find out what's available for sale.

And in some cases, I'll give, you'll give you an example. GE Appliances, one of the biggest appliance brands, obviously in the United States. I believe that their site, for the most part is not transactional because they designed it to support their channels, their third party, B2B and B2C sellers. And so the sites designed to help you figure it out, whether you're a consumer or a business buyer, what product you want to order, and then get to the channel seller. So that can be a way of doing business if you're still not comfortable going direct to your customer for whatever business reasons. Some, some they won't for regulatory reasons.

They're like, ‘well, we can't do this online for HIPAA compliance reasons.’ Or, you know, if you're in pharmaceuticals or something, in some cases they will want, they will just have to have the transactions still go offline or outside of the website. However, I think for the most part, it's a false argument when people say, ‘oh, I can't get them to convert through my website’.

You do those three things, right? You've got a great design, an experience on the front end of your products for sale. You do omnichannel, right? And you get customers to it, and then you give them the purchasing tools, permissions, payment methods, you name it. Order histories to buy, to check out conveniently, you know. Show me an example of a company who doesn't then shift an awful lot of their purchasing to online. That would surprise me.

Karthik Chidambaram: Very interesting. Right. So again, e-commerce is not just about sales too, you know, it's also about customer support. Hey, the customer doesn't have to call. They can just look through the site and, yeah, find the information they need.

Like you said, I mean, BigCommerce has invested a lot in B2B and you talked about strategy. You were very smart about that. Hey, do a lot of investments in B2B and you need to do that. You know, it's really interesting. So, we can as customers, right?

Let's say a distributor watching this, if they want to learn some of this stuff, do you guys offer any learning for distribution or B2B? How can you be better at this? Some of the things you talked about and more. Is there something you guys offer for that?

Brent Bellm: We have some, but we can do more and get better at it. We tend to rely more on our agency partners. To be the real instructors, because we're ultimately, we're a software company. We're not an agency that implements on behalf of our customers.

We help the agency and the customer on the technical side of implementation, but we don't do strategy, we don't do design, we don't do systems integration. You know, that's what our partners do. And so, they're really the front lines that are going to coach, handhold our shared customers to successful implementation. And 80% of our enterprise customers do in fact use a third-party agency to assist them. Our software is actually easy enough to use. That 20% will do it themselves. But 80% of the time they're going to use an agency and we really look to them to be the lead educators.

And then they're also industry experts and specialists. That's their job too, who are putting out great content, you know. As an example, Andy Hoar at Paradigm, you know, he's kind of the authority in B2B e-commerce platform technology, and he evaluates the leading platforms in his annual combine, and he's out there educating companies on how to do this, right?

And it's great. I think oftentimes a third party expert who's not speaking on behalf of a single solution like BigCommerce, but speaking in general on how to think about success in eCommerce and which solutions to use, depending on your needs, you know, that's even more valuable to the market than our creating a bunch of stuff that's proprietary to us.

That said, I think we've got, we have the platform for B2B. If you go into G2, which is where the world's businesses rate their software, and you look under e-commerce platform and you click B2B. So, it's just B2B sellers rating their eCom platform. We're the leader globally. Most popular and highest rated. Okay. So, we've got an awful lot of success behind us as rated by customers who love our software. And so, we probably should do some more thought leadership, like what you're suggesting.

Karthik Chidambaram: So, talking about partnerships, one thing I really love about BigCommerce is you guys do your partnerships really well, and you have been investing on that quite a lot. So, talk to us about your partnership strategy and how do you look at partners. And let's say if somebody partners with BigCommerce, how can it be a win-win?

Brent Bellm: Yeah, so it’s really our partner centricity and focus comes down to three things. Number one is our open strategy. I told you earlier, we don't want to be a conglomerate or a suite that sells all in one, five different products plus a whole bunch of services for millions of dollars.

That's not what we want to be. We want to be the opposite to that. We want to be a one or two product company, the best in the world at core e-commerce platform. But that then means customers are looking to partners of ours for everything else, right? What's the best payments for me, the best marketing automation? You know what ERP, what, you know, what integration layer?

So, we need to have an ecosystem of the best, a range of the best partners built into what we do in order to succeed at our strategy of being open, right? It's not just about being open. We need to have those partners pre-integrated. We learned a lot from Magento who, like I said, back before they were Adobe, were the global leader.

