Mark Lavelle became CEO of Magento Commerce in November 2015, after serving as Senior Vice President of Product for eBay Enterprise.

Previously, Mark held a number of leadership positions within eBay Inc., including SVP of strategy and business development for both eBay Inc. and PayPal. Mark co-founded Bill Me Later, acquired by eBay in 2008.

With more than 20 years spent building businesses at the intersection of the internet, commerce, and information technology, Mark’s background includes successfully developing and executing global growth strategies, acquisitions, and joint ventures, startup fundraising and investing. acquisitions, and joint ventures, startup fundraising and investing.

Team DCKAP caught up with Mark on the sidelines of the inaugural Magento Live India 2017 for an interview. It was a pleasure and an honor to talk to Mark about his vision for India, the opportunities, and challenges faced by Magento in India and elsewhere, B2B, extensions, and his shopping experience in Bengaluru, India.

Ragu – Thank you, Mark. Thanks for coming to India. Welcome to India.

Mark – Thank you.

Ragu – To begin with, we really like your attire today. The ethnic Indian wear.

Mark – (laughs)

Ragu – It is called a Kurta but it is very famous because our Prime Minister wears it more often.

Mark – Hmmm…really

Ragu – It’s called Narendra Modi Jacket.

Mark – OK that’s good to know. I put it on and it just felt right.

Ragu – Yeah

Mark –  Fit. Made me look a little thinner.

Selvan –  Yeah and it had the orange color.

Mark – It has that orange color. That was really great.

Ragu – So, how was your shopping experience in commercial street Bangalore? Bangalore is known for the commercial street.

Mark – Yeah, commercial street. We got out in the middle of the commercial street.And, we went to…one minute…forgot the name.  Fa India…

Ragu/Selvan – Fab India.

Mark –  Fab India. That’s where we went. Beautiful selection of clothing.  And very helpful people and we tried a lot of things on.  And then we just walked around a little bit, saw some of other shops. People coming and going and…very busy.

Ragu – Yeah…It’s a very busy place.

Mark – Then we found a place to have a nice local beer, a brew pub. I forgot the name of it.

Ragu – Toit…there are a lot of brew pubs

Mark –  T…Tio..or

Ragu – Toit.

Mark – Yeah, right, yes.

Ragu – I have been there many times.

Mark – Yes

Ragu – It is a nice place.

Mark – That place could have been in the downtown, L.A. Felt very much like home by then.

Ragu – It’s one of the best pubs in Bangalore.

Mark – Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Selvan – So what took you so much time to come to India?

Mark – Well, we were a little busy back home. Let’s see. The events like this take a fair amount to put on. We do the imagine once a year. we’ve done U.K.  And we started to be able to rotate France, Australia to create gaps for other events and India was always very high on the list. We know we’ve had community events here. Ben’s been here and we’ve engagement all the time with our India partners and, we saw the opportunity on the calendar to do Magento Live. We were very excited to do it in India.

We’ve engagement all the time with our India partners and,we saw the opportunity on the calendar to do Magento Live. We were very excited to do it in India.  

Selvan – Great. Your keynote address was to the point and it addressed the community needs here.

Mark – Yeah

Selvan – So apart from addressing the needs of the community, do you have any other investment plans in terms of having a development center here like other product companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. They have development centers or support centers here. Do you have any idea of investing in that area?

Mark – Not in the short term. I think our efforts are now going towards building out our market presence – sales, channel, account management. Support – we do have a kind of a follow-the-sun strategy around support. We are in L.A., we’re in Austin, Philadelphia, Barcelona, Kiev. So kind of gets us a fair bit of the way. We’re looking at our Asia Pacific strategy, and I think eventually when we have a critical mass of enterprise clients and sales people and things like that…we will have to decide, what part of Asia do we have to locate support but for core development…not at the moment.

Ragu – Speaking about sales, like you mentioned, so if you look at especially India, as an eCommerce market, I think predominantly more than half of it is occupied by Flipkarts and Amazons of the marketplaces. We as an agency, we used to sometimes evaluate – ‘Who are the Indian customers whom we can target’?, ‘Whom we can sell Magento?’, ‘Who can find value in Magento?’. Who do you think would be the appropriate Indian customer?

