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Behind every eCommerce brand on Shopify, there is a stack of apps fueling everything from operations, to shipping and fulfillment to marketing and everything an eCommerce needs to function. It’s estimated that the average Shopify store uses six Shopify apps to support their business. With more than 8,000 apps in the Shopify app store, many of which have been added in the past two years, successful Shopify app businesses (Saas apps) have become sought after assets in the marketplace. This has sparked a new type of player in our ecosystem - Shopify app aggregators. Over the past couple of years, many Shopify app developers and founders have experienced life changing exits selling their businesses to these aggregators. Let’s run through what an app aggregator is exactly, how to prepare yourself and your business for an exit to an aggregator, and who is behind these companies.
An app aggregator is a business entity that will collect (purchase) several apps, and operate them under one company. The aggregator model in eCommerce simply has one company acquiring several apps and consolidating them under one company and sometimes one brand.
There are different types of potential acquirers of Shopify apps such as a competitor buying its rivals’ app, new or established businesses looking for strategic acquisitions, sometimes via acquisition marketplaces or business brokers, or privately (without a middle man), or in some cases we’ve seen Shopify itself acquire app over the years.
Other terms that are synonymous with an app aggregator are eCommerce app operators, app acquirers, and roll-up companies. A roll-up company acquires multiple small companies that are merged together to consolidate into a larger company. In a roll-up strategy, “the owners of the companies being merged get cash and shares in return for their equity.” This is not an uncommon model across other industries.
App aggregators have been acquiring Shopify apps ranging to seven figures according to an article from Insider. Shopify recently completed its acquisition of the fulfillment company (an app) Deliverr for $2.1 Billion. While other apps are selling to strategic partners, as in the case of SMSBump, an SMS solution that was acquired by Yotpo for an undisclosed amount in 2020. Or PushOwl, the notifications app that sold to Sendinblue in 2021 for $20 million after just being four years on the Shopify app store.
Marketplaces such as MicroAcquire have over 150,000 registered buyers and sellers, and a place where app founders can list their apps to be purchased. Other solutions like Storetasker, a Shopify freelancer marketplace, was sold to its competitor in 2019.
There are recent examples of app aggregators raising major dollars to acquire apps across the Shopify app store. Pantastic raised $18 million in funding led by private equity B Capital Group and Commerce Ventures. Pantastic was able to acquire CartHook, a post-purchase solution app, UpOrder, and LimeSpot. AppHub, launched in April 2022, acquired Conversion Bear and Order Bump, with their $60 million in funding from Silversmith Capital Partners.
Sky Pilot and Order Tagger are two five-star Shopify apps used by several eCommerce brands that all are under the London-based app aggregator ShopCircle. With $65 million in funding from several partners, ShopCircle aims to have over 20 apps under its portfolio.
FE International is an M&A advisor of SaaS and eCommerce businesses, that help with exit planning including accounting and legal. They use a formula that helps value the app. Since most apps are considered small businesses, most are valued under the Sellers Discretionary Earnings (SDE).
Formula: SDE = Revenue - Cost of Goods Sold - Operating Expenses + Owners Compensation
Not every Shopify app is a candidate to be acquired. App aggregators are evaluating more than if the app is profitable. With more than 8,000 apps in the Shopify app store, Nate Ginsburg of Centurica breaks down four questions app aggregators should ask before buying an app in his article recently published on the Microacquire blog:
By asking these four questions, you can dig into each component of the app. From how the code is written, if eCommerce brands will use the app, evaluating the profit and loss statements and how long the app has been public in the app store. “Only you can decide whether a Shopify app is the right acquisition for you. Trust your instincts, stick to your goals, and always conduct thorough due diligence to mitigate risk,” Ginsburg explains.
Beyond a profitable MRR, app aggregators are searching if the app is used and liked by customers. Lauralynn Drury is the VP of Experience at StayTuned, which has six apps under its portfolio, related the process of acquiring apps similar to getting into college. Carefully reviewing everything from the app’s performance, the product itself, and the personality of the app.
"At StayTuned, we look for apps that stand out multi-dimensionally. Just like college admissions these days, no candidate can get into a top school with good grades alone,” says Lauralynn.
”For performance, we need to see strong, stable, and growing revenue, low churn, and a proven price model. Looking at the product, we care about how deeply an app is embedded into the core of a merchant's business—how easy is it to replace the app? We also want to see that an app has strong natively integrations with the Shopify admin. We need to understand the app's most loved features, and the app developer's perspective on how those features will evolve over the next few years (within the app and the overall commerce ecosystem),” explains Lauralynn.
”Lastly, personality. Does the app owner care about their customers, understand the landscape and operate collaboratively? Do they reply to reviews, study customer feedback, understand competitors, support the overall partners in the ecosystem and react to updates from Shopify?"
Patrick Barnes is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Commerce Co, which has Slide Cart under its portfolio, and first views what solution the app solves for its customers. “We have a central thesis around building technology that helps eCommerce entrepreneurs grow revenue and solve "must have" problems,” says Patrick. “We’re fans of the compound startup idea that having a selection of best-in-breed tools working seamlessly together means we can offer a bundled, deeply integrated platform to solve the main problems of a growing eCommerce business. Instead of the current reality of trying to plug together 24 different tools of varying quality.”