They had the biggest marketplace in the world of extensions and integrations. And when we said we're going to take on Magento, we're going to do that too, but we're going to make it way easier than them because we're SaaS, right? We don't just want plugins, we want multi-tenant SaaS, single click app integrations. The integration isn't a cartridge that you then have to turn on and secure and enable.

It's a multi-tenant SaaS integration through API’s. You just have to sign up for the partner product and now you're using it because it's already integrated, right? So, there's the learning from them. And then the third part, that's just very important to us and how we approach partners. It's with the same culture externally that we have internally.

Austin is a very friendly open city. We're headquartered in Austin, Texas. Our culture is one of being very friendly and open and fun and collaborative and we just naturally take that to our partner ecosystem. And what our partners often tell us is they love working with the people more than they like working with other people. For many other companies, we try harder, we try to make it more fun, we try to make it more win-win and collaborative. And we do that each and every day. That stems from our culture.

Karthik Chidambaram: Talking about people, that's another big asset for BigCommerce, I would say, because everybody we talk to, they're very friendly and not just that, you know, they're very great at their work.

What tips would you give for someone you know, in terms of hiring, right? So, what are your, what is your hiring strategy? Or give us some hiring tips.

Brent Bellm: I don't want to, I'm nervous to answer that because, uh, it's not like there's a company philosophy and everybody does that with a cookie cutter thing. And what I look for is very different than what even my other management team members look for.

And that's good because otherwise we'd all be asking the same question, getting the same answer. What I will say, for me personally, and I'm not saying this is the right generalization, I'm the opposite of a lot of interviewers. I am not looking, I don't create a checkbox list for each job that we're hiring for and systematically interview for people who check the boxes.

I can get most of that from a resume, right. Do you have that experience or not? That's not how I interview. I go back to something I said at the beginning of this podcast. I'm trying to figure out what makes each person tick. What, if any, for this human being, this candidate for this role is the intersection between their biggest passion, their best aptitudes, and in their experience in that.

Does this person have a superpower? If so, what is it? How impactful has that been at this person's prior companies? How impactful would that be in this role at this company? Okay. And then you also then want to figure out, okay, that person comes in with this superpower. What are the things that aren't superpowers? Does that leave us with gaps relative to what we need?

And you're, trying to figure out, like, there's not a single puzzle piece that fits into your puzzle, right? The people that you might hire into any given role could come in a lot of different shapes and sizes and, and what puzzle piece they bring in might fit just as well as some other one, but in a very different way. And I'm trying to say, okay, for that human being, what really is special about them? How much would that make a difference at this company? And then where, how do we compensate for the things that this person isn't, you know, necessarily going to be amazing at, can we? Right? And so, I'm always really open-minded and trying to explore what's special about that person.

And the last thing I'm doing is not presuming that there's a single mold that somebody has. It's the same way. Why? One of the things I've really learned a lot from companies historically used to say a lot about hiring for cultural fit. That's a really bad mindset because if you believe that there's a single culture and a single type of fit, you're going to not create diversity.

You're not going to, you're going to create a monoculture, right? What you're looking for is cultural ads. You're looking for somebody who, for their individuality, not just that they’re going to fit the culture, meaning not be antagonistic to it, but what are they going to add to it? And what they add is usually not how they fit in, but how they're different, right? And it's that difference whether it's a skillset, the superpower of an individual on, on the capability side. We call bucket one, you know, your bucket one capabilities for the job, or bucket two is what is the cultural side? And on the cultural side, I'm not looking for fit. I'm looking for add.

Karthik Chidambaram: That's awesome. Yeah. What problem you're solving and continuous learning you do. That's great.

So, we have been partners for a long time. How does, I mean, we learn a lot from BigCommerce, so how does working with DCKAP or companies like DCKAP help BigCommerce?

Brent Bellm: Well, you've, we would be dead in the water without partners like you. Again, I go back to the two things I said earlier on the agency side, 80% of our enterprise customers need to work with a great agency to help them implement. They're not experts in digital transformation and they need somebody who makes it faster, easier, and more successful for strategy, for design, for integration, for implementation. 80% need great agencies. And so, we want to work with the very best agencies. You know, so that all of our customers are as successful as possible. That's on the agency side.