Mark –  Yes, well that’s something I think we are anxious to get better at targeting because I think it is very different.Our theories in China, domestic China, are that people are very concentrated in one provider for a long time, Alibaba.

Brands are starting to want to build their own presence. So our theory for investing there is, trying to get your own customers to come back to your website. There’s also a fair amount of cross-border trade. B2B is very big.

In India, I’m sensing it’s different.The small and medium enterprises may still have trouble for paying for technology. And there isn’t as much that import market happening with major brands coming in yet.  But we want to be ready and I think we have a very compelling value proposition that does have an ROI associated with it but we have to explain that better to the market.I don’t think we could just come in with our model that we use in other parts of the world.

I think we have a very compelling value proposition that does have an ROI associated with it but we have to explain that better to the market.

Selvan – Yes

Mark – The community, the open source platform is very strong here. But we have a double need and desire to be in India. India does a lot of the development for other parts of the world.  So, training, building the talent here, strengthening the community has a double impact. When the B2C, B2B market does take off and we do find that niche, we will be ready and will also have a very strong talent that knows Magento is comfortable and we can answer that question better over time.

The community, the open source platform is very strong here. But we have a double need and desire to be in India.

Selvan – In the PowerPoint presentation that you did today on investment, the second point was Magento U. So, in order to have a very strong community, they need to do the online courses and get certified. But one of the things we see and discussed with Ben Marks when he came to Chennai was the affordability factor. If you see Microsoft or the other companies here, they make it very affordable for the community to take up the online courses and also the certification but this (cost of online courses) was a bit on the higher side. Do you have any plans to make it more affordable so that most of them here could take it?

Mark– Affordability has been an issue, here and elsewhere. We gave the training away for free at the end of last year…

Selvan – Sorry for the interruption…

Mark – Yeah

Selvan – For e.g. I wanted to do the Magento Requirements Gathering course – the business analyst course, but it is on the higher side of $1000. That translates to a lakh in rupees here in Indian money. It is too expensive for an average developer or a Magento analyst to take up the course…

Mark – When we made it available we saw the demand go up by twenty times, clearly saying that there was demand but we were just pricing ourselves out of it. There are reasons for that. Coming out of e-Bay, we had different priorities and doing a bunch of things. No excuses though. I think we have not done a good job making better training more affordable.

You’ll see that pretty much by the time we’re here next year there’ll be an entirely new model for training.  Smaller courses, more freely available courses. Less money on the knowledge may be a higher bar on the certification…like the Microsofts have done in the world.

There’s a lot of new ideas that we’re getting to now as we look at training and certification. So, the goal of it is to make, more developers, better developers comfortable using Magento. The next crop of young talent that decides where they want to spend their time, we need to make it easier and exciting for them to bring their career to Magento. So we need to change that model. I think you’ll see that of all over the next couple of months and quarters.

There’ll be an entirely new model for training.  Smaller courses, more freely available courses. Less money on the knowledge may be a higher bar on the certification

Selvan –  Now that you have here in India that you must be having a strategy.

Mark– There has to be a strategy somewhere, right.(laughs)

Selvan – When Jeff Bezos came here, he was asked three metrics. Top metrics for India. He said –  Fast delivery, a broader selection of products and lower cost. These are the three top metrics he had in mind for the Amazon India. What are your metrics for India?

Mark – Oh my gosh, I mean there’s no better strategic thinker than Jeff Bezos, so you got me nervous now how can I be.  How can I be very clear?

I would say that everything we do, not just in India, the number one thing that we are are doing is trying to make Magento easier to work with.  I think the genesis of all took place, in all aspects of the company, at some point, where we just became too difficult to do business with us, to get started, to get trained and to take advantage of the platform, all the future functionality, extensibility of the platform.

So the number one goal when we think of India, is to find what market we can commercialize.

We know the open source does very well but we know that those customers still need hosting, they still need analytics, they still have the soft payments, they still want to reach a global audience, on and on and on. So we need to identify that market,  we need to organize our solution partners better for the market because I think we don’t do as good a job here as we’ve done in some of the other markets. And then we’d like to see us grow our share.  Pretty aggressively here in the next five years.

