September 6, 2023

Home is where the obsession is

By Jordan Graham

Recently we’ve been telling people that Mantle is our love letter to the Shopify App Ecosystem.

Being a Developer Advocate at Shopify in 2016 was like being in on a well-kept secret. In a company where everyone was obsessed with the merchant, my job was to be obsessed with App Partners, you made that a very easy thing to do. To me, App Partners were easily the best part of Shopify.

Shopify represented something different to App Partners than other people in the mothership’s orbit like merchants and my Shopify colleagues. To them it was about making commerce better for everyone. While the same is true about partner, for most there was an added infatuation with the challenge of innovating inside a box.

Platform ecosystems by nature come with some guardrails, but I found App Partners were particularly adept at seeing the constraints and rules as little more than the mechanics of the game they played. With hacker DNA, it was just another code to crack, making the game itself all the more compelling.

Partners were hungry. Not just for success, but for their need to learn everything. The proof is in how multidisciplinary the lot of you are. It probably shouldn’t have surprised me to see so many hyper-skilled people doing it all, especially in the early days of whatever venture they’re exploring. Any given person was some combination of developer, marketer, designer, sales or support.

This might have been out of necessity, but I think it sort of became part of what it meant to be an App Partner back then. Any conversation could become a choose-your-own adventure because partners were versed and thoughtful on all fronts. You really can’t predict where a chat will end up, but it will be fun. A good recipie to keep things interesting.

Then there’s the community. Where else does a work conference feel like a family reunion like the Partner Ecosystem? Maybe there’s something about identifying as a ‘partner’ that puts everyone at ease, but very real relationships are created in this community. There’s a sincere interest in helping and engaging each other, be it through socials or at events. Some of the people I treasure most are from time spent together IRL at work stuff.

It wasn’t always fun but challenging times reveal how invested you are in what you’re doing, and partners persist like no other. I got to learn about what made being a partner hard and more than once I found myself very much wedged between the mouse and the elephant. I treasured the trust partners afforded me when they’d speak frankly about what they were up against and even more so when I was invited in to help them navigate it.

Add to it that throughout all of this, Shopify kept growing up exactly as it should. With its success so deeply rooted in merchant obsession, it was increasingly expected that this would extend to all edges of Shopify, including the interface between Shopify and App Partners: developer advocates.

One LinkedIn update later and we were suddenly Strategic Partnership Managers. When I met with partners, we were having more conversations about compliance and commercialization, and less about their ideas and ambition. It was certainly the appropriate direction for Shopify to go but there wasn’t any joy in it for me anymore.

Throughout my remaining time at Shopify and the time after where I spent working for and alongside app companies, I couldn’t really foster sincere sense of merchant obsession like those around me. So I decided to stop trying.

There are so many people obsessed with helping merchants. That’s what makes you a great partner, your ability to obsess over them.

As for me, I’m at my best when I get to obsess over you. After all, shouldn’t someone?

Mantle is the culmination of that obsession: a product whose sole purpose is to enable you to grow your business with confidence, stay focused on building great product and feed your obsession. I count myself lucky that I can feed mine by doing this.

My northstar is growing Mantle into a company with a reputation of being obsessed with who we serve.

Our product vision will eventually take us beyond Shopify, but it starts here.

This is home for us. It feels good to be home.

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