Shopify hopes to make Ottawa a tech hub once again, CPO says
'[We're] very fortunate, very lucky that Shopify has been one of Ottawa's great stories,' company's CPO says
Before ringing the bell at the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Shopify's chief platform officer Harley Finkelstein chatted with Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan about what it's been like to go public.
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Here's some of the exchange between Finkelstein and Bresnahan.
Robyn Bresnahan: How does it feel to be ringing the bell to open trading in Toronto, and to have rung the bell in New York last week?
Harley Finkelstein: "We've come a long way since our humble beginnings in the ByWard Market and struggling to raise money and get things going ... and it validates a lot of our assumptions and the things we've been working at."
How do you feel about the pressure of being Ottawa-Gatineau's new tech saviour?
Finkelstein: "We want to build a company for the next 100 years. We want to build the best commerce company in the world. ... I think we feel a certain level of responsibility today to help encourage other companies not to sell out too early, but to ... build a company that is considered a global business.
"For a long time I think in Canada ... we didn't necessarily have the self-confidence that maybe some of our counterparts had in the U.S. to say, I'm not going to sell out ... and eventually take it public. Hopefully, if this does nothing else for the Ottawa and Canadian tech community, it inspires others to kind of go that next step and go all the way, so we're extremely excited about that and it's been a humbling and great experience."
Your company has been posting serious financial losses. How do you feel about that?
Finkelstein: "We've just had these incredible growth opportunities for all these years, we continue to see growth opportunities in the future, and as long as there's ways for us to invest in our growth we're going to continue doing that.
"That being said, we were a profitable company prior to raising money, we quite like that and we'll be back there eventually."
Finkelstein: "There are going to be more people looking at us, and again, we're going to try to do our very, very best, and we're going to ensure we become that trusted, publicly-traded company, which I think is really important."
You must feel some responsibility to succeed because this means investors might once again give Ottawa-Gatineau a second look. If you fail, that's a lot of responsibility.
Finkelstein: "For the last couple of years we've been very fortunate and very lucky that Shopify has been one of Ottawa's great stories, and one of even Canada's great stories more recently.
"And so again, I think we've felt that responsibility for quite a few years now to not only make sure Shopify becomes this incredible company ... but that we help influence others as well and inspire other entrepreneurs and other small business to become big businesses. ... I think the responsibility that we've always felt to the region will continue....
"But in terms of our commitment to the region and in terms of our feeling of responsibility to help the region kind of get back, maybe, to where it once was as a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation, that's something we take very seriously and I think that's going to be very great for the region in the coming years."
How do you avoid another Nortel situation?
"I can't speak to the intricacies of Nortel and what went right and what went wrong there. What I can tell you is that we care very deeply about what we're doing. We believe that we are certainly democratizing commerce around the world, we feel a great deal of excitement, but also a great deal of ambition around what we're building here. We've had such a great support system in Ottawa and in Ontario and in Canada over the last few years and we hope not to let anyone down."