The number one goal when we think of India, is to find what market we can commercialize. 

Selvan – You were talking about B2B. In the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant report, there are a couple of things which they have said as challenges for Magento. One of the things is the B2B features and functionalities. Having the workflow of B2B and in terms of the transition from M1 to M2  and in terms of integration, system integration – extensions. How do you plan to tackle these challenges? You have been talking about B2B for a long time.

Mark – Yeah, well I mean we tackle these challenges like anything. We do it together with the community. We studied B2B.  We looked at what feature functionalities competitively we needed to have out of the box because while Magento can do a lot of things, a lot of times head to head competition, it would lose because it wasn’t like checking the box of these twenty features and functionalities do.

But we had a very strong set of SIs that had their own toolkit and became very good at using Magento to do what they needed to do and built a big business and they came to us and said  ‘Hey, you guys should be really just putting these feature functionalities in your core. We could do a lot more business together‘. So that’s what we did. That’s what the B2B module that’s rolling out in a couple of weeks or months here does.

But the interesting thing about B2B is the inherent flexibility of the platform that makes it so appealing.  I would contend that B2C is far more standardized than a lot of its flows in B2B will ever be. So to harden it too much and try to productize it too much versus really the promise of Magento 2 is getting that modularity and the APIs stabilized so that customization can occur in a way where a B2B business can stay current is the goal.

To harden it too much and try to productize it too much versus the promise of Magento 2’s modularity and getting the APIs stabilized so that customization can occur in a way where a B2B business can stay current is the goal.

It’s really not to create the end feature functionality, much like PIM, workflows are unique to a business and trying to create a general purpose software for that is sometimes not the way to go.

But to your point about extensions.  As we do releases, I think we’re learning a lot that our extension partners need time and advance notice about what’s happening in the coming releases so that they can get ahead of their refactoring or modifying to make sure that their versions work and their customers can upgrade.  And we’re doing that. We’re putting time between our releases to Alpha, to do release candidates and to do it just so that the extension partners have a lot of advance notice. So we bring to market a release that that isn’t absent of the components that are needed.

We’re putting time between our releases to Alpha, to do release candidates and to do it just so that the extension partners have a lot of advance notice. So we bring to market a release that that isn’t absent of the components that are needed.

Selvan – And in terms of transitions from M1 and M2?

Mark –   Well, that’s a totally different, not just for B2B. That’s a big subject that everybody is talking about and we’re excited about. I think, it was funny last year we went from ‘Oh, My Gosh!’  M2 is here, we have to relearn everything. Why did you do this? to ‘Oh My Gosh’ M2 is here and there’s going to be so much business we’re not sure what to do because we’ve got thirty-five hundred enterprise customers that need to convert over the next couple years.We have hundreds of thousands of community sites that need to be converted. Plus, we’re putting a lot more effort into marketing and new customers who are taking share in other parts or in other industries.

So you have this, you know, the embarrassment of riches as they call it which is a lot of business and we’re really looking to make sure that we do it in an organized way so that every customer that’s transitioning from Magento 1 to Magento 2 has quality people trained to do it and the project plan and gets on the platform in a good way.

What we’re learning in these migrations is to take a little bit of time to understand the data structure.It’s a more efficient data structure. You might not need all those extensions. Some of the customizations you did may not be needed anymore.

So looks like ‘Oh My Gosh’, How am I going to get my site up? and doing it if you needs a different approach. You find that the Magento 2 platform is more easily suited to your needs than just starting with what you had in Magento 1. So we want to create that time and space and capability for those clients to really take advantage of the new platform.

What we’re learning in these migrations is to take a little bit of time to understand the data structure.It’s a more efficient data structure. You might not need all those extensions. Some of the customizations you did may not be needed anymore. 

Selvan – I was attending a session in the morning today and they had a great power point on the migration from M1 to M2.  I think Magento should do kind of more to make it available to everybody. Some of our project managers and developers attended that session and it was very useful.

Mark – Was it Jason?

Dipthi – Ian and…

Selvan – It had like what takes more time- the integrations takes more time, what are the percentages. That powerpoint was very useful.