On the technology side, again, I talked about the fact that we're about open SA and open commerce, which means we're the core platform, but we're not trying to be any other things. We need technology solutions that do everything else, that do payments, do point of sale, that do ERP marketing site tools. I mean, there is shipping, fulfillment, order management. There are so many categories that are in our apps and technology marketplace, which has now more than a thousand integrations in it.

And so we're looking for partners to do all of that. We want to have the best solutions in every category, um, already in our apps marketplace, so our customers don't have to do that integration work.

Karthik Chidambaram: No, it's great. Essentially you have a great ecosystem built and then there's a technology that solves a problem. So, we come in and plug into the ecosystem and solve the problem. It's great.

A few last questions. Brent, let's say if you had to redo your whole career again, is there anything you would do differently?

Brent Bellm: No. It's not that I haven't made mistakes. I've made plenty of mistakes. If anything, you know, ironically, I would've looked back and given you an example.

So very simply, when I think about the answer to that question, everything in life is path dependent, right? Every time you make a decision, it changes the experiences and possibilities and outcomes after it. And, you know, it's like if you get like one of the pachinko balls or whatever it's called, you drop a ball on the top and then you just start hitting all these little bars and you go, you know, you go some, you wind up somewhere very different.

I'm 51 years old. And I look at where I am today in my career, would I gamble on a different outcome by making a different choice somewhere else? And I say, no. I'm really excited about where I am in life. You know, I'm excited about the company I'm running and where we can go. I'm excited about my family and my wife and my kids, you know, even if we're never in as good a shape as we optimally could be.

I'm excited about my personal interests. You know, I'm also humbled by things that, you know, I can and should do better as a, as a friend, as a father, as a husband, as a leader at BigCommerce. But would I gamble on a different outcome by having changed something earlier in my life? I would not. And, as an example, when you think you've made a really big mistake. So, when I joined Escalate at the very beginning of 2000, just moved out to California and I made my first really big career bet after six years in, you know, retail and e-commerce consulting. And that company ended up not making it like a year into it. I'm like, we're not succeeding right now. I made a bad decision. I got to cut my losses after a year and start over again and try a different company. And for years and years and years, I look back on that year as like the worst year of my career. It's not fun to be part of a startup that's not succeeding.

I also happened to blow my knee out like seven days on the job skiing. So, I dealt with multiple knee surgeries and trying to commute and the height of the bubble with a reconstructed knee. I mean, it was a, it was a tough year for me. And I kept looking back and saying, well, that was my career mistake. But that experience I got that year at a general SaaS e-commerce platform was then essential to what I did at eBay. What I did at PayPal wasn't necessarily so helpful at HomeAway, and then I come into BigCommerce, which is a company doing the exact same thing. And the fact that I'd already done this before and failed at it and know how easy it is to fail in such a competitive industry and how hard it is to succeed, I came in very sober and rational about what it needed to succeed.

And so, I look back at the biggest mistake, of my career, which was joining a startup that then didn't succeed, but it was instrumental. Sure. To things that ended up working out later. That experience. Like I couldn't, would I have been a qualified CEO of Big Commerce, if I had not done that? They might have hired me on paper. But that one year of failure gave me so much experience that I couldn't have had if I had spent that year doing anything else. So that, that's my personal answer to that question. It's a hard thing to do though, because when you say to somebody like, what, what's your biggest regret? What would be the thing you do over?

You just have to realize that if you go back in time and change that you wind up in a very different place today, and you don't know whether it's better or worse. It'll certainly be different.

Karthik Chidambaram: Awesome. That's great.

And for an entrepreneur or a CEO or anybody watching this who's running a private company and if they have aspirations or they want to take the company public, what advice would you give them as someone who's not done it once but twice? You know, what would your advice be for them?

Brent Bellm: Well, as a lot of folks would tell you, it's not all, you know, roses and gardens, it's a lot of hard work. You know, the discipline of being a public company is unrelenting. You are in the public eye nonstop. You know, if something goes wrong, it's hard to recover from it.

And so you've got to be open to that discipline. You've got to be open to embracing the, the scrutiny and the pressure, the discipline required to really excel and make sure that you're open to that. Because if you're not, as an entrepreneur, then you know, your options are to stay private. Your options are to bring in a CEO who is up for that challenge.

