Shopify expands Waterloo office to 300 people

Shopify, the Ottawa-based company that offers online retail space, is expanding its office in Waterloo Region to 300 people.

Shopify will expand its Waterloo Region office tenfold from current 30 people

Shopify CEO Tobias Lutke with Brad Duguid, the Ontario minister of economic development, at the company's new office space in Waterloo, Ont. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

Shopify, the Ottawa-based company that offers a cloud-based online retail platform for small and medium businesses, is expanding its offices in Waterloo Region, Ont. to 300 people.

"On a personal level I just have enormous respect for Waterloo because I really think this is an area that has just sort of gone, has decided to go all-in on entrepreneurship," said Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke on Thursday afternoon.

In a release, the company said it is expanding in Waterloo Region because of the "amazing talent pool" in the area, also the home of smartphone-maker BlackBerry, software company OpenText, Magnet Forensics, and the University of Waterloo, an engineering powerhouse. 

Currently, 30 people work for Shopify in Kitchener's central business area, and they will move to a new space in the historic Seagrams building in Waterloo, Ont., which also holds the Seagrams Distillery Museum. Shopify plans to have employees move in by April 2016. 

Shopify was created in 2006 by now-CEO Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake to sell snowboards online. Now 175,000 sellers use Shopify and it's grown to about 780 employees, with offices in Ottawa, Montreal, Waterloo Region and Toronto. That number of employees is set to grow by a third, with the new Waterloo office hiring as many as 270 more people. 

In May, the company raised $131 million in an initial public offering on the New York exchange. It handles $10 billion worth of sales in over 150 countries.

The new Waterloo employees will work on Shopify Plus, which focuses on high volume merchants such as GE, Tesla and Budweiser.

Twitter Buy button 

The day before Shopify officially announced its new Waterloo digs, Twitter announced a partnership with the company, to make it possible for Twitter users to buy things from a Tweet. Bigcommerce and Demandware are also powering "Buy" buttons on Twitter.

"Commerce traditionally has always happened where people spend time," said Lütke about the partnership. He said the company began exploring options for integrating purchasing into social media about a year ago.

Shopify has also partnered with Facebook and Pinterest to let users buy things directly through those networks.

Tough to be 'very ambitious'

With Shopify opening in the middle of a federal election campaign, Lütke was asked about what role he thinks government should be playing in helping Canadian companies grow. 

"What I find is remarkable and I think unprecedented is just how much talk there is by politicians about startups. That's such a significant change from any of the prior election cycles," said Lütke. "Politicians tend to react a lot to what's happening outside of politics, and so even the politicians can't ignore that a lot more startups are being created," 

"I think the governments … can play a lot of roles and often, like in encouraging this, often not having to spend a lot of money on it either." 

Lütke does see room for Canadians to be bolder, however, when it comes to creating and supporting companies.

"It's tough work to be very ambitious. It requires an ecosystem of people reinforcing this," said Lütke who cited friends in Silicon Valley who encourage him to aim higher with Shopify. 

 "Well you know, wouldn't it be better if it would be, like, ten times that big? Wouldn't that have more of that impact you like so much?" Lütke said they would ask him. "You're actually allowed to be ambitious and you're actually allowed to think big, it actually helped me an immense deal."


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