While investors are looking to generate income and become the next big tech, app founders will sell an app for various reasons. Often finding the best home for their apps. Vincent Panepinto co-founded Spently (now rebranded as UpOrder) after being acquired by Pantastic. "After our first talk with Pantastic leadership, we knew there was something special about the company,” says Vincent. “Unlike other app aggregators who keep their acquisitions siloed, Pantastic integrates resources which creates a very collaborative culture. We decided that Pantastic would be an ideal home for the team and give Spently (now UpOrder) an opportunity to make a strategic impact in our new home.
Now part of the team, Vincent is the Director of Corporate Development at Pantastic. “Since then, we’ve also acquired CartHook and LimeSpot, and it feels like we’re one team with an opportunity to build something really exceptional.”
Providing the best experience for a customer will involve eCommerce stores investing in new and established Shopify apps to add to their eCommerce stack. With the growing list of apps and the money app aggregators raise, Shopify apps will begin to be acquired for much larger prices. Our prediction is that in the not-too-distant future, these app aggregators will begin to bundle solutions offering several apps for one singular price and offered under the same branding.
Pantastic has acquired two Shopify apps. Its mission is to, “accelerate your online growth with best-in-class tools to help you attract passionate shoppers and keep them coming back.” Pantastic is a champion of small businesses and is on a mission to create solutions that fuel growth for small businesses.
Scott Rafer, CEO / Co-founder
Michelle Kim, Go to Market Leader / Co-founder
Tom Cole, CFO / Co-founder
Apps under Pantastic:
Get in touch with Pantastic
Relay Commerce aims to provide a place where founders can either grow with Relay Commerce after acquisition or exit. “Whether you want to move on or build with us, we provide a flexible and frictionless exit—allowing you to pass the baton while preserving your legacy.”
Ricardo H. Founder and CEO
Daniel Gamito, Portfolio CEO and Co-Founder
Roshanda Naulls, Chief Financial Officer
Austin Simon, VP of Acquisitions
Apps / Solutions under Relay Commerce:
Get in touch with Relay Commerce
AppHub currently has six Shopify apps under its portfolio ranging from marketing solutions to return and SMS marketing. Their vision mission is to deliver “a comprehensive suite of ecosystem leading apps and unparalleled customer support that helps e-commerce businesses reach new heights.”
Kris Eng, Co-Founder
Arjun Batra, Co-Founder
Wilson Lee, Co-Founder
Apps under AppHub:
Get in touch with AppHub
Assembly is designed to help eCommerce merchants succeed through its apps for Amazon and Shopify under its portfolio. With three solutions under its portfolio, Assembly has a vision for growth. “Ecommerce growth platform powered by software, community, and data.”
Apps under Assembly:
Get in touch with Assembly
The Commerce Co has six Shopify apps under its portfolio. They are billed as “By Founders, for founders for 20 years and counting. Our team has built eCommerce platforms, scaled them, and sold them.” Their vision is “bringing together world-class software that empowers eCommerce businesses to start, grow, and scale their businesses.”
Patrick Barnes, CEO / Co-Founder
Cameron Priest, Co-Founder, Director
Shopify Apps Under The Commerce Co:
StayTuned has six Shopify apps under its portfolio. Its mission is to acquire and grow Shopify apps that accelerate merchant growth. Its mission is to help businesses of all sizes grow and hopes to expand into Amazon. “We build, acquire and grow software that allows businesses of all sizes to efficiently grow their revenue and effectively convert their customers. We started with a focus on Shopify, yet we are growing into apps that aid commerce on Amazon.”
Serge Kassardjian, Co-Founder / CEO
Navi H., Head of Strategy and Corporate Development
Lauralynn Drury, VP of Experience
Shopify Apps under StayTuned:
Get in touch with StayTuned
WeCommerce lists itself as “A Home for Ecommerce Technology.” With over six companies under their portfolio, each with several suites of Shopify apps, WeCommerce has over $150 million of acquisitions and investments in leading eCommerce enablement businesses.
Alex Perrson, CEO
David Charron, CFO
Susan Min, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary
Shopify Apps Under WeCommerce:
Shopify Themes Under WeCommerce:
Get in touch with WeCommerce
SureSwift Capital has been around for seven years and has acquired SaaS businesses from independent founders with aim of taking them to the next stage of growth. SureSwift Capital has over 19 SaaS companies under its portfolio. Their vision is to empower entrepreneurs “to achieve their dreams, whether we’re giving a bootstrapped SaaS Founder a dream exit, or helping a team member grow in their career.”
Kevin McArdle, Founder / CEO
Tony Di Sarli, Chief Operating Officer
Amy Stewart, VP of People
Jared Huff, VP of Finance
Chris Reedy, VP of Acquisitions
SaaS Companies under SureSwift Capital:
Shop Circle has six Shopify apps under its portfolio. Its mission aims to propel growth across entrepreneurs. “Getting to the next level of growth can be a challenge, which is why we strive to provide entrepreneurs with the tools that can become their biggest problem solvers.”
Luca Cartechini, Co-Founder
Gian Maria Gramondi, Co-Founder
Shopify Apps Under Shop Circle:
Sell your business to Shop Circle
Appregator acquires, scales, and builds Shopify apps. With currently one Shopify app in their portfolio, Appregator provides capital, developers, and expertise to current Shopify app founders.
Marc Abousleiman, Co-Founder
Mishaal Nathani, Co-Founder
Apps under Appregator:
Get in touch with Appregator.
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