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The future of e-commerce is headless

In this episode, we are talking with Khalid Muaydh, the VP of Engineering at Fabric, where we’ll discuss the e-commerce industry and its future.

Ep 5: The future of e-commerce is headless - graphic1

Episode 5: The future of e-commerce is headless – with Khalid Muaydh

During our conversation, Khalid told us about his road to becoming the VP of Engineering vs. working as a developer with all the challenges that he faced on the way. We also discussed the challenges for Fabric’s development in such a highly competitive market, what they have achieved so far, and their plans for its growth and expansion. Listen to the podcast to discover how they’re innovating the e-commerce industry!

Points covered:

  • Khalid’s professional journey
  • The story and mission behind Fabric
  • Fabric – how does it work?
  • Fabric vs. competitors
  • E-commerce vs. headless commerce
  • The future of headless commerce
  • Technology behind Fabric
  • Project pipeline
  • The model of hiring external teams or a vendor from a different continent 

About Khalid

Khalid Muaydh has become the VP of Engineering at Fabric after over seven years of working for Amazon as a Software Engineer Leader. That experience has definitely helped him create the headless commerce leader – Fabric, which has recently raised $140M in Series C funding! It gives them the Unicorn status – a private company valued at or over $1 billion. Within a year, Fabric has grown from 50 to 350 employees and raised a total of over $250M from top-tier VCs.

Before Fabric, he was also the Co-Founder & VP of Engineering at Veeve, a system of contactless grocery shopping that uses machine learning, sensor fusion, computer vision, and artificial intelligence to enable large scale (100K SKUs) visual recognition. 

Recently, we also asked her a few questions to get to know her better – read them here.

Intro 0:01
Welcome to the ‘How We Innovate’ podcast presented by Applandeo hosted by me, Wiola and my co-host, Bryan. On this podcast, we talk with leading innovators, pull back the curtain on their industry, and get to know how they use technology to achieve success, as well as share the story behind them and their businesses.

Host – Wiola 0:24
On today’s episode, we have Khalid Muaydh, Khalid is a tech advisor and a VP of Engineering at Fabric, one of the biggest headless ecommerce platforms, that’s recently become a Unicorn. Welcome, Khalid. Nice to have you with us. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Guest – Khalid 0:41
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It’s good to be here. I’m Khalid, the VP of Engineering at Fabric. My journey started at Amazon, you know, I spent with them eight years. And after that I was a co-founder and a VP in an AI startup that’s in the retail, retail cashless space. After that I joined Fabric I’ve been with them for close to a year. And a little bit background about Fabric. Fabric offers a modular solutions that are composed of multiple services in the E-commerce space. Before Fabric merchants had to really maintain a monolithic platform where it will restrict them from customization. and then they have to go through a whole lengthy green platform process if they had to change. So we enable merchants to really see seamlessly choose any or all of that Fabric rebuild modules or solutions or services. So they can easily connect their existing infrastructures to Fabric platform.

Host – Wiola 1:48
So in the first place, how is it to work with a company of such a big scale?

Guest – Khalid 1:53
Yeah, it’s been a great, you know, journey and lessons working in Amazon, you know, a lot of that lessons I have learned from there, it applies to not only at my work or at my career, it’s also to my life, we have a set of, you know, embedded leadership principles that we embed to our life. So it’s, I have been fortunate to start with them and learn all of that. And that experience has been carrying the way everywhere I go.

Host – Bryan 2:25
Yeah, and I think that’s really interesting. Because whenever you think of like a huge corporation, right, Amazon has to be one of the first things that pops into your mind. Right? So from you moving to such a big structure that you have at Amazon to like such a startup Fabric, right, so what are what are some of the things that you took from Amazon and applied it maybe to what you do at Fabric?

Guest – Khalid 2:48
Yeah, it’s pretty interesting that Amazon, and a lot of teams that are good organization, we operated like a startup mode, you know, where we go and really fast, and how we execute a lot of things we brought in from an Amazon how we execute really quickly how to, you know, embed customer in everything what we do, you know, it’s we are customer centric, work backwards from customers, a lot of those leadership principles applies really well. And we have brought them to Fabric and they are part of our values, you know, how, how do we operate at all levels? How do you know, deep dive and interest in high standards, and a few things that, you know, didn’t look into to bring in from an Amazon, it’s, it’s a pretty harsh culture at Amazon, you know, it’s, you gotta keep up with all of that, to be able to sustain. So that’s the thing that I didn’t like about Amazon. And that’s the thing we didn’t want to, you know, get away with us to, to, to Fabric, so we brought in the good thing and how we operate, how we excute and also improving, and the people aspect to it, Amazon didn’t do really well, and how do we take care of our people? And, you know, and then they added the center of everything what we do?

