Mike Potter, CEO and Co-Founder of Rewind, sits down with Steve Hutt from eCommerce Fastlane Podcast about starting an ecommerce store 20 years ago, the data disaster he suffered, and the biggest myth around backups for cloud data.
If podcasts aren’t your thing, we have the full transcript below for you to read 😊
Opening: eCommerce Fastlane, the podcast show to help you build, grow, and scale a wildly successful ecommerce company. Listen to real conversations with proven practical strategies and success stories. Learn how to generate more traffic, more sales, more profit, and customer lifetime value for your Shopify store. Now, your host and ecommerce entrepreneur, Steve Hutt.
Steve: Hey there, it’s Steve and welcome back to another episode of the eCommerce Fastlane podcast. If this is your first time listening, this is an ecommerce show where we have honest and transparent conversations about building and thriving online with your store powered by Shopify. New episodes are available each week in iTunes and Stitcher and SoundCloud and yup, Google Play and Spotify. Or you can go online to my free community at eCommercefastlane.com and there you can subscribe and get email alerts for new shows and you can also chat with other like-minded kinds of Shopify store owners. It’s a pretty cool little community over there. So if you get a chance, go check it out.
In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Mike Potter who’s the Co-Founder and the CEO of Rewind. He’s going to talk about the misconceptions of cloud-based software like Shopify and some of the challenges that store owners can face with regards to their data and the day to day operations of running an ecommerce store. So Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike: Hi Steve, thanks! Great to be here.
Steve: Oh, my pleasure. So tell me a little bit about you and your career journey so far leading up to being involved now with Rewind.
Mike: Yeah sure. Rewind is actually my fourth company. So I’m a serial entrepreneur I guess you might say. I started my first company back in university and I was teaching people how to use the Internet. I’m also a big curler. Those of your visitors that are from Canada will know what curling is. Maybe some of the Europeans, as well maybe some of the Americans now that they won a gold medal. I was big into curling as well, and so my second entrepreneurial venture was a website called inthehack.com which was a large curling community. You and I were talking last week about some of the early ecommerce stuff that both of us were doing and back maybe 20 years ago, well I was selling curling gloves online. I know what Tobi was going through when he was trying to start Shopify. I started another startup a few years ago that I sold to an email marketing company in the US and started Rewind with my partner James about four years ago and we’re now a team of 24 people.
There was an article recently published if you saw it, from Harley who was talking about the gig economy and all the stuff that people are doing in their part-times and probably many of your listeners are doing too. That was how we started. We were working nights and weekends together. We had to look through the Shopify forums. We were looking to build a Shopify app and see what we could come up with and we saw that a lot of people were asking about backups. And so we went online and we noticed that Shopify had a document online that discussed how people could back up their store in 15 steps or something like that. We thought – you know what, let’s just automate this. Let’s just make this dead simple, easy for people to do and we’ll build an app that saves them some time and automates it. So we’ve started doing that and we had some good success. We had 50-60 downloads in the first month we were available and those numbers kept growing over time and eventually got to the point where we were able to quit our full-time jobs and work on this full-time. So it’s been quite a really fun experiment for us to do.
Steve: Yeah it’s exciting. I love hearing these kinds of stories about doubling down and finding a problem or a pain in the market and just getting proof of concept and getting it up there and getting some initial traction. It’s fantastic you and your partner, now a team of 24, get to double down on this. I think we’ll dig into the show a little bit later about the kind of attraction that you have been getting and some successes and stuff.
So I know that you’re a very self-proclaimed backup nerd. Do you want to share a little of that story behind it?
Mike: Sure. It’s a funny story now, but it wasn’t a funny story when it was happening. I was lucky enough to work for Adobe a number of years ago as a Technical Evangelist. I would go around doing these talks in front of developers trying to evangelize flash and flex, which was the platform we were talking about. I was doing this show in Chicago in front of 200- 250 people. I was the last one before lunch and it was the only time my boss had ever come to watch me so a lot of pressure on my talk. I was up in front of people and I went to press the next key to advance my slides and they froze. So I had to apologize and I rebooted my computer and when my computer came up, I’ll never forget it, there was a picture of a hard drive with a big question mark over it. Those of you on a Mac will know if you ever see that, you’ve lost everything. So I took it to the Apple store and there was no way for them to recover anything.
