By Kristy Dorsey

Expansion doesn’t come much faster than it has this past year or so at Optiseller, the e-commerce software developer that helps retailers increase their online visibility and manage internet sales.

Created by Stirling-based Developing IT, which is headed by managing director Craig MacCallum, the Optiseller data platform is used by more than 45,000 retailers in 120 countries to control, manage and monitor their online performance. It is most notably in use across eBay, which provides the Optiseller Aspect Finder tool free of charge to its retailers to help them provide all the necessary information on the goods they sell.

That agreement was signed at the end of 2019, just a few short months before the onset of the Covid lockdowns that forced businesses around the world to focus all efforts on their online presence. As a result, Optiseller has seen a 300 per cent increase in both headcount and revenue this past year, with latest annual turnover hitting £3.5 million.

“We are anticipating that amount of growth and a little bit more this year,” Mr MacCallum said. “It is coming from all territories, though one of the places we have so far not looked closely at is the US, but that is because we first want to be sure we have got it correct in Europe.

“This time last year we had about 20 staff, and we are now up to about 70. By the end of this year we expect to have around 140 people.”

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Expansion has included growth overseas, with Australia and Germany particular hotspots. The company’s permanent presence in Sydney is being extended to five people, while a team of six is being set up in Germany to provide technical support to that market.

The business has been self-funded to date, but given its massive growth spurt, Mr MacCallum said work is now underway to raise some external funding this summer.

“Up to this point it has all been self-financed,” he said. “What we are doing right now is going through the preparations to raise some investment capital.”

A graduate in computing from the University of Central Lancashire, Mr MacCallum initially worked as a contract software engineer, a role which in 1998 led him to NCR in Dundee, where he worked on development of the ATM giant’s self-service kiosks. He then had a brief stint developing the online stock trading platform for Barclays, and then spent four years as a project manager with Strategic Software Solutions.

He set up Developing IT in 2004 and recruited his first two employees the following year. In 2008 one of the firm’s existing customers asked for help in creating a transactional-based website, laying the groundwork for what would become Optiseller.

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“At the peak of that, the ecommerce platform that we had built for them was handling 100,000 transactions per week,” Mr MacCallum said.

In 2012 the company started supporting sellers on eBay, and in 2017 Optiseller was launched as a software product.

In addition to providing its Aspect Finder tool through eBay – an agreement that has been extended to run until the end of June – the Scottish company is also launching a new automated platform that makes it quicker and less expensive for retailers to set up shop on eBay. The tool helps them comply with eBay mandates for item specifics on their listings in a completely automated process that cuts onboarding time from 12 to four weeks, while slashing the cost by about two-thirds to approximately £5,000.

Although headquartered in Stirling, the company operates on a “work from anywhere” model, with employees based in France and Ireland among the recruits of this past year. Along with its current hubs in Scotland and overseas, Mr MacCallum is looking to established three or four further flexible office locations in the UK.

“We are not recruiting based on location, we are recruiting the best talent,” he said. “I have always been quite keen to ensure the right people join us – I was never too precious about where they were located.”

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In addition to technical, marketing and sales roles, Optiseller has also been strengthening its senior management team. Among those coming on board last year were chief financial officer Brendan Waters and Louise Findlay, who joined as head of HR from a similar role at technology apprenticeship training provider You Train.

Meanwhile Richard Falconer, former managing director of digital marketing firm Yard, was hired as chief operating officer. In that role, he has been tasked with overseeing expansion.

From next year, Mr MacCallum aims to drive that growth by extending Optiseller’s presence into other online marketplaces. The company also provides clients with bespoke data tools that can be used on proprietary and own-brand platforms.

Demand on all fronts has been driven by the forced shift to online shopping that Mr McCallum says is presenting Optiseller with “huge” opportunities.

“We are cognizant of the fact that we were in the right place at the right time,” he said. “The shift that has come about because of the pandemic meant we were able to jump onto the changes that are taking place.”


What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

I have been fortunate to travel a reasonable amount on business over the years and have found it interesting to go to places that you would not typically visit, a standout business trip would be to the Ouagadougou capital of Burkina Faso. For leisure, any family holiday preferably on a beach and somewhere hot to relax and spend time together.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

I had no fixed ideas on what I wanted to do when growing up and was undecided about further education. My go-to option after leaving school was to join the police, I still have the form filled in but never submitted it. University called and straight in to employment afterwards.

What was your biggest break in business?

Being effectively made redundant in 2004 and allowing me to start Developing IT ,or making the step-change between finance and e-commerce when we were asked to build an e-commerce platform for our customer to support selling energy efficiency products in 2008. This has shaped our direction ever since and allowed us to develop our Optiseller product.

What was your worst moment in business?

A number of years ago we had to make a number of staff redundant due to lack of work. This is never an easy decision but unfortunately, sometimes a necessary one.

Who do you most admire and why?

Many of who I admire are my friends and family, all for very different reasons but they have had the strongest of influences on me over the years. There are a few in the business world who I sit back and think, wow good job/kudos, but they are all a little abstract for me and I don’t necessarily see all of their challenges. Those who are closer to me, where I know what they have been through to get to where they are today, have my admiration.

I also think it would be hard to over look the people who are doing tremendous work during the current pandemic. Whilst many of us have been sat at home working “hard”, the front-line workers have had the commitment and dedication to support others and are putting their lives at risk with additional exposure they undoubtedly face. I have believed for a long time that these front-line workers are undervalued in current society and we would be in a far worse position if it wasn’t for them.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?

When not on holiday I tend to read non-fiction and am currently reading “The Unfair Advantage” by Ash Ali & Hasan Kubba, a book recommended by our new CFO Brendan Waters. I am a shuffle listener when it comes to music, I play the first 60 seconds or so and move on. It can be a bit of an eclectic mix because of that but I tend to get bored quickly with some music and find the best bits in the first 60 to 90 seconds.