Host – Bryan 4:09
Yeah, at Amazon, did you really feel that there was a very, like, agile way of doing development? Like, or did you feel like, since it’s such a big size of a company, it’s very hard to change processes or some other procedures that they do? Or how did how did that look?

Guest – Khalid 4:25
Yeah, Amazon in nature, in a lot of organizations, they operated in an agile way. It was in operations, like a startup where they are going at the startup speed, but haven’t you know, been under the enterprise enterprise umbrella. So that was, you know, one thing that’s really impressive and that what made Amazon really successful and innovative because they continue to operate at startup mindset in a lot of organizations. There are certain organizations where they are too much process heavy and enterprisy but those would have been one of the good examples for success of Amazon.

Host – Wiola 5:04
And what are the major skills you brought from Amazon?

Guest – Khalid 5:08
Yeah, one big thing I have to confess has been really valuable and, and multiple artifact, it’s Amazon is a data driven company. Without it’s a data driven company and also the way how we deep dive at all levels, it has been really impressive. How do we understand the business and operate at all levels? Without details, and data, it’s just an opinion. At Amazon we go to the details is like peeling the onion, you know, we we go from one level to another until we get to truly to the bottom of it. So Amazon, you know, what one big takeaway and that scale that it, it has been really making me successful and and in Fabric is how do we create a mechanisms and those processes that enable us to connect to details and audit frequently? How do we connect the dots with KPIs and metrics, where we use that and the KPI, the metrics to use anecdotes and check if those really confirming that data we are seeing or are contradicting and we need to deep, deep dive further. So that has been very valuable to understand the business and be able to operate at all levels, and drive all decisions we make based on data and centered around customers.

Host – Bryan 6:37
Awesome. And I think that’s a good like way to transition, right? So you’re now the VP of Engineering at Fabric, right? So what is your daily job responsibilities? What does a VP of engineering do?

Guest – Khalid 6:52
VP of engineering, it’s in a start up, it’s a hard role, you know, because we’ll have to play at different levels, you know, as it’s, it’s, I would call in a startup that it might be like a flat hierarchy, where you can play as in a frontline, as needed and also play in a leadership position. But as a core responsibility, from a leadership, there are multiple teams, where it’s focused on people focus on product projects and customers. What we do, it’s the team focused in those areas and the leadership. When we need to focus on people, we need to have to check how do we bring in the best of people? How do we energize, energize them, how do we keep mentoring them and have them to be successful at their career. So working with people being a leader who’s not in a frontline, it’s really important to be a support function for your team, how to make them successful, and understand what their problems and how to fix it, it’s there is going to be always problems, there is going to be all escalations, how to jump into them, and how to settle them. And lots of problems that come sometimes doesn’t have data. It’s to me when something doesn’t have a data, it’s an opinion, where it’s really make it hard to make decisions, which is a big part of our role when we drive and make decisions. And that’s in terms of the people aspect in terms of customers, it’s you know, customers have a ton of problems, we look into how to innovate behind, and what problems can we solve that we’ll make their life easier? How do we ensure all the projects and the product we build are really solving what customer needs and what’s going to make their life easier. And other thing we usually do and focus is you know, and processes and mechanisms that will enable us to scale and enable us to operate independently for all the teams to be able to operate independently without having to be there on a day to day basis. And with continuous deep dives, as we mentioned earlier, to understand all the business operations. That’s that’s, you know, the theme of the few things that were we usually spend most of the time.

Host – Bryan 9:22
Yeah, and I think one of the big things that you spoke about was leadership, right? So was leadership for you that that something come natural or is it a skill that you picked up maybe, you know, the years that you were at Amazon that you’re more comfortable being the leader or is that something that you thought was came very natural to you?

