Shopify - a success story - Goethe-Institut Canada

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German Traces in Ottawa
Shopify - a success story

The co-founder of Shopify: Tobias Lütke
The co-founder of Shopify: Tobias Lütke | © Shopify

Tobias Lütke met his future wife, the Canadian Fiona McKean during a winter vacation in Canada. Born in Koblenz, he moved to Ottawa in 2002 and two years later, set up an online shop, Snowdevil, for custom-made snowboards. With two partners, it was established from his garage. Since there was no suitable Software for online distribution, Lütke, who was a 26-years old trained programmer at the time, decided to develop his own software, which soon became more profitable than selling snowboards.

With the help of family members and friends, Lütke and his partners scraped $ 200,000 in seed capital and officially launched the e-commerce platform Shopify in 2006. The platform allows retailers to showcase their products, to set up payment options or integrate within the Amazon Marketplace. Today over 600,000 traders use the platform, which now has over $ 55 billion worth of purchases since 2006.

The company founder Tobias Lütke with his wife Fiona McKean The company founder Tobias Lütke with his wife Fiona McKean | © Shopify Though Tobias Lütke had a record of bad grades at school, he had always had a knack for computers and learned as a young boy already how to program video/computer-games.
Meanwhile, Tobias Lütke has become one of the 100 richest Canadians. During an interview with Forbes business magazine in June 2018, when asked why he established himself in Ottawa and not in Silicon Valley, he responded that Shopify had grown slowly in the first 5-6 years and that following the closure of some Canadian high tech companies such as Blackberry, he figured he would find excellent professionals there looking for jobs. Today, Shopify employs 4,500 people, nearly 70% of which are Canadian(s).

Tobias Lütke believes that the importance of e-commerce will grow tremendously over the next few years. Their state-of-the-art office building on Elgin Street in Ottawa, which was purchased just a few years ago, is now too small for the enterprise. They have had to rent additional office space in a nearby building. Gradually, all 19 floors of a building on Laurier Avenue, previously used by the government, will be the new location of Shopify’s offices.

The Opinicon Lodge - a popular holiday destination The Opinicon Lodge - a popular holiday destination | © Shopify In 2015, Tobias Lütke and Fiona McKean bought the "Opinicon Lodge", a more than 100-year-old magnificent resort, reminiscent of the luxury of bygone days. Their 5-member family often enjoys spending their weekends there. Guests staying in one of the 16 cottages can also enjoy the lake or local specialties in the restaurant. The small ice cream parlor is a magnet for all ages.

234, Laurier Avenue Ouest