The Business of Building Slatwall Commerce

One of the questions I am asked often is "what makes Slatwall different than other eCommerce products on the market?"  

My answer usually focuses on the the flexibility of the Slatwall platform with features like the ability to manage and sell multiple product types (merchandise, subscriptions, content access and events), as well as a robust RESTful API and CMS Agnostic.

But what has allowed us to create Slatwall, and makes us truly unique in the marketplace, is our business model.  

There are two core principles have driven us to develop, in just 6 years, a software platform that can compete with and beat enterprise solutions that have been around much longer; Bootstrap Funding and an Open Source Business Model. 

Bootstrap Funding

"When you are bootstrapping, you must have laser-like focus on creating value for your customers, because that’s the only way to get paid"

We decided early on that we did not want to seek outside funding to get Slatwall off the ground. We felt strongly that working closely with a small set of early adopters would allow us to build a better product, one based on real-life use cases.

We partnered closely with our clients, leading companies in their industries like Sheplers Western Wear and Scientific American Magazine, to engineer and iterate features. This client centered development funded 80% of the Slatwall core code.  

Bootstrapping the business also allowed us to budget our time in building Slatwall; writing, re-writing, testing, launching, based on our client’s timetables, not based on the demand of outside funders looking for quick returns.

Open Source Business Model

When we started Engineering the Slatwall project back in 2010 we had to make a decision about what type of license we would use to release the software. We made the decision to release Slatwall as an open-source project for several reasons.

Access to source code

As a development team we have benefited from professionally managed, open-source projects ourselves. The ability to leverage an existing platform, make contributions to the core and customize the code for specific requirements is very appealing. We wanted to provide that same flexibility for other developers as we built Slatwall.

Low barrier to entry

An open source business model eliminates a barrier to entry for many organizations who would otherwise be hesitant to adopt a closed source solution from a smaller organization like Slatwall. They can feel more comfortable having the flexibility to bring development in-house or find third party contractors to assist in supporting the application.


Releasing Slatwall as an open source project allowed us to build a large developer group, working on a wide variety of projects. They provide valuable feedback on things like user experience, bug tracking, new features, and of course many of them contribute code.

What's Next

Slatwall has grown to an enterprise level eCommerce application powering sites for companies like Inc. Magazine, Total Wine & More and Lightspeed Technologies. The roadmap of new features for 2018 is aggressive and exciting! We are looking forward to continuing the growth of the platform and our company.

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