Guest – Khalid 9:40
So it’s both. There are a few, in a leadership it’s a combination of multiple attributes and artifact. Some of them are natural and some of them it’s a skills that I have learned through all my career starting from an Amazon and after Amazon I was a co-founder I had my own startup where I, you know, learned how to manage that and how to deal with everything, you know, from, you know, marketing sales customer and be able to deal with all aspects of that business. That’s a skill that I learned through my career experience.

Host – Bryan 10:15
Cool. Okay, yeah. So Khalid, I think there’s, you know, I know you spoke a little bit earlier about maybe what Fabric does, right so brief right? So, what is Fabric doing now? Right, and why should we care?

Guest – Khalid 10:27
Yeah, Fabric is, is the next innovation. If you look back in the days before AWS, any company or any startup, if they had to really build any app or application or a platform, they have to worry about how to get host how to the infrastructure, how to, and they had to build everything, you know, they need in their stacks to enable their business. So which take them really long. They didn’t focus on innovations, they didn’t focus on their business, they focus on how to build infrastructure. Fabric, why do we need to worry about it, it’s the next innovation, the space of E-commerce, looking at E-commerce, for example Stripe, stripe is solving a major thing in E-commerce, which is the payment and it’s a really big company. But looking at at all the different modules within e-commerce. It’s a pretty complex problem and from product management systems to card managements to and then three, it’s just multiple modules that there is no easy solutions for them at market. Fabric is that AWS for for commerce platforms, where we enable multiple services or modulars that will make it easy for businesses and merchants just to really focus on their business, and not have to worry about anything in terms of infrastructure, or platform to operate their commerce business.

Host – Wiola 11:59
So it’s basically getting back to this main philosophy you mentioned, which is about connecting the dots, right?

Guest – Khalid 12:08
That’s right. That’s right.

Host – Wiola 12:10
Yes. And so this is what you mean headless ecommerce is?

Guest – Khalid 12:16
Yeah, headless e-commerce is the terminology means when we look into commerce, there is a head, which is the frontend layers, and the headless is the backend layers. The Headless modules enabled, you know, for a lot of business, who needed to maintain the tool and go to the front end, it will enable them easily to integrate with Fabric, just with the headless API’s where they didn’t have to have monolithic migration, what did they take a whole solution or not? Whether they can start migrating slowly with a headless API’s that will solve that intermediate problems.

Host – Bryan 12:54
So where do you see the direction between headless and E-commerce? Regular traditional e-commerce platforms?

Guest – Khalid 12:56
Yeah, the future definitely is going to the headless, that traditional e-commerce is a monolithic, which doesn’t enable businesses to to really innovate and evolve quickly, you know, if they have to evolve or change certain modules, if their platform they have to do big migration, which could take years, the future is definitely a headless where a headless and modular at the same time, where, like, if there is a business needs to focus in solving some of their product management system problems, they can, the system, they can just focus on that and be able to move really quickly with integrating with those. So definitely that this is going to count for all those business that are running in a monolithic platforma and with that traditional legacy, way how it’s done, mostly,

Host – Bryan 14:11
Maybe what are some products or some innovations that Fabric does that separate separates them from your competitors? Right. So what are some some things that are very unique to Fabric that some of your other competitors don’t have?

Guest – Khalid 14:24
Yeah. Some of the products we offer like that product and information management and the order management system, along with the offers that we how we manage pricing and promotions. Looking at the different competitors in the market, and you know how we solve the problem, it’s a it gives us an edge for enabling the business or the merchants to operate their businesses effectively and be able to it’s very flexible and customizable, which other competitors doesn’t have such a level of flexibility and customizations that they can do.

Host – Wiola 15:10
Okay, so in terms of user experience, what are the biggest challenges that you’re dealing with, you’re working on?

Guest – Khalid 15:20
Operators who operate the business, it’s and don’t get day to day jobs to maintain their business and change pricing promotion, maintain product information. It’s not an easy job. And our focus from an operator experience how to make it easy how to make it simple and how do we automate as much of that for the merchant where the merchant can just really look into what they should be doing? You know, like, if that price need to change every day to compete to, to be able to achieve a certain target revenue sales, they didn’t have to worry about that will automate it will make it easy for them.

Host – Bryan 16:06
Yeah, and in terms of like user experience, right, so when you’re building something for the customer, right, so what did what’s the feedback loop? Right? So are you getting some feedback from the client? Who are they’re getting feedback from their customer? So like, how does it work when you know, they request a change to something that you guys are doing.

