The brains behind Fintech.ca have been covering Shopify since 2006.
It is among the largest and most storied technology firms in Canada, having helped pioneer modern commerce for the internet.
Our story begins with a handful of snowboard enthusiasts looking to make a buck off their passion in the fine city of Ottawa—or rather, not anywhere at all, but online.
2004 – 2006
The original vision of Shopify was not to be an e-commerce platform. The company actually began as an online store itself.
The first iteration of Shopify (before it was called such) was an online store that sold snowboards. At this stage, the company was called Snowdevil.
However, Snowdevil was not satisfied with the e-commerce tools available at the time. They were complex and ineffective, rendering the process of launching a store one of frustration. So its creators concocted their own: Jaded Pixel, the earliest iteration of their e-commerce platform.
Shopify (as we know it today) was officially founded in Ottawa by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake in 2006.
2007 – 2009
The company’s toolbox for merchants was one of basic but essential services provided in a user-friendly manner—customizable store templates, image hosting, and payment processing.
Growth was good, though not exceptional in the early days. Retailers on Shopify’s platform had net a combined total of $100 million in sales since the company’s shopping cart system launched in 2007.
By 2008, Shopify was generating approximately $80,000 per month in revenues.
In 2009, the company launched its annual Build-a-Business contest. This was aligned with Shopify building out a toolkit for selling online, offering a new tool to commerce customers while opening another channel for recurring revenue.
By the end of 2009 Shopify firmed itself as not just a tool to work with, but a fully fledged platform to build on. From there, growth began ticking up.
2010 – 2012
In 2010 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.
2013 – 2015
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 for a pivotal expanding point: the transition from being an e-commerce platform to being a commerce platform.
In 2014, mobile ability reached a crucial milestone: point-of-sale on Shopify Mobile.
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. Despite its constantly increasing size, Shopify worked hard to maintain a startup-like culture.
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.
In 2015 the big news was Shopify’s initial public offering, which it filed for in April. The company went public in May, raising $131 million, valuing Shopify at $1.3 billion.
Shopify generated $45 million during its first quarter as a public company.
Harley Finkelstein, the company’s president, 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 approaching IPO territory.
2016 – 2019
Shopify shares rose slowly through 2016, with the company growing revenues and launching products but not finding profitability.
The company continued integration with other services, such as Facebook Messenger, which is now a common communication channel for retail customer service online—”conversational commerce,” some have termed it.
In 2017, Shopify adopted QR code technology. This was part of a broader strategy to continue tapping “offline” or traditional commerce. The next year Shopify announced a partnership with Nest to allow business owners to access footage from their store and more effectively manage their retail space while on the go.
By 2018, Shopify shares were worth a lot more than at IPO, and the company’s trajectory looked solid as a rock. The Ottawa company had spilled into Toronto, where it invested $500 million for a downtown development, more than doubling Shopify’s footprint in the city.
This momentum would continue through 2019, with shares more than doubling across the year.
2020 – 2022
In 2020 Shopify announced it would provide cash advances directly to business owners in Canada who are navigating the economic fallout from pandemic crisis. Through Shopify Capital the first Canadian loan was approved in 34 minutes.
That same year the company revamped Shopify POS, a fully reimagined system to help brick-and-mortar retailers.
In 2021, Shopify landed a major commerce partnership with Google, integrating merchant products with the tech titan’s portfolio of products, including Maps and YouTube.
That summer, Shopify announced its first-ever $1 billion revenue quarter. Revenue was up 57% year-over-year.
This year cofounder Lütke expressed interest in crypto, and Shopify followed suit, enabling cryptocurrency payments on their platform. In 2022 Shopify has even embraced NFTs through the launch of token-gated commerce.
However, it’s not all rosy these days. Shopify got a little cocky during the Pandemic and bit off a bit more than it could chew—forcing the firm to shed 1,000 employees, or 10% of its total staff. Shares are down more than two-thirds this year.
“This time we grow into something more focused, more driven, and more singular in mission,” stated Lütke in response. “The times demand it of us, and we will rise to the occasion once again.”
We look forward to the new and improved Shopify and its contributions to the future of commerce.