Salvatore Iozzia: Innovation that the Internet has Wrought is Because of Open Source

This time we have the honor to present to your attention an interview with e-Commerce guru, Loaded 7 founder and outstanding personality - Salvatore lozzia. Being an early supporter of osCommerce, Zen Cart initial sponsor, CRE Loaded founder and current Loaded 7 CEO its a great pleasure for us to take a glance into the timeline of his professional growth, what challenges he met on his way and ambitions for the nearest future.

Salvatore, you’ve been involved with e-Commerce for quite a while now. Please tell us a few words about how it all started. What was your first experience in e-Commerce and why you decided to keep working with the industry?

Back in 2001 I had a web hosting and design company called Chain Reaction Web. I had worked with osCommerce on a few projects, it was called The Exchange Project prior to then. We grew our hosting business by specializing in osCommerce hosting, we were one of the top results on Google at the time. Often we people would say, I will host with you if you integrate this contribution for me or that one. We would say no as it was costly to hire a developer to do that kind of work. Then we came across Ian Wilson's loaded test branch of osCommerce. He was just testing to see how major contributions interacted but it was a working edition. We sponsored that branch and setup a forums and gave Ian some servers to work on.

Later he would move on to found Zen Cart and we were the initial sponsors of that project as well. Than left the loaded project to us, and we called it the C.R.E. Loaded OSCommerce Project. C.R.E. stood for Chain Reaction Edition. The first version under that name was version 5. It took off and people started asking how much it cost, which we would reply nothing. But it has so many features in it compared to other carts, it was worth more than nothing. So we created a Pro edition with 5 compelling features and offered real support. The rest is history. There is a lot to the story of what happened when we raise 5 million in venture capital money. But that is for another time.

My first experience in e-Commerce was before back when there was only CyberCash. I had no idea how to make that work, we built the site on MS FrontPage with an Access database with imported product data for this local office supply company. I believe they took payment over the phone when the order came in.

As a web designer with a hosting business, I could see that the web applications made the hosting useful. So we tried to support them all at the time. Forum software, gallery software, this is pre blogging area so CMS's where nonexistent. phpweblog and phpnuke where as close as you could get to a CMS back in 2002. I found that e-Commerce applications like osCommerce where not only in high demand but did not require massive amounts of disk space or bandwidth like a gallery application did. Also customer who ran those sites had something called money. Yes, money, they would be willing to pay for good reliable service and so we dropped all the other applications and focused on osCommerce, and later added Zen Cart and CRE Loaded.

You are best known as CRE Loaded founder. However, you are currently working on Loaded 7. Could you share the storyline of your platform? What are the most inspiring and the most frustrating moments that took place on your evolution way from CRE Loaded to Loaded 7?

Salvatore Iozzia: Innovation that the Internet has Wrought is Because of Open Source

CRE Loaded as a company got distracted by corporate management issues. The investors wanted their CEO, and he trashed the business model. Making the free edition cost money, attempting to close the source code, rejecting lucrative reseller deals with the GoDaddy. It was insanity. I got fired after three months of this and then within 2 weeks, the investors realized their mistake and fired their CEO and hired me back.

I still had to work with another CEO. But we tried to save the company. It was too late. Mainly because of the ungodly amount of money that was spent on consultants and expensive staff. Millions of dollars were gone and the company was in a bad place. So we pivoted to making payment solutions with some of the investors partners. 4 years later I was able to buy back CRE Loaded and rebuild a solution that I felt the market was missing.

Loaded 7 corrects everything that was wrong with CRE Loaded 6.x. CRE Loaded was a lot of separate developers code, assembly of osCommerce contribution. Loaded 7 is all our code from the ground up. CRE Loaded did not have a modern template engine, lots of tables in the HTML and core logic in the template files. Loaded 7 is all MVC and bootstrap 3 based. CRE Loaded applied patches manually, you have to download them, upload them. Loaded 7 has cloud based code updates, like WordPress. So now updates are easy. In CRE Loaded we had an innovate way to allow for addons but it worked where we pre-placed hooks on the page. Loaded 7 incorporates VQmod allowing for developers to override any code anywhere in the application. CRE Loaded had a lot of procedural logic. Loaded 7 is all object oriented, allowing for proper extensions of logic for addon developers and customization.

Now on top of that we are adding the features that we know merchants love. SEO URLs with permalinks for all content. Sub Products. Coupons. Customer Group Discounts.

