A $50,000 Benevolent Bribe: Is Today The Day You Finally Build Your Business?


Two years ago, Patrick Buckley and Craig Dalton had an idea–an iPad case made using traditional bookbinding. Today, DODOcase is a multi-million dollar business that’s been featured in The New York Times and beyond. They have more than 20 employees, and customers all over the world, including President Barack Obama.

Is that a freaking DODOCase in the Oval Office? Of course it is.

Their rocket-like trajectory started with the 2010 Shopify Build-A-Business Competition. They were the grand-prize winners, but they weren’t the only success story. The stats:

Revenue PER HOUR for the duration of the contest: $696.38
Total number of orders placed: 66,503
Most important — Total businesses created: nearly 1,400

In the subsequent 2011 Shopify competition, more than 3,000 new businesses were launched, generating more than $12,000,000 in revenue. Dave Jackson and Dave Petrillo used Kickstarter to fund their product and went on to win big. Now they’re bringing Coffee Joulies to the mass market on a global scale.

I’ve been involved with the Shopify competition since it was a brainstorm with Tobi, their CEO. Now, it’s your turn to jump in the fray…

This year, I’m joined by three exceptional mentors: Eric Ries (The Lean Startup), Daymond John (FUBU, Shark Tank), and Tina Roth Eisenberg (swissmiss). The education will be better, the community will be bigger, the prizes will be cooler, and the support will be unequaled.

What I said back in 2010 is still true today:

“This competition is intended as a benevolent and encouraging kick in the ass. This stuff isn’t rocket science, but it does require stepping outside your comfort zone for a bit to realize: this isn’t that hard. It’s just unfamiliar. If you do it now, a lot of people will be in the same boat and you’ll take the trip together.”

By turning your idea (that one you’ve reserved for “someday”) into reality, you could win:

– A VIP trip to New York City for a day of meetings with all the mentors
– $20,000 in Google AdWords credit
– A feature on the Fast Company website
– A $50,000 investment in your company from Tim Ferriss, Eric Ries, Daymond John or Tina Roth Eisenberg

If you prefer to take Benjamins and don’t want the involvement from us, that’s cool, too. We’ll give you $50,000 cash. No strings attached, no sweat.

And… even if you don’t win the grand prize:

– You still receive a free .CO domain for 12 months, $100 in Google AdWords Credits, and $100 in MailChimp Credits, just for entering the competition.
– You could end up with the greatest gift of all: a profitable business that becomes your muse.

The latter is the whole point.

Ready to join the ranks, shed a little blood with your brethren (mere papercuts, guys), and fundamentally change your life forever?

If not now, when?

Go here. Get excited. Pull the trigger.


Related and Suggested:

Looking for business ideas? Browse some of the detailed case studies in the “Engineering the Muse” posts, digest 17 lessons from six-figure business started for $100 or less, or take a peek at successful examples on Shopify.

Perhaps most helpful of all, here are two posts on lessons learned from past winners: do’s and don’ts from 2010 and 2011.


Odds and Ends:

Wow. Thank you to everyone who shared their personal career struggles and aspirations around risk. Ben Casnocha and Reid Hoffman selected three finalists from over 500 comments — Samuel P.N. Cook, Dennis Keochane, and Cheryl Obermiller — and they’d like to ask YOU to vote on who should win mentorship for their next career move.

Although they sadly cannot offer direct mentorship to everyone, they can offer the next best thing — the mentorship of their network! Repost your story of risk or other thoughts on career strategy as a new discussion in their LinkedIn Group. Their online network has more than 2,000 career experts who are committed to investing in themselves and helping others.

Posted on: July 10, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

161 comments on “A $50,000 Benevolent Bribe: Is Today The Day You Finally Build Your Business?

  1. I’m really excited about finally being able to join a Shopify contest. I just opened up a Shopify store after purchasing an online business, and I’m excited about seeing how I do in this contest. Interestingly enough, Tina Eisenberg reviewed the product I sell a few years back when it was under the previous owner.


    • I’d say use her familiarity with it to get back in touch with her – I know Tim has talked in his book about how to get in touch with important people and the benefits that can come from it!


  2. After the most inspiring weekend of my life at World Domination Summit 2012 here in Portland, OR, this is the opportune time to channel the insane amounts of enthusiasm and practical action orientated lessons that have been shared with me. No better time then RIGHT NOW. Tim, thank you so much. Cheers -George


  3. I have always enjoyed your case studies Tim, it’s my favorite part of the blog. I have the $100 start-up on order and look forward to reading it.

    Does Shopify have any plans to expand its automation functionality to match something like Infusionsoft or Office Autopilot? Building a list and keeping databases talking to each other is an impediment to total automation when you use several services together.

    I think it’s awesome they are built on WordPress, but the percentage of sale charge is less exciting when you add in the other processing expenses, at least on physical products where a 3-4% total processing charge can eat 9-12% of net profits. Every little bit counts. I am forever done with Paypal.

    The future is exciting for Shopify, they have a great marketing position. Best of luck. Thanks for posting, I know it can get tedious over time, but it is appreciated.


    • Hey @Ben,

      I’m a Shopify developer (my own business – not a Shopify employee) and thought I’d chip in with your question.

      I’m not sure about a direct comparison with Infusionsoft and Office Autopilot, but Shopify does have a whole bunch of automation built into it. You can auto-email drop-shippers or fulfilment houses when orders are placed, put them into a .csv spreadsheet and export them, and there are a bunch of apps (Shopify’s equivalent of WordPress “Plugins”) that give more advanced stuff when it comes to automation.