Mark – Yeah…we will make that available. Sure. (Laughs) Yes…I need to get Ben Mark’s T-shirt – ‘Magento needs to do more’..tat…tat…tat…you know and then back is a list that everything we need to do more.

One of the things is this migration, getting people confident with it.  Talking about how we’re doing it in a very orderly fashion and making sure that people understand the benefits of it, is very important subject right now.  We started really doing it in Imagine and our partner conference. We’re getting very good reception for the message. Thank you for that feedback.

Selvan –  This is a kind of ‘differentiator’ question. In the Gartner report, you are in the leader quadrant now…congrats…

Mark – Where is the magic…I don’t see the magic. (laughs)

Selvan – But there are others like…Hybris is there, Digital River is there, IBM is there…so what exactly apart from the open source is the differentiator for Magento?

Mark – It was a hard task, working and talking to Gartner for 3 or 4 years. It is certainly easier now…imagine 4 years ago…we are talking eBay, PayPal and …I think the one thing that quadrant asks is clarity – Who are you?,  Where do you compete? What does your customer say about you?

But also a very rigorous exam of what you do relative to what your competitors are able to do and it’s explicit in Quadrant, it’s about – ‘Do you have the correct vision for where the market’s going?’- because customers just don’t buy you at a point in time they buy you for the future.

I think what people are realizing and analysts are realizing is we used to have to explain the extensions. We used to have to explain the limitless features of Magento and its customizability. It was almost viewed as a weakness. I think we’ve got the analysts to the point where they get this is actually a less risky way to have an investment in digital than going with a point solution that may or may not get you to the next level. That’s what I’m so pleased about. It is that recognition that, our the way, we’re different from those companies is profound. And, now we need to do a better job of telling the world a bit about ourselves.

Selvan – And here I am again talking about particularly the Indian community…

Mark – Yeah…

Selvan – because you are here in India…Magento Live India…the community here does not have much understanding about the order commerce management and the business intelligence software that you have. Are you going to do something about it to make it popular here?

Mark – Yeah, we have a lot of explaining to do, because we’ve created this incredible set of products that we’re training our ecosystem on and they’re getting comfortable with implementations.

You could take a class and you can listen to a webinar but until you do an implementation you really don’t get comfortable on bidding for that next job. The order management is meant for that quadrant of customers who really have a pretty, above average complexity and how they’re provisioning inventory and sourcing inventory and what their order rules are,multi-note inventory, cross-order multi-country stores and things like that…so finding those use cases in India where it’s appropriate to deploy MCOM is the job of our channel managers- Ian and Dean – they are going to be very busy trying to find that business as specific to order management.

You could take a class and you can listen to a webinar but until you do an implementation you really don’t get comfortable on bidding for that next job. The order management is meant for that quadrant of customers who really have a pretty, above average complexity

Selvan – I am not talking about the business implementation here in India but I am talking about the awareness factor to the developer community here so that people like Mohan who work with American customers can go ahead and implement that?

Mark – (to Mohan) – So, you are out there finding a business in the United States and looking for Order Management opportunities? Is that right? Where do I know an Order Management opportunity exists and where not?

There again, there are things you want to shout from the highest mountaintop like the M1-M2 migration and then the Gartner magic quadrant. Then there are things that are a little closer – MCOM’s one of them. We do hundreds and hundreds of enterprise implementations of the digital platform. We do tens of implementations of MCOM at the moment and it’s because these are the more complex strategy.

So the thing to do is work with your channel manager, have an active conversation about who your prospects are and work with them on what use case lends itself to selling MCOM into that client.  It’s kind of that type of back and forth to make sure that you’re fitting the right product with the right client need.

Our sales people, we just put that product in their hands two-quarters ago and they’re getting more comfortable talking about it and they’re getting more comfortable about when to do it. So, it’s a learning process and not to say we’re guarded with it but we want to make sure that all these early launches of MCOM are great so that by 2018 we have referenceable clients.

Did you see the Devlyn use case at Imagine by any chance? Just a great example of what MCOM could do for clients. So, it’s happening.  It’s probably a little slower than some of the things we’re talking to you guys.