From that day forward I knew – you never get a warning before you need a backup. I’ve lost a couple of things at home as well from upgrading computers and from one version to another of the operating system, now you know all my stuff is backed up. I’ve got a backup at home that’s also mirrored into the cloud and so I’m well protected and I actually just had to format my computer the other day. So I know I’m good because I got all my stuff back. But yeah, it was it’s been quite a journey. I’ve lost a lot of stuff along the way and there are some definite hardships, but now I’ve got everything to the point where it’s all nice and secure.
From that day forward I knew – you never get a warning before you need a backup.
Steve: Yeah it’s great. It’s unfortunate when you have these sort of problems but now you’re able to look at it from your own perspective and say – okay well you know I went through these sort of pains and I’m sure others have gone through the same sort of thing. I think of the WordPress community and I see how many backup solutions are there as a self-hosted type solution. But you know it’s a mandatory thing and a lot of solutions out there. They have the freemium model, where they allow you to back up some things and they store things for a little while. I think it’s a necessary evil, unfortunately, in today’s day and age.
I know I did mention a little bit at the top of the show, but maybe we’ll dig into some of the common myths about backups in general. Like how it relates to the Shopify platform. Can you dig in a little bit on that for me?
Mike: Yeah absolutely! I think it’s important to point out the problem that we’re solving is not Shopify specific. Almost every cloud service has this same problem, which is, there’s no history that users can access or an undo functionality if things get deleted on Shopify and it’s the same on QuickBooks Online and WordPress.com. It’s the same in basically any cloud service that’s out there. And I think a lot of people are really surprised about that. We talked to our customers and a lot of them are coming to us after they’ve had a problem. Whether that problem is human error or whatever, they’ve had some sort of issue and they call up support and they say – sorry I’ve just made a mistake, I deleted my product can you help me? And the support team says – sorry we can’t do that. I think a lot of people are really surprised because there’s this general assumption that if the data is in the cloud, it persisted forever. We’re not saying that Shopify doesn’t have a backup. If Shopify servers were taken out somehow, they have a backup and they are able to restore everything the way it was right before that disaster happened. But what they don’t do is go into the historical backups and look up your information and provide you as a store owner a way to recover any data that’s been deleted.
Almost every cloud service has this same problem, which is, there’s no history that users can access or an undo functionality if things get deleted
Basically what Rewind is designed to do is to give that control, give that security back to the store owner and say- okay, now you’ve got a copy of all of this data that you’ve been putting into Shopify and you have a copy of it that you’re in control of it because it’s hosted in Rewind’s cloud. It can be exported, we can send it to you in a zip file. You can store it wherever you like and you are back in control of your own data. We also have a solution available for QuickBooks online. People are moving from the desktop version, where they would store their data file to the cloud where there is no more data file – the data is all in the cloud. So how do you get that security back where you’re saying – okay, well I’m putting all my data into this cloud service and I know that I can access it. I know I can get a copy of it. I know I can export it. I know I can save everything that I’m putting in there so that if something does happen, I’m at least in control of my own business and I can do that.
That’s what Rewind does, we do it automatically on a daily basis thanks to some technology that Shopify has implemented. And we really try and make it that it’s a set it and forget it. We don’t want people thinking about backups. We know store owners have way more important things to think about than whether they’re backing up their data or not. So we really tried to design the system here that is literally just set it and forget it and hopefully you never need it, but if you do it’s there and it’s going help you out.
Steve: Yeah absolutely. So let’s dig in then to this Rewind solution. To me, it would seem that there are two types of customers that I’m sure you get in contact with. I would think of these people as proactive owners. They are coming from WooCommerce, Magento or some other kind of ecommerce platform and they already know of or have implemented a backup plan previously as part of their tech stack or their business operations.
So am I right to assume that proactive would be your one type of customer that is using your service?
Mike: Yeah absolutely. I’d say we definitely see people that are coming from Woo or Magento. As you mentioned earlier, on WordPress it’s well known that you need a backup solution. There are lots of options that are available for WordPress users and so they’ve already looked at that solution. They’re looking at their tech stack on WooCommerce and Magento and then they’re coming to Shopify and saying – what are the equivalent apps that provide this functionality on the Shopify platform. They’re proactively looking for a solution like Rewind. They’re going to the App Store and they’re searching for “backup”.
I’d say the other proactive that we see is actually people who are new to Shopify and new to ecommerce in general but they’ve experienced a problem as I did on a different platform. They’ve lost data on their home computer, or they’ve lost data on their work computer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be online. Honestly, Steve, after you’ve experienced total data loss everything that you do you end up paranoid. You’ve experienced the pain and you definitely don’t want to go through that again. And so those are some of the newer store owners that are coming in and starting a new store on Shopify, just trying to get their business up and running. They’re saying – I’ve been in IT or I’ve lost data before my computer and I need to make sure that all this data that I’m putting into Shopify, all these products that I’m adding, all those descriptions that I’m putting into my products, is not lost and I want to make sure that I’m protected.
