Companies are innovating to succeed in the new environment, and CTOs play a big part in that. Leaders have a lot on their plate: They must help teams and customers reach their goals while being on the lookout for what’s happening around them. They must learn from the past, present, and future.
ModernCTO is the premier destination for CTOs, with over 80k+ podcast listeners over various platforms. Last week, ModernCTO founder and host Joel Beasley sat down with one of the biggest names in eCommerce, founder and CEO of Oro, Inc. Yoav Kutner. In the talk, which can be found here, they discussed Yoav’s takeaways from creating Magento, and what philosophies and strategies made Oro one of the fastest-growing companies in the B2B sphere.
Joel: How did building and growing Magento help you with Oro?
Yoav: Seeing Magento doing so well today makes me feel proud – it’s a testament to a great team and wise decision-making early on. For example, if you take the logo, you realize it not only works well with the brand today, but it has elements of the previous company, Varien. All that materialized into Magento as we know it today.
Magento was a great experience for us since we learned what works well and not so well. We saw first hand what markets were underserved and had to make compromises. At one point, I asked myself, “if we were to do it again, what would we do differently?” So at Oro, we approached technology differently – a lot of advancements had happened since then, and we had more confidence in our abilities.
We chose to maintain ownership of our product but didn’t reinvent the wheel when a better alternative was available. The decision to build on PHP’s Symfony framework is a perfect example.
Joel: What did you learn from Magento’s culture and leadership style?
Yoav: At Magento, we were consumed with work, and it wasn’t uncommon to work 12-hour days, including weekends. I saw it differently, in the sense that building a company is not a sprint but a marathon. This approach turned our focus towards the people. Unlike at Magento, where our philosophy was all about work, Oro takes personal development and a good work-life balance just as seriously. Part of our team came from Magento, so we matured together, but we also got a younger team, which gave us a fresh perspective.
Magento also grew big very fast, and that gave us some pointers about management styles. We adopted a horizontal and transparent management structure, meaning that anyone can reach out to anyone. Our financials are shared on a quarterly basis, sometimes more often than necessary.
This proved useful when COVID broke out. We let everyone know how we’re doing every step of the way and how we can help one another.
Joel: Is there a reason why Oro is open source?
Yoav: Why we went with open source is a question we get asked a lot, and my answer is always the same: why not? If there’s a specific reason not to, by all means. But open source can be an important competitive advantage. For example, there are huge marketing and brand recognition benefits to be had. It gets the product in the hands of many people, which is great for engagement, feedback, and leads.
Our approach is a commercial open-source, so we own the product and core features. We accept feedback and feature requests from our ecosystem but use a product development cycle akin to any commercial company. It’s the best of both worlds: we build a product that benefits from the creativity and input from the ecosystem, and our customers get a stable, secure product that meets their needs.
Additionally, the ecosystem acts as a stepping stone for customers looking to move to digital commerce. This helped us expand worldwide, and now we have customers in the US, Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
Joel: What propels Oro’s vision, its philosophy?
Yoav: As Oro grows and offers more people value, it takes a lifeform of its own. But to stay the course, we have to listen to our developers and our solution and technology partners. We are on the lookout for trends in the industry and within the ecosystem.
We make the effort to hear out and respond to our developers: whether it’s a “yes” or a “not right now.” Listening is not enough; we have to explain, share our thought processes, and rationalize why we prioritize certain capabilities and features over others.
Joel: What are you learning as Oro’s leader?
Yoav: I have to believe in the team, so I have to take a step back and delegate work I’d like to control to more talented individuals. As a leader, I have to learn to not micromanage or over delegate work but to empower others to make decisions.
Our horizontal structure allows me to understand and discuss a wide array of topics with the team – everything from customers, pricing, to negotiation. In the end, however, I leave the decision to the individual.
Joel: What is your favorite thing to do at Oro?
Yoav: My passion lies in the product: Building a product that customers will love, going through the features, and improving on them. I still enjoy talking to customers, listening to their feedback, and seeing how we can incorporate it into the product.
Being product-minded helps me understand what is possible and how to get there – but I am also fortunate to be part of many companies, and seeing them succeed is the ultimate benefit.
Listen to the full interview on ModernCTO.