How Canada’s Smartest Company Retains Its Startup Culture

It’s difficult for anyone to call Ottawa-based Shopify a startup anymore. Shops using the Canadian company’s software saw 7.8 million customers place 9.9 million orders worth a combined $742 million last year.

But sometimes it’s easy to forget that. Named Canada’s smartest company last year, Shopify often looks and acts just like a startup, despite its rapidly swelling size. How does it pull that off?

One major way is through Hack Days. Turns out Shopify’s “smartest company” title is well earned: it uses quarterly hack days to drive product innovation, boost team morale, and retain an authentic startup culture. Check out an inside glimpe into Shopify’s hack days in the video below.



“Every three months, we take a break from our regular work and for two full days everyone in the company has free reign to work on whatever project they want—as long as it adds value to Shopify,” the company explains on its blog. “There’s no limit to the creativity or scope of the projects, there’s only one rule to Hack Days: employees must ‘ship’ their projects no later than 4pm at the end of the second day. At this point, everyone meets in our staff lounge to pitch their finished projects.”

These hack days result in products like Throw Out Your Resume.

“We treat Shopify Hack Days like a sandbox to try new ideas,” the company says. “The best ones stick and become innovative new features for our merchants and our internal infrastructure.”