But that's not trivial. That's not trivial. First, you got to decide if you want it and can do it. Right? There are a lot of people in their careers who aspire to get certain jobs or certain promotions or certain responsibilities, but those jobs, promotions, responsibilities don't go back to the thing I said earlier. They're not well aligned with the individuals. What, what makes the person tick in terms of passion, and what's their aptitude, right? You need to make sure that that's lined up with who you are as a CEO or entrepreneur. And then getting there. Look, lots of people can tell you what it takes to be ready, size of a company, profitability, you know, market opportunity, size, your differentiation.

And there's some companies who will IPO but not really have the long run opportunity to continue being a strong, successful grower, and therefore a long term successful public company. And there are plenty of private options that can be good for those companies too. So, make sure you want it, make sure you can do it yourself, and make sure your company, if you go public, it has a big enough market opportunity for long-term success and viability.

Karthik Chidambaram: Great, thank you for that.

And you look very fit. So, I was reading that you also bike, you know, you cycle, I would say 50 miles over the weekend. Is that right? And how did you pick up that hobby?

Brent Bellm: Uh, that would be very, very, uh, that'd be an off weekend. Like normally on the weekends, yeah, like a Saturday ride for me, sixty to a hundred miles.

Karthik Chidambaram: Wow.

Brent Bellm: And then Sundays, there's another shorter ride that I will do. I found 27, really 28 years ago. 28 years ago, when I was in business school, I decided I'm going to run my first marathon. I've got two years. That's one of the things I want to do in business school. And for the first time ever in my life, I got to a level of endurance fitness that I had never had before.

And I noticed how good it made me feel, not just physically, but more important emotionally. Like absent endurance exercise, the stresses of studies at the time work, you name it, would get bottled up. I didn't have a release for the stress. And that can lead to an emotional rollercoaster during the times when stress gets high.

When I started running, all of a sudden, I had a physical outlet for the stress. You know, my brain would work on things that were bugging me. I'd sweat it out and my emotional stability dramatically improved. That's my silver bullet, exercise is my silver bullet for handling, you know, the emotional ups and downs of a lot of responsibility.

So, I don't bring stress home for the most part to my family, right? And I don't bring it to work either. Sure. I have that outlet of endurance, and many years it was marathon running, ultra-marathon running. I did Ironman triathlons for a handful of years. But then because of that knee surgery instead of knee surgeries I told you about, ultimately I had to switch from running as the primary sport to cycling, which has been the last decade. So, now it's cycling still more than an hour a day pre-work during the work week, and then it's longer on the weekend.

But that's my outlet and I'm a real advocate for people. Different people can have different outlets. You know, maybe it's meditation, maybe it's yoga, maybe it's socializing with friends. It could be a hobby like woodworking, gardening, you know. But I think everybody needs to find that, that outlet that is their stress relief. It could be pets. I don't know, right? But mine, but mine is now cycling. And for 28 years it's been endurance exercise.

Karthik Chidambaram: So that's great. So, you cycle one hour a day every day?

Brent Bellm: Uh, Monday through Friday, three days I cycle for an hour. One day I run for an hour.

Karthik Chidambaram: Wow.

Brent Bellm: And one day I lift weights for an hour. Not that you would look at me and tell.

Karthik Chidambaram: So you do it in the morning or evening? I'm just curious.

Brent Bellm: Always in the morning, before work.

Karthik Chidambaram: Before work. Great. Yeah.

Great, Brent. You know, it's been great.

Brent Bellm: I would, if you do it in the evenings, then it's harder to sleep because your body, you know, is having to pump a lot of blood while you want it to be sleeping but repairing the muscles. And if you do it in the morning, two things are good about it.

One is you've got all day for the body to be repairing itself so that you can sleep better at night. But then number two is there are a bunch of, uh, brain and emotional enhancements that happen, especially in those couple of hours after exercise. You're going to be extra sharp. The blood's flowing. You're extra sharp those first couple of hours.

Karthik Chidambaram: Great. What time you go to bed, and what time do you get up?

