Background: Two backcountry skiing enthusiasts in Park City, Utah started an ecommerce site in 1996 to sell avalanche beacons. In the following years, it grew into a major e-retailer selling outdoor gear of all kinds.
Problem: Backcountry’s ecommerce system could not keep up with their rapid growth and didn’t have the flexibility to do the kind of merchandizing and promotions that they wanted to do. At the time, the conventional path for growing ecommerce sites was building out a multi-million dollar data center with servers from Sun Microsystems and expensive proprietary software from companies like Oracle.
Solution: Backcountry’s founders balked at the price tag of the Sun/Oracle approach. Though they were growing quickly, they didn’t have the budget, and they had seen other ecommerce merchants learn a hard lesson about spending huge sums only to see ambitious rollouts fail. They wanted to take a more incremental, phased approach. My company’s platform, Akopia Interchange, suited Backcountry’s needs because it was highly scalable and highly customizable, but its licensing allowed it to be deployed initially at a low cost, allowing us to maintain a relationship with the firm over many years and dozens of incremental phases. The project started before Red Hat’s acquisition of Akopia, and continued through the 2000s and 2010s. Several of my former staff eventually took full-time positions at Backcountry. Interchange supported their growth from a garage outfit to #8 on Internet Retailer’s top 500 list.