Selvan –  How does your day look like as a Magento CEO? What’s an average day?

Mark – Well you know it’s never the same which is thrilling. But we have a very good operating cadence within the business. We’re very focused on making Magento easy to work with and helping grow our active account portfolio and getting these products sold. So I spend a lot of time working with the teams to remove barriers to what they want to accomplish.

And then I can never spend enough time and want to spend more time with partners because as I talk to partners I realize I’m talking to many of their clients so it’s a one to many opportunities for me and then ultimately talking to the end users themselves. I try to spend a lot of time doing that and these conferences afford me that opportunity.

And then we have we’re an owner, so we have board meetings and things like that throughout…so it’s throwing..it’s a busy busy schedule.

We’re very focused on making Magento easy to work with . So I spend a lot of time working with the teams to remove barriers to what they want to accomplish.  

Selvan – Can you talk about your failures…that you wanted to do but you were not able to do?

Mark – (Jokingly) we have to get there for the keynote.  And we are out of time….laughs…

Selvan – Things that were good at strategy level but in terms of execution…

Mark – I think that probably when M2 went out we missed how important it was to have the ecosystem really with us – trained and ready.  And part of that was the extension market,  part of it was you know making sure everybody was trained on the different ways Magento 1 was different from Magento 2.  Because we never really ran into bugs and issues and when you had that mix of lack of confidence with some critical bugs you know you put people through a lot of pain. We saw that happen in the beginning of the summer. I don’t think I had the awareness to surge the type of support that our partners and our users needed for that period of time. So that period from 3rd quarter to 4th quarter of 2016 is pretty tough.

But I was very proud that partners stayed with us, ecosystem stayed with us. We worked through all those issues and come the 1st quarter of 2017, the releases are coming out now. We’re very very proud of having easier launches and with less incidents so that’s been the biggest thing.  We put a lot of change on to the ecosystem in 2016.

I think that probably when M2 went out we missed how important it was to have the ecosystem really with us – trained and ready. But I was very proud that partners stayed with us, ecosystem stayed with us.

Selvan – It’s a stressful job.

Mark – Yeah…I think I would have maybe phased things a little bit.  But you know it’s a fast moving market.

Selvan – What would you do if you had more time to do?

Mark –  I think it is that readiness factor. I think we are building that in. Jason Woosley is bringing automation testing out of the dark ages and we’re moving into the modern age of getting efficient code.  We’re doing smaller releases.  We are communicating better with our solution partners.

We’re building in time for our technology partners to be ready for release after release after release and the promise of having this code be modular. You are doing something very complex as a community. We’re taking a core engine that’s very powerful and we’re saying that you can put any type of third party code into it and everything will still work and you can still upgrade. That’s worth doing. That’s what makes us different but it’s harder, it’s harder. So we just need to be more planful, we need to be more efficient and we need to communicate better.

We are communicating better with our solution partners and we’re building in time for our technology partners to be ready for release after release after release.

Selvan –  Just one final question.

Mark – Sure.

Selvan – Now that you are here for Magento Live India. What are the lessons/impressions you will be taking back? Probably, you will go back to the US and have a meeting with your team…so what impressions and lessons are you taking back?

Mark – Optimism. People, the community is very optimistic and just an insatiable thirst for more information, more clarity, more opportunity. India’s boundaryless. You’re looking for work in US, China, the United Kingdom. I sit in here in the meetings and there’s no boundary to the ambition of  Magento businesses here in India.

And I just take away a real sense of responsibility, to provide the platform that you need to grow your business, to be predictable, accountable, and dependable and to slowly grow our presence here in the market.It’s not going to be overnight.

But if we say we’re going to do something, we’re going to make training more available, we’re going to make channel managers more available to you, then we do it and we just keep building that trust. That’s what I take away.

Optimism. People, the community is very optimistic and just an insatiable thirst for more information, more clarity, more opportunity. India’s boundaryless.

Mark – Very worthwhile experience.

Selvan – Thank you.

Mark – We have to go and watch Jason’s keynote.

Selvan – It was an honor.

Mark – Oh…it was an honor for me.

Selvan – Thank you

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