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, we meet Björn Forsberg — a Denmark-based self-taught Shopify developer who left the world of Business Analysis behind to build award-winning apps.
Q: Where are you right now?
In my home office in Vedbæk, Denmark
Q: Where are you based?
Vedbæk, Denmark — about 15 mins north of Copenhagen
Q: Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
Routine-wise, there is, but not work task-wise. The rest of the team gets some pretty clear goals and tasks for each cycle (4-week projects), but I get all the smaller unrelated tasks and take care of anything unplanned that comes up.
Q: How did you get started in the Shopify ecosystem?
Back in 2011, I was looking to start a business online and came across Shopify when researching how to start an organic baby clothes brand. Found that they had an app store with lots of user-generated ideas for apps that they’d like to have for their stores.
So I changed my plans, picked an idea from the list, and had an outsourced software development company build the minimum viable product for my first app OrderlyPrint. I re-invested the profits and eventually learnt to code myself, created more apps, and have been doing this full-time since 2015.
Q: Tell us a little more about Forsberg+two?
We’re an intentionally small software company focusing on Shopify apps. The employee list consists of myself (Product Design, Development & Management) and my wife, Sarah (Marketing, Branding & Bookkeeping). We also have a contractor who is working on new product development and a contracted team of customer service staff.
The company was started because we wanted to have more freedom and flexibility in life, and not to create the next Facebook or to manage lots of people. So we’ve always focused on simplicity, profitability and keeping the company small. It’s gotten harder as we’ve gotten more apps and users, but I think we have found a good balance now.
We have 4 apps in the Shopify App Store, with plans for about 4 more.
Q: How did you get started in app development?
By chance, by stumbling across the Shopify Partner Program. I was a Business Analyst in my career at the time, so I understood the process of building software and could leverage that to have my first app outsourced. I then learnt to code myself after having the first app and created the other 3 apps myself.
Q: What made you choose to build for the Shopify platform?
When I found the Shopify platform, it was a company on the rise, and the app store looked like a great opportunity that I could enter with a chance of competing well.
Q: Where did the idea for your first app come from?
A forum post for app ideas on the Shopify community site
Q: You’ve got a growing suite of successful apps; how do you go about validating new ideas?
I always ask myself, is this something that Shopify has a high chance of adding to their core platform? If the answer is Yes, and I have a good gut feeling about the app itself, then I do it.
Q: How do you attract new customers to use your apps?
App Store optimization, website landing pages, blog posts and referral programs.
Q: What's the biggest challenge you face building for the Shopify platform?
App Store changes which affect the rate of installs. Constant change and the time needed for maintenance when running multiple apps.
Q: What's the most outrageous customer support request/rant you've received, and how did you respond?
More new apps while creating a streamlined framework to make maintenance and management of multiple apps more efficient.
Lessons & Learnings
Q: Being a solo founder can get a bit lonely — what does your support network look like?
Luckily now, I also work with my wife, so it’s less lonely now than it used to be. But I always made sure to work in a co-working space, so other people were around, was active in the Shopify Partner community and attended as many relevant events as possible. That really ensured I got a boost every now and then, which made the more quiet times easier.
Q: What's the biggest challenge you face in your business/work today?
Keeping up with all the Shopify changes, API deprecations, App Store optimizations, Ads etc.
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?
When it was just me, I organized high-level things on a whiteboard wall in the office, but as we’ve grown, having a more organized approach was necessary.
We now use Basecamp to manage all our work and work on a loose interpretation of the “Shape Up” methodology. Since implementing it in the company, we’ve gotten a lot more done and have also been able to set more concrete goals.
Q: What's the one bit of advice you would give someone starting out in the Shopify ecosystem today?
You are not just building an app, you are building a company. Keep that in mind, as it should help with deciding on app ideas to pursue, how you’ll answer support, do marketing and everything else.
Q: How do you approach getting better at your craft, development, leadership etc.?
Learning by doing. I like to learn things as I need them and will go deep into researching and planning new subjects/tasks as I’m about to do them, then giving them a go. Also, I always try and do the simplest version first, then later, as I’ve gained more experience, I’ll add more bells and whistles.
Q: Please share any influential books, blogs, authors etc., that have helped you in your work life.