Chris Farrelly is the founder and chief architect of Volo Commerce, dating back to when it was called eSellerPro. In a recent blog post and in the press release announcing the acquisition of Volo by FOG Software Group, we announced that Chris was back in the Volo fold and once more driving the technical direction of the Origin platform.
Customers who have been with Volo for a relatively long time will know Chris personally. Others may not know him so well, since he keeps a low profile and is known for being quiet and modest. He recently agreed to a short interview, and Chris’s background and the pre-history of Volo may well serve to give an insight into both the company’s ethos and the aims of the platform.
Chris claims, with typical self-deprecation, ‘It’s not a very interesting story.’ We let him take up the telling of it.
“In 2000, I sold my previous company. As part of the acquisition I worked with the new owners for 4 years. By 2004 I was free to research my next move. I was looking at a few options, I had a few ideas and during this time someone approached me and asked if I could build them a system. They wanted a warehouse management system running on small handheld scanners. Once I had built this from scratch, with the ‘back end’ to go with it, they then asked if I could integrate it into another system. This other system was for selling on marketplaces. At the time it was the market leader in the marketplace industry.
“It was little more than a listing tool, allowing sellers to list products on eBay. That was about it, there was very little back end functionality. I developed a product for this customer that would pick up the sales from the marketplace system and post them straight into a finance system. I had a few conversations with the marketplace system providers about licensing my product as an add-on to theirs. Unfortunately, these conversation never progressed as the company got into financial difficulties and a competitor acquired the system.
“Before the demise of the marketplace system, my original customer asked me to extend my product to include an integration to Amazon, which was emerging as a genuine ecommerce powerhouse. I added this functionality and after the demise of the marketplace system I added an integration to eBay, the other powerhouse which was moving away from its auction-based roots into more of an ecommerce pure play.
“By this time I could see I had something that wasn’t a product anymore. It was solution, a solution for sellers who were either on more than one of the two marketplaces or more than one channel, like their web site. My solution would enable marketplace sellers to manage operations and sales across multiple channels, from one central system, from inventory through to order fulfilment and shipping.
“For the first 18 months or so it was just me working on the business. I was doing the development, the sales and the implementation. Pretty soon afterwards I had a few customers growing their business on the platform, and I started employing people to work with me.
“This worked well for a while, with everyone working from home. Once the staff numbers got above 12 it became clear to me that we had outgrown the remote working model and we needed the collaborative environment of a physical office. We moved to an office in Tewkesbury. This had the advantage of being a modular setup, so that as we expanded we could simply take on an additional room or two.
“Around 2010, we were up to about 30 employees. Soon after that I looked for an investor to help me run the company and finance our growth plans. I began to step back from the business around 2014 when we moved to the top floor of St James House in Cheltenham and rebranded as Volo Commerce, maintaining a technical advisory role and my Director seat on the Board. I returned to the business in September 2019 with the acquisition of Volo by Fog Software.”
As you can probably tell from Chris’s account, Volo Commerce, or eSellerPro, started not unlike many of our customers, in Chris’ basement, with little more than an idea. From the beginning we’ve been steeped in the two giants of marketplace ecommerce, Amazon and eBay, with our customers using Volo Origin to trade on both, and on web, and processing manual or in-store sales, for over a decade. Beyond that, Chris wanted to build a complete solution – something that went beyond listing to enable the entire back office operations of an online merchant, from order management to inventory and warehouse management and courier management. From humble origins – if you pardon the pun – we’ve worked alongside a relatively small number of customers to help them grow to many times the size they were when we started working with them.
We also come from a culture of responding to specific customer requests and enhancements to the system. If a customer is looking for the work, and we think it will make sense for the platform, other customers, and the way people use our system, then we’ll do it. Plus, the Fog Software Group parenthood gives us access to funding and resources to accelerate that development. We’ve accumulated a long list of items and now we can attack the success priorities for current and future customers with renewed vigour.
To discuss your own requirements for growing your multichannel ecommerce business, please get in touch.