Steve: Yeah I definitely. I guess on the opposite end of that of these proactive people would be, and I’m sure you’re getting your fair share, of reactive customers. Where Shopify is as you mentioned, unable to undelete something or I’ve even heard my own horror stories about CSV file imports that were incorrectly formatted. That have ruined their store and even remnant code from deleting an app. Maybe it doesn’t clean up correctly when it’s uninstalled, which can certainly cause a lot of issues. So do you have any stories like that about these reactive type customers?
Mike: That’s probably a majority of customers. We’ve been very fortunate that we were the first backup app. We put a lot of effort into building a quality app that we made sure works really well. We provide amazing customer support and because of the work that we’ve done there, Shopify’s support team is very proactive and recommending Rewind to a lot of customers who call in and have problems. We’ve been very fortunate in a way that the Gurus know about us and they’re actively recommending us on a regular basis. We are really happy about that but we’d love to get in front of these problems. So it hurts us a bit when we get these customers because we’re not able to help them and we’re not able to show the value of the product and that’s what we really want to do. If you have a problem it’s the best thing in the world. If we can come and recover your data, help you get your store back to the way it was – these are the customers that we get the most of. Like I said, early on I think a lot of people just assume this is something that Shopify does. They’re calling into Shopify support and finding out that there’s no way to undo that mistake or undo that deletion and then being told well if you had Rewind they would have been able to help you.
They’re calling into Shopify support and finding out that there’s no way to undo that mistake or undo that deletion and then being told, well if you had Rewind they would have been able to help you.
We’ve actually done work with some people to try and recover some data. I remember one customer, for instance, had accidentally deleted the wrong blog. She had two blogs on her Shopify store that was named the same thing and she accidentally deleted the wrong one and it deleted all of her blog posts. We helped her out even though she didn’t have Rewind installed before the problem. We were actually able to help her out and look through Google’s cache to try and find some of the blog posts that she had written – which wasn’t automatic. She had to go and copy and paste the text back, but at least all the work that she had done in SEO wasn’t totally lost. She was able to do that and recover some data. So you know, we’ll help customers whenever we can. That’s one of the core tenants of the company, we really just want to help people when they have a problem. We were able to help her and get some stuff back. But yeah, the reactive customers, we certainly get a lot of them! As I said, there’s a general assumption that Shopify handles this at the top level. People are really surprised when they find out that there’s no way to undo what they’ve just done.
Steve: That’s definitely true! I have my fair share of stories too that I can chat about now. There was one particular customer of mine and they deleted an app and noticed that there was some remnant code in their theme. They went in and started deleting a lot of code inside one of their product templates and the site completely broke. There was no backup and Shopify support, unfortunately, wasn’t able to help in that particular situation and she was forced to go back and recreate that particular template. She had to reinstall the theme separately and then copy out all that code and replace it back into the active theme. It was a complicated process of getting it all restored. It was strange though because ironically she has your solution running on two of other stores but not this particular one. She was really banging her head against the wall! But this one now that it’s fixed, Rewind has been added. She’s quite happy that even though she went through that pain, it was a lesson learned for her. And looks like a lot of people have learned these sorts of lessons and they want this kind of protection now and flexibility that Rewind can do.
You mentioned one story at the top there, do you have any other kind of customer stories anything particular that kind of stands out in your mind that you could share with the listeners?
Mike: Your story reminds me of one I had a little while ago where a store owner had edited her theme and changed the forum action – when you press “add to cart”. Somehow it had been changed from cart to “chart”. Literally, just the letter “h” had been added into the theme and the entire store was broken. You couldn’t add anything to the cart. I think what we find in a lot of cases is the store owners are really not very technical. They’ve hired people to do this type of work and fixing a problem like that which for us, being fairly technical people, was a really easy thing to do! All we had to do was compare what the theme was before the problem to what the theme was after the problem. It was evident that the “h” had been added, but somebody who is non-technical could have spent hours potentially looking for a solution to that, or spent hundreds or thousands of dollars to try to get somebody to fix it.
