After Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) reported its third-quarter results, its leadership team shared some important information with investors during the subsequent conference call. Here are the key takeaways for long-term shareholders.
1. Shopify responds to Citron's attack
We were targeted by a short-selling troll who made all sorts of preposterous claims. ... I want to correct three key points of misinformation, and just to be absolutely clear, we consulted with outside legal counsel that also categorically dismissed these claims as unsubstantiated. I can definitely state that (1) we do not sell business opportunities; we sell a commerce platform; (2) we comply with FTC rules and consistently inform our affiliates of their legal obligations; and (3) we do not promise merchants success -- far from it. In fact, most of our content is about how hard entrepreneurship is.
-- CEO Tobias Lutke
Short-seller Andrew Left of Citron Research released a scathing report in early October describing Shopify as an "illegal get-rich-quick scheme" whose marketing practices ran afoul of Federal Trade Commission regulations. The stock was hit hard on the news and has yet to recover fully. Yet Lutke's response makes it clear that Shopify and its lawyers believe that Citron's claims are without merit.
2. Shopify wins when its customers succeed
And here's a really important piece that somehow got missed. While we see ourselves as a catalyst foundation, and we strive to lower the learning curve for entrepreneurship so everyone can participate, most of our revenue actually comes from the merchants successfully selling on Shopify. The more merchants sell, the more payments we facilitate, the more shipping we assist with, the more working capital we provide. This is how we have been able to deliver the results that we do quarter after quarter, because our merchants are succeeding. -- Lutke
To further counter Citron's accusations, Lutke highlighted the fact that a large portion of Shopify's revenue is tied to the sales generated by its users. The company simply could not produce the type of growth that it's been reporting unless the overall sales generated by its users were also growing rapidly. That doesn't mean that every business on its platform will succeed, and Shopify acknowledges this unfortunate fact. But it does mean that many of its users are finding success, and Shopify's growing suite of services is no doubt contributing to this.
3. Empowering the underdogs
When you open the New York Times business section, what you will read is that small companies are struggling and big companies are getting insanely big. There's a little variance and noise in this data, because nondigital companies of all sizes are failing at the same time, but overall, that's the trend.
Now, I don't have the time here to dig into why this is, but the change we want to make is that we want to give the small business a chance to survive and thrive. The world needs millions of small businesses to ensure a sustainable future for our economies and jobs instead of a handful of major companies.
In many industries, competitive dynamics such as network effects and scale advantages are helping large corporations grow increasingly dominant. This is making it difficult for smaller businesses to compete. Shopify wants to help even the odds for these underdogs. By providing a suite of high-quality e-commerce capabilities, Shopify supplies its customers with technology that is on par with -- and often even better than -- what their larger competitors are currently using.
4. Yet large enterprises are also flocking to its platform
Moving on to Shopify Plus, with continued upgrades, the execution of our sales hackers, and our partner ecosystem, Shopify Plus drove a record number of launches in Q3. These included brands like the Phoenix Suns, Arby's, Josie Maran's cosmetics line, and earlier this month, fashion powerhouse Rebecca Minkoff.
-- COO Harley Finkelstein
With the tech advantages that Shopify is providing to its users, it's perhaps unsurprising that larger businesses are also beginning to take advantage of its offerings. Shopify Plus provides enterprise-grade solutions for high volume merchants and other large companies. It's an increasingly important part of Shopify's business, accounting for 20% of its monthly recurring revenue in the third quarter, up from 15% in the prior year period.
5. Fueling its customers' growth
Finally, our cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities balance was $926.6 million, down slightly from the $932.4 million at June 30, 2017, due to the continued success of Shopify Capital. This working capital financing, which exceeded a cumulative $130 million by Sept. 30, is even more critical as merchants prepare for the holiday season. The popularity of Capital underscores how underserved small businesses are.
-- CFO Russell Jones
Shopify's desire to meet its customers' needs extends beyond e-commerce. Through its Shopify Capital division, it helps to supply small businesses with the working capital they need to scale their operations. And judging by the rapid growth of this segment -- Shopify Capital issued $44.1 million in merchant cash advances in the third quarter, nearly five times the $9.2 million issued in Q3 2016 -- this is a need that's been largely unmet by traditional sources of business financing. That gives Shopify an additional way to add value for its customers -- and another powerful engine to fuel its own revenue and profit growth in the years ahead.