This original series documents the stories of Canada’s modern tech companies from inception to today.
Before Shopify was a platform for creating online stores, it was an online store itself. That was the original vision—when the company was created, it was never intended to be a platform for e-commerce. The site didn’t even initially plan to create its own software for the e-commerce side of things.
The first iteration of Shopify (before it was called such) was an online store that sold snowboards. When Shopify was a store selling snowboards, it was called Snowdevil. When Shopify was first an e-commerce platform, it was called Jaded Pixel.
Shopify as we know it today was founded in Ottawa by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake.
Retailers on Shopify’s platform net a combined total of $100 million in sales since the company’s shopping cart system launched in 2007.
In 2009, the company also launched its annual Build-a-Business contest.
Late in the year, Shopify raised a Series A round of financing worth $7 million from from Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital and Felicis Ventures. Alex Ferrara, a Bessemer partner, joined Shopify’s board.
At the time, Shopify was processing $100 million in revenue for customers.
Less than a year later, Shopify raised a Series B round. The $15 million flush of capital came from Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Georgian Partners.
In 2011, 15,000 active stores across 80 countries were powered by Shopify.
Profit Magazine named Shopify “Canada’s Smartest Company” in 2012. By the end of that year, Shopify—with 150 employees at the time—had grown to 40,000 stores across 90 countries selling $740 million worth of product.
In 2012, Shopify was a finalist for Startup of the Year in the Canadian Startup Awards. Founder Lütke was a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year.
Despite its constantly increasing size, Shopify works hard to maintain a startup-like culture. In the summer of 2013, Shopify acquired Jet Cooper,a design and user experience agency based in Toronto, “to rapidly expand operations in Toronto, while strengthening [Shopify’s] design and UX capabilities.”
In December of 2013, Shopify raised a massive $100 million Series C round. The round included existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Georgian Partners, and as joined by Omers Ventures and New York’s Insight Ventures Partners. The capital was used to transition the company from being an e-commerce platform to being a commerce platform.
By the start of this new year, Shopify had more than 80,000 customers who combined more than $1.6 billion in sales in 2013. With over 300 employees, rumours of a Shopify IPO started swirling.
Shopify’s market value, by year’s end, was estimated to be $1 billion. It had 100,000 stores and 500 employees.
Crowned Employer of the Year in the 2014 Canadian Startup Awards, Shopify started the new year by showing off impressive numbers for 2014: 140,000 stores, $3.7 billion in sales, and massive growth in mobile commerce. It was soon after named one of Canada’s most innovative companies.
But the company’s biggest news this year has been its initial public offering, which it filed for in April. The company went public in May, raising $131 million, valuing Shopify has $1.3 billion.
Shopify generated $45 million during its first quarter as a public company, doubled from the year-ago quarter. For all of 2015, the company forecasts generating $182 million in revenue, losing $22 million. Shopify posted $105 million in revenue in 2014.
Harley Finkelstein, the company’s chief platform officer, told CBC News that “we want to build a company for the next 100 years,” which is not common among Canadian companies, who often get acquired by larger US firms before ever approaching IPO territory.