A Business Mind: Daniel Kerr, founder of OpenCart
Daniel Kerr, founder of OpenCart, one of the world’s top e-commerce software suppliers, saw a market gap in the technology of e-commerce and decided to make it his niche. A seasoned software engineer, Kerr started working on his own e-commerce software in 2007, before launching the start-up in 2012.
How did you set up OpenCart?
I was working as a software engineer for a battery company when I realised how much the technology of e-commerce was outdated. No one had updated the technology for a number of years, so I decided to develop my own.
For five years, I worked in a full-time job during the day and on my own project after work. I completely destroyed my health; I was eating my meals in front of the computer, and going to bed at one in the morning. In the first five years, I did not make any money from it, but two years ago things finally took a turn for the better, and so I decided to quit my job and launch OpenCart. I am from Britain, but I decided to run OpenCart in Hong Kong because my wife is from here.
What do you think of the start-up culture in Hong Kong?
The last time I went to a start-up meeting, I noticed that most of the companies there were started by people who had immigrated to Hong Kong and were taking advantage of the manufacturing capabilities of the mainland.
I think it is great that Hong Kong is so close to the mainland and is able to make use of both its potential and its huge market. From the point of view of OpenCart, the mainland has a huge market for e-commence and consumers take to the idea of online shopping really well. We are currently the number one e-commerce software supplier in China, according to figures from PayPal last year.
How does OpenCart differentiate itself from its competition?
Our biggest competitor entered the market by spending millions of US dollars in advertising. Unfortunately, their software was not very efficient and users required a dedicated server just to sell one product. With OpenCart you can have more than 60 installations on one server, with no performance problems. This means web hosting companies would prefer to use OpenCart as they can sell more hosting to users without having to buy new servers.
OpenCart is a pure shopping cart through and through. It contains modules that allow you to include various sections of text and images throughout your site. But at its core OpenCart is designed with one thing in mind – to display products online and allow people to buy them.
What are your future goals for the company?
OpenCart has successfully developed as one of the most recognised online shopping carts within the past couple of years. In 2013, we doubled our profits compared with 2012. We are about to release our 2.0 version of OpenCart. It has many new features such as a responsive template that allows for a different viewing experience, depending whether the user is viewing it on a desktop or a mobile device.
Once OpenCart 2.0 is released we will start working on a hosted solution where users can just fill in an online form and have their own ready-made online shop. Some of our competitors, such as Shopify, are doing this at the moment, but OpenCart has many more features.
Who do you have on your team?
At the moment, we have six people working for OpenCart, including myself. I do intend to expand this, but only after our hosted solution system is ready. We have different levels in the company, depending on the skill and experience that our staff have accumulated while working with OpenCart.
On the first level we have staff providing free support to OpenCart users. Eventually we give them small projects to complete. As they become more savvy and experienced, I will increase the project size up to creating full websites.