This article was originally published on Work With Shop as part of the "Humans of the Shopify Ecosystem" interview series. Work With Shop was a project I started in 2022 and closed in August 2023. However, I wanted to keep the interviews online and have therefore repurposed them here.
In this interview I catch up with digital nomad Andy Cargill — Founder & CEO of Shopify app development company Zapiet.
Q: Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
Every day is different. Although typically, they contain a tonne of coffee and coding!
Q: How did you get started in the Shopify ecosystem?
Many moons ago, I was part of an ecommerce agency building online stores using open-source solutions such as Magento and osCommerce. We were having a terrible time battling hosting and constant upgrades. A good friend of mine then suggested trying out a new service called Shopify. We did, loved it, and never looked back!
Q: How did you get started in app development?
I started developing apps whilst at university. It was around the time of milliondollarhomepage.com and MySpace. I just loved the buzz in the industry and found it far more exciting than what I was studying. So I started to teach myself how to code, and the rest is history!
Q: What made you choose to build for the Shopify platform?
I was already super familiar with Shopify and building stores when I jumped into app development. I loved Shopify's documentation and Partner Support. It was just a case of natural progression.
The Billing API was also a huge reason. Not having to worry about handling credit cards, expiry dates, and all that palaver was a huge bonus on choosing Shopify over another platform!
Q: Where did the idea for your first app come from?
From the Shopify forums. I was casually browsing through, helping answer some merchant questions and discovered a thread about six pages deep full of merchants looking for a buy online pickup in-store solution. I came up with a potential solution and posted my ideas to gather feedback. Almost immediately, I had positive responses, so I decided to start building out my idea.
Q: You've got a growing suite of successful apps; how do you validate new ideas?
Primarily I follow my intuition rather than any particular metrics. I also prefer finding interesting technical ideas rather than those which may be more financially beneficial. I'm a Professional Shoe Horner.
Q: How do you attract new customers to use your apps?
Our primary source of traffic is the Shopify App Store. But this year, we've invested heavily in growing our marketing team, including our content production team. We are now seeing installs coming from all over the place, including Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and more.
Q: What's the biggest challenge you face building for the Shopify platform?
The biggest challenge we face is handling unforeseen or undocumented changes from Shopify's end. Our apps often interact with all aspects of the platform, i.e. storefront, checkout, and post-purchase, and so there is always a lot that can go wrong. Shopify has always been super responsive and helps find solutions when issues crop up.
Q: What's the most outrageous customer support request/rant you've received, and how did you respond?
Thankfully Shopify has wonderful customers, and there are no real memorable requests or rants. Although, in my previous agency, we certainly had our fair share, including one guy who threatened to break our legs if we didn't build him a website!
Q: What's your preferred tech stack?
Laravel, React, and Polaris
Q: What's next for you and your business?
We are continuing to scale out our Marketing, Product and Development teams. This will allow us to more effectively support our existing products and merchants whilst continuing to invest in new ideas. We have two major new product releases already scheduled for Q1 2023!
Lessons & Learnings
Q: What's the biggest challenge you face in your business/work today?
Not scaling too fast and keeping focus. I have a million and one ideas that I would love to work on, but there's only so much time in the day. The 16-17 hour pandemic days are hopefully a thing of the past.
Q: How do you get "stuff" done? Are you a proponent of a particular productivity method, or do you prefer a "Post It" note on your monitor?
I was certainly a Post It notes kind of guy, but this year we finally committed to using Jira, and now our entire team operates using it. It took some time to get used to, primarily because it's ugly as hell, but now we couldn't live without it.
Q: ### Q: What's the one bit of advice you would give someone starting out in the Shopify ecosystem today?
Drop the Corporate BS. Don't post marketing SPAM in the Shopify Partners Slack. Just be honest and transparent, and you'll get the help you need. The Shopify community is like no other.
Q: How do you approach improving your craft, development, leadership etc.?
For coding, I learnt everything I know from Jeffrey Way, the Founder of Laracasts. He is an absolutely gifted teacher. No one even comes close.
On the leadership side of things, I am still very much like a total noob. I just try to surround myself with the best possible people and learn from them.
Q: Please share any influential books, blogs, authors etc., that have helped you in your work life.
Rework by the guys at 37signals (creators of Basecamp) is probably the most influential book I've read — although it's been years since I last read it. I try not to waste time reading anymore. It's far more productive just to crack on with the task at hand.
Q: What's the one missing Shopify feature you wish existed?
I would love Shopify to have its own app hosting platform that auto-scaled based on demand. If I could just build the app and then let Shopify handle the hosting, it would make life much easier. We're part way there with app extensions!
Q: How do you keep up to date on what's new, what's outdated, or those pesky deprecated API calls that just might break your app?
We have all Shopify's changelogs pushing through automatically into a dedicated Teams channel. This ensures that our entire team has immediate visibility over any changes that may affect our merchants' stores.
Let's Get Technical
Q: What does your personal tech stack look like?
M1 Macbook Pro
2 x AirPod Pros (1 pair just doesn't last long enough!)
Not particularly an app per-say but I can't live without Github Copilot. It's like having some kind of superpower!
Q: Do you have any funky/cool hardware you'd recommend?
I just received delivery of a Nebula Capsule 3. It's a mini portable projector we use for in-person meetings. I tried a number of similar products, and they were all terrible! This Nebula device is just pure magic and beautifully designed.
Eufy X8 Hybrid — Sounds fancy, but it's a robot vacuum cleaner. I was always a none believer in robot hoovers; how could they possibly be any good? Anyway, you know how it goes … it was Black Friday. Turns out it's fantastic!
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
Travel, travel, travel. I have been nomadding constantly for around 8-9 years now and just can't get enough of it! I feel incredibly fortunate to be in the position I am and have the freedom to travel. I can't wait to see where next year takes me!
Q: What's your favourite album/book/magazine/event of 2022?
Last November, I got engaged in Mauritius and married in Brazil!
Q: Share three of your favourite Shopify stores (if you have one, please include it)
https://1861.ca/ — Boutique 1861 will always have a special place in my heart. They were one of the very first stores ever to install my app. They were also one of the first to reply on the original Shopify forum when I proposed my BOPIS solution. We've ended up becoming great friends, and I've been lucky enough to visit them in Montreal a number of times, a beautiful city!