Shopify has launched its annual Build-A-Business competition, offering $200,000 to winners, with Australian entrepreneurs expected to fare well following last year’s stellar performance.
Based in Canada, Shopify is an eCommerce platform that allows individuals to create online stores.
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The platform was founded in 2006 by Tobias Lütke and Cody Fauser – two snowboarding enthusiasts who wanted to create a better way to sell their snowboards online.
It currently hosts more than 25,000 retailers including Gatorade, Amnesty International, General Electric, Tata Group, Tesla Motors, LMFAO, Foo Fighters, Evisu Jeans, and CrossFit.
Last year, Shopify kicked off its Build-A-Business contest, offering $100,000 to a new online business launched on Shopify that posted the highest grossing sales in an eight-month period.
Winners were selected based on the revenue of their two best months during the competition.
Australian entrepreneurs Rob Ward and Chris Peters were among the winners, receiving a bevy of prizes including $25,000 in cash and a trip to New York to meet marketing guru Seth Godin.
Based in Melbourne, Ward and Peters are the brains behind the Opena Case – an iPhone case that doubles as a bottle opener – and also designed an iPhone mount known as Quad Lock.
Ward and Peters used crowdfunding website Kickstarter to finance the Opena Case, before choosing the Shopify platform to sell their products.
“We chose the platform because it’s customisable, scaleable, can process orders from all over the world and it’s easy to plug in third-party logistics,” Ward told StartupSmart.
Shopify has now launched its third annual Build-A-Business competition. To participate, entrepreneurs must open an online store and start selling products online using Shopify.
At the end of the competition, the four stores that sell the most over a two-month period will each receive a $50,000 investment for a 5% equity stake from one of the competition mentors.
This seed funding will value each company at $1 million. The mentors are Tim Ferriss, Daymond John, Tina Roth Eisenberg, and The Lean Startup author Eric Ries.
The competition runs until February 28, 2013, with each of the mentors providing advice and guidance along the way.
In addition to the $50,000 investment, the four competition winners will also receive a trip for two to New York to meet the mentors, and $20,000 of Google AdWords credit.
“Our first two competitions were extremely successful. In total, 4,438 new businesses were created, selling over $15 million worth of products,” Lütke said in a statement.
“Last competition, a large amount of our category winners were from Australia… Australian stores accounted for 8% of participants, but made up an impressive 38% of the leaderboard.”
“This year, we are especially excited to see what Australian entrepreneurs bring to the table.”
According to Ferriss, the competition is intended as a “benevolent and encouraging kick in the ass”, suggesting it isn’t for the faint-hearted.
“This stuff isn’t rocket science, but it does require stepping outside your comfort zone for a bit to realise this isn’t that hard. It’s just unfamiliar,” he said in a statement.
“If you do it now, a lot of people will be in the same boat and you’ll take the trip together.”