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Darren Hill is the Founder and Co-Founder and CEO of WebLinc. Darren is a regular guest speaker at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Drexel University’s LeBow Business College, was named in the top thirty people under thirty years old in Philadelphia (2001) and has been profiled in Inc. Magazine, Fortune, Entrepreneur Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, the Philadelphia Business Journal, City Paper, Streaming Magazine and TechTimes.
As an industry leader in eCommerce and Web development since the mid-90s, WebLinc Direct eCommerce is best known for its critically acclaimed development of flexible, scalable, feature rich, tailored solutions for clients including Urban Outfitters Inc., DeepDiscount.com, Football Fanatics, AAA, Bobby Jones, Mighty Leaf and Hickey Freeman. Our proprietary eCommerce platform, WebLinc Direct, allows for easy integration with back-end systems while enabling clients to easily manage their online stores, boost search engine visibility, and ultimately realize increased traffic and sales.
MO: Do you think of yourself as an innovator?
Darren: I think the most innovative thing we’ve done at WebLinc was to create a working environment that promotes creativity within both the graphic design team and the software teams. It’s pretty rare that one company can handle both of those disciplines under one roof, but we’ve managed it very well. This company-wide creativity is very advantageous when developing new eCommerce technologies for our clients.
One of the ways we do this is in having regular, company-wide, Friday end-of-day meetings where people from any of our departments will give quick presentations on something cool that they’re working on. It might be a new technology from a programmer, new wire-framing tool from the production group, some interesting prospect that sales wants to talk about or a new client development that affects our business somehow.
MO: What have been some of the key components that have allowed WebLinc to successfully evolve and adapt to the changes in eCommerce since the public Internet’s inception?
Darren: The best way to innovate is to listen to client’s needs and quickly create solutions for those needs. I think its comical when our competitors have a 2 year “road map” for their eCommerce software; there’s no way they’ll know what the market will want in two years from now. WebLinc was one of the first companies to incorporate new technologies like html 5, smartphone-optimized eCommerce, multinational eCommerce, content/commerce unification, Facebook Connect and recurring orders. All of those were utilized to solve some type of client business need.
Recently, we’ve created a new initiative called WebLinc Labs, which focuses on research and development of new technologies. Some of these will be features within our main WebLinc Direct eCommerce platform, some will be stand-alone products and some will be deemed unworthy of further development. It’s fun for everyone involved to work on these new ideas.
MO: Was it always your intention and part of the plan to never follow the beaten path? Are there any disadvantages to choosing the path less taken?
Darren: WebLinc “grew up” in the punk rock, DIY world. We have always had this in our culture. We pride ourselves on doing things smartly and doing things right. The beaten path is where dinosaurs hang out. In 18 years of business I haven’t seen the downside yet.
MO: You’ve been known to pass on lucrative, but unchallenging, projects for ones with much smaller paydays yet greater potential. Have you or your colleagues ever been tempted to give in and take a project you weren’t passionate about?
Darren: Depending on the sales pipeline, we’ve taken a few of the unexciting projects in the past and we usually regret it. We have a ton of very passionate people here and if there’s no passion for a particular project, it won’t result in a great project. We all have a finite amount of days in our lives, and have to work for many of them; if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing you should switch to something you are passionate about.
MO: WebLinc eCommerce is best known for its critically acclaimed development of flexible, custom online shopping solutions for clients. What are you doing differently than your competitors?
Darren: Most of our competitors focus on a “one size fits all” approach to eCommerce. Their systems are inflexible and accomplish 80% of what a given client needs. Our system is very light and more like a car chassis from which the car is built. VW used the same chassis for the VW bus, VW bug, VW Karmann Ghia and the Porsche. Our system has the building blocks for B2C, B2B, International and mobile systems.
MO: Can you talk about your plans for international expansion?
Darren: There are two main reasons why WebLinc is expanding to Europe. The first is that WebLinc has recently won some European projects and we will need to have a staff in the London time zone. The other reason is that the European eCommerce market is currently a few years behind what we’re doing in the states. We are really excited about this.
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