Guest – Khalid 16:24
The way how we operate today, we work closely with customers. And also our feedback loop is through an analytics pipeline, through a surveys, through, we have a different mechanisms where the merchant can share their feedbacks through different channels from an improvement to a bug to a new feature request, and where it go through our process to see the need and the value that what the customer needs, in a lot of cases where customer really needs certain things to help their business. But that’s not the the optimal solution for them. We work closely with them just to understand what they really need exactly with their request, and be able to provide them and guide them through the journey with alternative ways alternative solutions, to be able to, to solve what they need. The customer doesn’t care about a specific features, but they care about solving a specific problem. And that’s where we add a big value to them by our innovative solutions and problems from our out of the box platform. It solves most of their needs. And we are not getting a lot of requests for features that are commonly needed by merchants.

Host – Bryan 17:49
Yeah, yeah. And I think maybe in terms of scaling, right, so obviously, what you guys are doing is helping the client scale, right. So but in terms of Fabric itself, right, I know that’s a that’s the reason we’re talking today, you know, we’ve been helping Fabric right over the past year, right with some scaling stuff. So from, from your perspective, from engineering, VP of engineering, like how do you find the balance between like in-house versus outsourcing.

Guest – Khalid 18:17
We have a vision, and we have product roadmaps, for our core product offerings, it’s not something we would outsource, we’ll focus to build it in-house, because that’s the core capabilities of the commerce and what the merchants needs. We working with, with you guys, it has been really helpful. And we didn’t look to outsource the solutions where we outsource the talents, you know, to staff arc to have our team because Fabric has been in hyper growth mode, we were growing really quickly in the last year, it wasn’t as easy to find the talent with our growth. So we wouldn’t have to partner with some vendor like you guys, and find the right resources, the right talent who are helping us with that skills to be able to solve the problem we need in-house.

Host – Bryan 19:12
Yeah, and so I think that’s also so from your perspective, right? So what are some tips that you would share with companies who are looking to outsource, right? Or maybe find like a tech partner, right, so what are some things that you’re looking for? And maybe some red flags, right, some things to avoid?

Guest – Khalid 19:30
Finding talent it’s not an easy, it’s not an easy problem. It’s really hard.

Host – Bryan 19:36
Especially with this market for developers.

Guest – Khalid 19:40
And when you need to focus on innovation and solving customer problems, this is one of the problems we need to less worry about. Finding a reliable, you know, tech partners to help us would find the right talent for us is one thing we have done really well it’s we have our outsourced from multiple different vendors. But one key thing is, when you look into the vendors, as we had to go through a screening process, it’s just interview all the candidates like any other hire we do, and be able to build our relationship with, with the tech partners to ensure the bar we need, and the bar we maintained, is maintained with them as well. And that has been the case with Applandeo, we’re getting the right resource that meet our expectations in terms of skill sets. And working with multiple different vendors, you know, one thing is just to get away, like we have more than 100 vendors that they could take away of your time, if they didn’t have the right skill, the right talent, we had to enable some, you know, some tips on automation from a filtering process. So we can just filter it down to the core tech partners who will really help us and be a good use of our time.

Host – Bryan 21:01
Yeah, and, you know, obviously, we’re located in Poland, right. And I know Fabric is mostly based in Seattle, right. But you know, obviously, you have developers in India, Pakistan, right. So how do you manage like, developers? Right, working with from different backgrounds, maybe different cultures, right? So from a VP of engineering standpoint, like how do you mesh all these people together to make sure that, you know, everyone could just get on tasks no matter where they’re from in the world?

Guest – Khalid 21:28
Yeah, we, Fabric is a Seattle-based company, but we are a global company, at heart. So the way we operate, we operate as a global group, we have engineers all over the globe, and we embed that into our operations. It does add a challenge in terms of the team’s operations if they have to meet across time zones, if they have to coordinate work. But with being a global company, we are focusing in certain time zones where it’s really easy to have self independent parts of teams where they can operate independently and without having to worry about timezone challenges. That’s a continuous challenge. We try to solve and overcome, we are learning as we go. When COVID came, you know, we’ll move to a global company. We had to see and learn the adaptive ways of how we work effectively and across different cultures. And it has been fruitful, you know, it’s was much better than expected. And it’s been working great so far.

Host – Wiola 22:42
And how do you see, how do you see future of E-commerce in general?