      Hope that helps!


    • Yeah, let’s stop letting Paypal win. Everyone please be careful if you are using PayPal. They froze thousands of dollars I had in an account in order to “verify” that I wasn’t up to any trouble, and in the 5 weeks it took them to “review” my accounts, my business was done.


    • @Ben – We do have many automation tools to make things as easy as possible. We also have lots of payment gateways you can use. If you have questions about specific automation, our Sales Team can answer those.


    • Hi @ K. Orr – there’s no specific theme for ‘dry testing’, but you do get a 30-day free trial with Shopify (so you don’t pay them squat for a month while you test out your theme), and you could theoretically set up a button to point to the contact details page to dry-test. Hope that helps!


  4. I watched DODOCase blow up during the 2010 Shopify competition, couldn’t pull the trigger myself in 2011 but this year I am all in! I just signed up for the contest and really look forward to building my business, achieving my dream life and hopefully getting a 5% investment from you Tim.

    (Sucks Arizona can’t qualify for the reward, but nonetheless it’s a great opportunity and one every aspiring entrepreneur should take on.)


  5. Wow as usual Tim.
    I’ve always been a fan, but never pulled the trigger.
    I’ve been struck by too much “why didn’t I think of that” and too little “let’s see what I can do with this”.
    If there’s an idea I hate, it’s that I might end up working for something pointless in the future, and what you do, from writing yourself to sending other teachers and guest posters our way really is a gift.

    One question- if you had the chance to do college over again, what would you do?


    • Hi Karthik,

      Thank you for the comment. If I did college over again, I would focus on getting even better at writing. Communication skills are everything.

      Hope that helps!



      • I love it! Do college over and focus on educating yourself while you’re there!

        How would you go about getting better a writing? I know writing a lot would be good, but do you have any resources you suggest?


  6. This is amazing, I’d really like to live on the States right now or some of the english speaking countries to join the contest. I have a couple of Startups here in Chile and I would love to compete for the prize.

    Maybe Shopify could do this contest in South America, or give the tools and means for someone around here to do it. And the mentorship this years looks like a dream for someone a litlle bit too on the south of the continent.

    Really inspiring videos anyway.



    • Mike from Shopify here. We’d love to extend to more countries, but every country has different laws and sometimes it’s not legal in those areas. You can still participate and see all the videos, posts, etc but you won’t be able to win one of the big prizes.


  7. I read the rules and they keep saying “goods” to sell. How about services? I plan on launching a niche travel business and do it completely online. Can I enter the competition? Thanks for any reply in advance. I am a fan of the 4HWW and this competition may be the way for me to finally launch my muse after 4 years of conceptualizing.


      • I too have an idea to offer services, an adventure in airstream fleet, personalized for the individual request.
        Can I enter the competition?
        What an amazing position to be in! That is my dream to travel the US and help others realize and make dreams a reality! BEST on you sponsors!

        Lisa Q


    • Hey @Sammy,

      I’m a Shopify developer (my own business, not a Shopify employee) and have built a bunch of stores on the platform, so thought I’d help with your question.

      I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t sell services. I think they talk more about ‘goods’ because Shopify makes it easy to set up transaction-based websites, Ecommerce for selling things one at a time, and this tends to lend itself to physical products.

      Even so, it’d be super simple to set up a services package to sell and purchase via your site (E.g. “Buy a 2-hour Consultation with me for $100 [Click here]”), as well as listing your services and contact information.

      I’ll leave it to Tim & the Shopify guys for a more ‘official’ answer if there is one, but as someone who’s developed a bunch of stores on Shopify: I’d say go for it. :)



    • Mike from Shopify here – The Competition prizes are open to residents of the United States (excluding Arizona, Maryland, Vermont, Delaware, Louisiana and Montana), the District of Columbia, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and we have a Canadian Competition as well.

      We’ve worked really hard to bring it to the current countries, countless legal hours :) It’s just really hard to bring something like this to every country without spending years in legal red tape.

      You can still participate in the educational component.


  8. A $50K bribe to finally build my muse? Well, I was holding out for an even $100K, but I guess I can make an exception in your case…

    Thanks for doing this again, Tim! So great to have extra motivation to turn my music into a muse (and if you have any advice on how to bridge the gap between independent music and the world of entrepeneurs, I’m all ears…)!


  9. I moved 2000 miles across country to Florida JUST because I was so miffed that residents of AZ weren’t able to participate in the last go-round. Okay–I’ll admit it–this is not entirely true. HOWEVER, after finally getting my latest round of web-ducks in a row, this is a great incentive to narrow down a product to put the majority of my energies behind. Decisions, decisions…


  10. Tim,
    I love the things you do to encourage your well-earned, passionate following to really help people do something amazing with their lives. It makes pursuing a non-traditional path feel all the more possible and real, which is so important for motivation on those ‘off’ days of self sabotage.

    It’s fantastic for Shopify and people will end up using some kind of online merchant anyways, so why not use the ones who are encouraging you to do something amazing and who are willing to help you make it happen. That’s the least you can do to repay them!

    You’re encouragement, support and basically you yourself are an inspiration. The world is so much more better off with you in it.

    On behalf of the planet, thanks Tim!



  11. I love this.

    I had a miss opportunity last year, this year I’m in it to win it.

    Thanks Tim for putting this together — I absolutely love all the mentors.


  12. Tim,

    I’ve been working my business at my current job that I’m ready to leave.

    I set up the domain yesterday.

    I’ve emailed tons of peers and possible mentors an hour ago.

    I am entering this contest right now.

    It’s fucking game time.