The most inspirational thing about this venture is the way the loaded team loves this project. They love the idea of helping merchants, of making a great product and a great ecosystem. From our sales and support teams to our development and our QA teams. Everyone here is a believer that Loaded 7 will change the world.

Making a short summary from your own experience what is your best advice for: an online merchant, a shopping cart developer and someone who is just considering online business as an option?

My advice to a business owner is identify a need and meet it. When we looked at the shopping cart market in 2012. When we decided to buy back CRE Loaded and relaunch it. We saw a need. The need was Mobile e-Commerce and mobile payment support. That decision excited our customers, and partners. That feedback validated our assumptions.

Secondly is to listen to your customers and prospects. You have to know specifically how they are dealing with the need in the market. What else are they doing now, how much are they spending. What do they like and not like about it. Then you can define your product, its features and price. If your product is a store that sells lots of products, where do your customers shop now? Are they going to Amazon or other small etailers? Do you have to compete on price or can you compete on user experience, knowledge, selection or some other metric?

e-Commerce is now crowded as never before. You can find any kind of solution that will meet any kind of demands. Why in your opinion Loaded 7 is worth to give a shot? Or even more, why it is worth to migrate to?

Loaded 7 is fresh and new. It is not burdened by concepts and coding from the last decade. It is built to address today's needs and leverage today's technologies. If you have a Zen Cart or osCommerce based cart. Loaded 7 adds features that will make you money and save you time. If you have cart in the cloud like Bigcommerce or Shopify, Loaded 7 gives you the same features for far less money and you can customize it to match your business rules. If you are a web developer Loaded 7 Pro is the best tool to resell to your customers because of the combined power, ease of use and customizable source code.

If you were a store owner who is looking to migrate his current store to Loaded 7: how would you complete this task? What are your tips for those e-merchants who decided to switch their shopping cart?

To migrate to Loaded 7 we are glad to have Cart2Cart as a partner. Using Cart2Cart migration service makes converting to Loaded 7 very easy. First you would setup Loaded7, which is available via Softaculous installer in Cpanel or Plesk. Then you would activate either the free or Pro features. Then you get the 40% off coupon from our switch page and sign up for the migration service at Cart2Cart.

When switching carts, realize the migration will only move your common data between applications. Which is great. Your order, customer, product data is essential. You will need to customize your site design and template separately. You may also need to create some customizations or configure some addons to complete your store. We recommend setting up a dev site to prepare your new Loaded 7 site. For Pro customer users we provide two licenses one for the live site, and one for a dev site.

Could you share with us on Loaded 7 plans for this year? What are your goals and ambitions? What would you like to achieve in this year and how?

Our plans for Loaded 7 include launching new tools for the community and the Loaded 7 B2B edition. The community tools will focus around community addons. Community members will be able to create addon listings with descriptions, screenshots and documentation. Once approved the addons will have their own mini support forum and subscription options. Store owners can get updates on addons or new addons that developers release.

Later we will offer in admin purchases of commercial addons. First it will support one time purchases. Then we will add reseller pricing. So resellers can bundle their favorite addons with Pro and make some margin on their custom builds and everybody wins. On top of that we are building a recurring subscription feature, that will be a part of the Pro offering and integrated into our addon store. So addon developers can set recurring fees on their addons and we can handle that for them.

As an early supporter of osCommerce, founder of CRE Loaded, and current CEO at Loaded 7 its evident - e-Commerce is your life. How in your opinion online business will change in the nearest future? Do you have any predictions?

The innovation that the Internet has wrought is because of open source. HTML, CSS, JavaScript are all open source languages. You can view any webpage and see how it was put together. That is huge part of why we see such acceleration in this area of technology over other tech industries. Add the open source of the underlying server side code, and now you have exponential growth based on shared knowledge and experimentation.

Mobile and payments are something that are resistant to open source. Lots of apps with proprietary code slow innovation. Open Source platforms like Android are excellent to force competition in an otherwise possible closed future.

I expect to see more sharing. More consumer control over their relationships with their payments and merchants. I also see more personalized e-Сommerce content for consumers and I see more of a subscription economy coming. We are positioning Loaded Commerce to take advantage of these future trends.

So, this is what Salvatore told us about his timeline, storyline of Loaded 7 and goals for the future. If you’ve got further questions on the topic, we’d be happy to see them in the comments below and respond.