Brent Bellm: I go to, well, so I'm a, I've become a huge believer in sleep. Like a lot of people, I once upon a time systematically got too little. I try to get eight hours every night, even though I think my body really needs more like eight and a half to nine.

So, I'm still not getting as much as I need. Sure. But since the pandemic, just getting to eight a night, and I know I need more because it's my alarm that wakes me up in the morning. It's not my body. But I try to get eight, and a typical time I'll go to bed is 10:30, wake up 6:30, or 10:40, wake up 6:40, which is also well aligned with when our three kids for each of their schools needs to get out.

My wife would not be happy if I were getting up before that. Some people are early risers, but, oh boy, that would, neither would I like, nor would that be good for my marriage.

Karthik Chidambaram: So, I'd like to end with this question, Brent. What book are you reading right now?

Brent Bellm: Okay, so I'm, I read about 50% fiction, 50% nonfiction.

And I do get to read a lot of books because, you know, I talked about cycling during the week, but usually a couple of those morning times or workouts inside on a trainer, and I'm like, unlike a lot of other people, I have the ability to just set my program workout on er mode, where my smart trainer is forcing me to do all the right amount of work, you know, for each minute of the workout. And I'm reading a book or a magazine while I'm on it, you know, even if I'm doing a high end or high intensity interval training, I'm reading a book or a magazine while I'm doing those workouts. So, I actually get through a lot of books.

And the two books I'm reading right now, the non-fiction book is Theodore Rex. The second book in the, I think there were three of them written about Teddy Roosevelt. It's a thousand-page book, small print. So, it's going to take me a long time to read it. But I've already read the first book about Teddy Roosevelt. He's such a fascinating character. That's my nonfiction book I'm reading right now.

And the fiction book is called The Great Fire. Uh, it's by an Australian author, Shirley Hazzard, who I hadn't even heard about. But I, for 20 years plus I've subscribed to a magazine called Bookmarks that sort of reviews the reviews of books that come out. And it's not just current releases, but sometimes it will go back and talk about great authors and their body of work.

And in the most recent issue of that, it talked about Shirley Hazard, this Australian author I hadn't heard of. But then I read about some of her books and I'm like, ‘Oh, I'd like to try one of those’. So, that's how I picked the Great Fire.

It's kind of right after, you know, post World War II and I'm, I don't know, maybe 30 pages into it, but the Great Fire was sort of, I think it's referring to the dropping of the atomic bomb in, in Japan and or the two of them, and then the after effect of that and the world after that.

Karthik Chidambaram: That’s interesting. And, I said one last question, but I have a follow up on this. So, reading fiction, they say it really helps you as a CEO. Does it really help, or what do you think, you know, does it help business reading fiction?

Brent Bellm: Oh, I don't know. I just, I just do it because I enjoy great fiction.

Sure. And not all the fiction I read is great. I try to only read great fiction, but you know, even my hit rate, you know, of the stuff I choose to read, maybe only half of it do I end up loving the book. Yeah, but just having that diversity of exposure to great stories and great ways that people tell stories, um, you know, I enjoy it. And then, and then some, some great fiction changes how you view the entire world. Absolutely. Like, I mean, there're books for me, like and Don Quixote and The Lord of the Rings, which to me just have such unbelievable joy, wisdom, fun, creativity embedded in them.

I, I remember reading Don Quixote, which was like written in the early 16 hundreds as regarded as maybe the first great novel of the world on plane flight. And just laughing out loud, I don't think most people would find it as hilariously comical as I do. I mean, maybe back in the 16 hundreds you would, but man, I laughed my way all through Don Quixote. I love that book.

Karthik Chidambaram: Interesting. Yeah, that's great, that's great, Brent. I'm actually working on, I'm reading Benjamin Franklin's biography by Walter Isaacson.

Brent Bellm: Ah, yeah.

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah, that's a great book too. I know. It's a big one.

But Brent, I mean, I really, really enjoyed interviewing you. It's a great learning and there were a lot of great nuggets as well. So, thank you so much for taking your time. Nice office here at the BigCommerce headquarters, and so thanks a lot, Brent.

Brent Bellm: Oh, my pleasure, Karthik. Thank you, thanks everybody who tunes in and didn't tune out before we were done.

Karthik Chidambaram: All right, thank you.

powered by

More from this show

Episode 40