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I want to take just a step back and end on a very much more expansive question. One of the dreams of the internet is that you could do the thing you’re describing. You’d hang a shingle. You got a snowboard shop. People are going to find you. Now you’re running the best online snowboard shop, off you go.
A thing I’ve noticed from a lot of entrepreneurs I’ve talked to on the show, people who’ve started companies, they quickly realized that the software it took to build that early business was much more lucrative than the business itself. And I’m wondering if you see that turn for the generation of businesses that are coming up on Shopify, where they have more tools, they can streamline the operation of their business, they can start quickly. But there’s some looming problem, where actually being first to building the software to solve that problem is more lucrative than the businesses that can run now.
That’s a good question. I think about some of the big merchants on Shopify that are homegrown stories, Fashion Nova, for example, or Jeffree Star Cosmetics. A lot of them have had to create, they’ve created custom apps on Shopify. They’ll take the Shopify API and they’ll build something that’s really unique for their business.
In some cases, they actually do publish those apps in the Shopify app store, to enable other merchants to use it, as well. That’s one of the cool parts of having an ecosystem. I mentioned on the earnings call that last year, Shopify made about $3 billion, in 2020. But our partners made about four times that, about $12 billion, with this massive app ecosystem and massive referral program.
And sometimes they do that, but for the most part, I haven’t seen too much of a merchant building this great business and then realizing some tool they made. It’s like the Slack story.
Obviously Stewart [Butterfield, Slack co-founder], another great Canadian entrepreneur, he wanted to build a gaming company, and as part of that, ended up building Slack. I haven’t seen too much of that. What I have seen, though, is extension. So you start with just making shoes, and now you’re making luggage. Or you start by just making one lipstick in Kylie’s case, Kylie Cosmetics, and now you have an entire range of cosmetics that rivals L’Oreal. That vertical expansion tends to happen a lot more than, “Hey, there’s a tool we built to run the business, and now that tool is more valuable than the business itself.”
Do you think that era of internet companies is over, then? That’s kind of where I’m headed; have we reached that maturation point, where there are great core tools to build businesses, and you don’t need to reinvent Slack because you can just use Slack?