Host – Bryan 22:49
Yeah, I know, you spoke a little bit about it earlier, right. But maybe just the overall trends of E-commerce.

Guest – Khalid 22:55
Yeah, what I’m looking to see the the how the market is trending. Now, every merchant who needs to operate and at scale, they have to have an IT shop or tech team or developers to be able to maintain and run their own business, I do foresee in the future is just to be as simple as anyone can do it the platform. I know, back then before Amazon, it was really hard to build a startup but right now, it’s much easier where people focus on the problems. With Fabric coming to the mix, I do foresee the future as the merchants it’s going to be as self serve as they can just go to some portal and be able to sign up and configure their business operations A to Z easily effectively without having to require an IT team. So it’s going to be a low code, no code way of operations for commerce platform.

Host – Bryan 23:55
Yeah. All right. So Khalid, this is the point where we get like a little personal like a little little like one word answers, right. So there’s been a running trend here on this podcast, where every guest we’ve had has been a DJ, or has DJed before in the past. Have you ever been a DJ?

Guest – Khalid 24:14

Host – Bryan 24:15
Noo! Just say you have just say yes, so you have then we’ll add it in. Have you ever wanted to be a DJ?

Guest – Khalid 24:22
No. (laugh)

Host – Bryan 24:29
Come on, I could see you DJing part time as you’re after your hard work at Fabric. Come on, man. Okay, so maybe this is also a question for you, right? I know you recently moved to Austin, right. So how is the move been right? Have you seen Joe Rogan yet? Is he in the wild or how’s the vibe of Austin?

Guest – Khalid 24:47
It’s, I like it. It’s before Austin I was in the Bay Area in California where there is a lot of outdoor activities.

Host – Bryan 24:55

Guest – Khalid 24:56
But it was a busy life. So I love Austin, it have it’s a little bit calm and quiet. And also I get to to have all the outdoor activities, so loving it so far.

Host – Wiola 25:09
Yeah. And oh, by the way, so what does it tech scene looks like in Austin? How is it comparing to Silicon Valley?

Guest – Khalid 25:20
Definitely, it’s not as big as Silicon Valley. But there is a huge trend from a tech companies having a presence here where they are coming and expansion. So it’s growing and definitely being one of the major tech hubs and the market.

Host – Bryan 25:42
Awesome. Have you purchased a cowboy hat yet, cowboy boots? (laugh)

Guest – Khalid 25:48

Host – Bryan 25:49
Do you say ‘howdy’ every morning? Let’s just throw as many Texas stereotypes as we can into segment. (laugh)

Guest – Khalid 26:04
Yeah, I think as you mentioned, the stereotypes like the media sometimes build a different perception but the people in Texas it’s been really great. It’s not as racism as it might sound. Yeah. When you when you think about Middle East everybody have some thoughts in their head because of the media. Same thing with Texas, right? When you talk about it, you already know what it is. But it’s a it’s a different place and it has one of the most friendliest people I have met in US.

Host – Wiola 26:36
Yeah, that’s that’s what I’ve heard actually. And all the people from Texas I met they’re lovely people. Yeah, that’s true. Okay, talking about serotypes. So what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Poland?

Guest – Khalid 26:53
Alcohol? (laugh)

Host – Bryan 26:56
All right. All right. So after, so what is your favorite cocktail? If you had to choose it, what’s your favorite drink?

Guest – Khalid 27:02
I didn’t drink alcohol. Maybe we’ll, we’ll call it a lemon or mango.

Host – Bryan 27:14
So if you were if you had to travel back in time to your 18-year-old self and you gave them only three words of advice, what would they be?

Guest – Khalid 27:24
Take risk. Never shy away from it. Take problems as an opportunities, never let problems takes you down. Always believe in yourself and think big and make it happen.

Host – Bryan 27:41
All right. That’s a good way to wrap it up. So this has been Khalid, the VP of Engineering at Fabric and overall an amazing guy. So Khalid, thank you for joining us today.

Host – Wiola 27:51
Thank you.

Guest – Khalid 27:52
Awesome. Thank you guys for having me. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Host – Bryan 27:55

Ending 27:57
Thank you for listening to ‘How We Innovate’ – a podcast by Applandeo. Get your apps and web apps built today by visiting Applandeo.com. We’re Applandeo!