We’ve had all sorts of stories. I mean honestly, we offer to interview all of our customers to try and find out more about their business and why they’ve installed Rewind. I guess one of the ones that comes to mind is when we first started. As I said, my Co-Founder James and I were working part-time on nights and weekends. So when we first started, we didn’t even charge people because we didn’t even know if people would need the solution. So it was free for the first six months or so back in 2015. I remember tobogganing with my kids out in December just before Christmas and we had a store owner call me. I answered the call and they said – one of the apps that we have, it’s an inventory syncing app, has deleted all of our products, are you able to help us out? It’s three weeks before Christmas our busiest shopping time of the year and our stores are completely gone. And sure enough we were able to help him and I remember being on the phone with him and telling him – ok we’re going to bring your store back here, so just hang tight. As it started going and bringing back items one by one I told them – now refresh the front page of your store. I’ll never forget his voice, he was so happy on the other end. He’s like this is amazing, you think it’s coming back exactly the way it was before the problem! That was when we realized that we probably had a good business here because of his reaction and what we were able to do and bring his store back. So after that, we started charging in January for the next year. Just a month later we started charging people and that’s sort of how our business started.
But we’ve seen it all. I remember one customer told me a cat jumped on his keyboard and messed up his theme. I think that was probably the funniest story I’ve ever heard. A customer emailed us the other day and told us that one of their developers had maliciously deleted 3,000 products in their store. We don’t see that often, but we’ve seen that a couple of times where a business relationship might go bad and somebody goes in and maliciously messes something up. We’ve seen a lot of stories, some funny some not so funny. But we certainly have seen our share that’s for sure.
Steve: Definitely. Well, Mike, we’re nearing the end of our show for today but do you have any kind of closing comments and things that you’d like to share with our listeners?
Mike: I think overall I’d say one thing that we’ve learned and running this business is really trying new things and don’t be afraid to fail. We’ve tried lots of things building Rewind. Some were good, some haven’t worked out really, but make sure that you’re experimenting a lot. To Shopify App developers out there, I’d say always be trying new things, always be testing these things. New pricing, that’s one thing that we’re always trying to test to make sure that we’ve got the maximum value for the customer. So always try and experiment and learn along the way. My first startup that I did, my third company that we’re talking about earlier, wasn’t the most successful venture but I learned a lot and everything that we did wrong in one thing we make sure we did the opposite in this one. As long as you’re learning, don’t be afraid to fail and make sure that you’re trying. Just being out there starting a store, doing whatever it takes to get things done is probably the best advice I can give you.
As long as you’re learning, don’t be afraid to fail and make sure that you’re trying.
Steve: Yeah, that’s great advice Mike thank you so much. Congrats, you’re protecting over 20,000 stores now. Maybe you have more up-to-date numbers but it’s quite a milestone, it’s very exciting! So thanks for coming on the show and I just really appreciate you sharing your journey and seeing this pain in the market and then getting proof of concept by building this product. Obviously, Rewind is helping a lot of merchants and protecting them for these potential catastrophic issues that can happen.
How can people learn more about Rewind, in the Shopify App store I guess?
Mike: Yeah, so go to the Shopify App Store and do a search for “Rewind” and you’ll find it. There’s also another app in there called Replay, which is if you’re running multiple stores, you can copy from one store to another store. You can go to rewind.io as well. If you’re doing under 20 orders a month, our new pricing model is free so there’s really no excuse to not backing up a store. If you’re doing a store with larger order volumes, we try to make the pricing plans as affordable as possible to make it a no-brainer. But pricing is very reasonable and I think those are probably two best bets. You can go to rewind.io and see all the products that we back up there and we’ll be adding more platforms later in the year.
Steve: That’s awesome. Well Mike, once again thank you so much for coming on the show and enjoy the rest of your day.
Mike: Yeah thanks Steve happy to be here, thanks so much.
Steve: Take care!
Well, I hope you enjoyed my conversation today with Mike from Rewind. My takeaways from this episode are that cloud-based software like Shopify, as safe as it may seem for disaster recovery, falls a little short for things like misbehaving apps, malicious employees or even human error. Things like importing CSV files incorrectly, deleting products and price updates. When you consider the productivity savings of being able to undo changes that you, someone else, or even other apps have made, Rewind can really save a ton of time by automating the whole process. It gives you that peace of mind knowing that you have direct access to all of your data and you can Rewind any former edit and any change in your Shopify store. So that’s pretty powerful.
There’s literally tens of thousands of Shopify store owners that swear by this service. I have many merchants, friends and people in the industry that I know are using Rewind and they’re very, very satisfied. So go check it out!
Thanks again for being a loyal listener, I do really appreciate it.