Behind the Scenes

A Peek at Unicorn: Our Internal Software Used to Improve Employee Communication, Collaboration and Compensation.

It's an age old saying that not enough people take seriously: Always use the right tool for the right job. In our case, if the right tool doesn't exist, we build it.

Just over a year ago our founder, Tobi, created a unique social media program to help increase productivity and allow peer-to-peer financial compensation. Since then, it's developed into a rich videogame-like software that Shopify employees log into multiple times a day. The program is called Unicorn and is pretty darn cool: 

There's a great article in Fast Company that explains why we developed Unicorn, exactly what it does, and what the benefits are. Much thanks to Shawn Graham, Fast Company's expert blogger for writing such a great piece! :-) 

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Get Your Shopify Merchandise from the new Shopify Store!

Today we're happy to announce the grand opening of the Shopify Store! Over the past couple months, more and more people have been asking where they can get their own spiffy Shopify t-shirt, sooooo we created an online store to sell them.

One of our designers, Alex, and our summer intern, Anna, had a lot of fun building the shop over the past couple weeks. Oh and if you're wondering, no they're not eligible to win the $100,000 prize for the Shopify Build-A-Business Contest :-)

Selling "corporate merch" online is a great way to strengthen your brand. It also gives you a few opportunities to further engage with your customers. For instance, you can run contests to win branded t-shirts, have sticker or button giveaways, and encourage customers to send in pictures of them using and wearing your products. Two of our favorite tech companies that setup online merch stores with Shopify are GitHub and Evernote. The "fork you" GitHub t-shirt is an office favorite. 

In our case, building the Shopify Store was a great excuse to get down and dirty with our own software, and although it didn't take long to build ;-) a couple of us that don't have our own online stores had the opportunity to walk a mile in our merchants shoes. I (as the resident wordsmith at Shopify) was tasked with writing all the product descriptions, and I'll be putting together a blog post in the near future outlining some best practices that I learnt along the way.  

Anyway, you're welcome to check out our new store. We're starting things off with a few different comfy t-shirts and a unisex hoodie. The tee's are all from American Apparel and the hoodie's are made by Alternative Apparel, so you know they're good quality. We're offering free shipping on all orders within North America, and the first 25 people to send me ( a picture of yourself wearing a Shopify t-shirt or hoodie will receive a FREE hardcover copy of Seth Godin's Poke The Box. Please be sure to include your mailing address. 

Get your shop on HERE! 

Happy Shopping! 

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Behind the Scenes with Epic Meal Time

The Checklist

Grill? Check!

Accordion and party-sized Jack Daniel's? Check!

Go-anywhere stove/oven combo? Check!

Bourbon and favorite draaaankin' mug? Check!

Death-defying stunt crew, ready to lead their audience in a chant about meat? Check!

Bacon strips? Check!

Documentarians to record this day for posterity? Check!

Shopify guru with emergency equipment at the ready? Check!

Very well then...bring on the VIP guests!

The VIP Guests

On Saturday, the gentlemen from the hit YouTube series Epic Meal Time came to Shopify to do what they do best: cook an epic meat-laden cardiologist's nightmare of a meal, quaff whiskey and beer in Brobdingnagian quantities, create a ruckus and shoot a video of the proceedings.

If you've never seen an episode before, here's a taste: the Breakfast of Booze episode, which takes the most important meal of the day and turns it into the most important meal of your life, however shortened it may be after eating it:

Epic Meal Time debuted less than a year ago, in October 2010. In their brief existence, they've gained a mass internet following. When we walked about town with them as they went to buy supplies for their video shoot, they were stopped several times by fans who recognized them. If you check their YouTube channel, you'll see that their videos typically have at least 2 million views. Their most-viewed video is the TurBaconEpic Thankgiving episode. Not to be outdone by a mere turducken -- that's a turkey stuffed with a duck, which in turn is stuffed with a chicken -- the Epic Meal Timers went all out and created a dish that they described as "a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a pig". Wrapped in bacon, of course.

In addition to their popular show, Epic Meal Time have a collection of popular T-shirts which they sell through their Shopify-powered store:

The Setup

The Shopify office functioned as their studio, lounge, bar and playground for all of Saturday. In the afternoon, our boardroom functioned as the writer's bullpen, where they brainstormed and crafted the general arc of this particular episode:

Our kitchen functioned as their prep kitchen (that's Anna from Shopify; we blurred out the non-bacon ingredients, because we don't want to give away the theme of the show before it's released):

...while our roof functioned as the main kitchen. Here's it is at the start of the afternoon, still pristine and with the camp stove/oven and the first grill in place:

The first grill was completely non-functional, so we went with plan B: a quick run over to Shopifolk Julie's place to borrow hers. With the backup grill set up, the cooking could begin in earnest (yup, we're blurring out the food -- we don't want to spoil the surprise):

As for the camp stove/oven, the Epic Meal Time wizards used it to perform their saucery:

The Waiting

While Epic Meal Time videos are typically five minutes or less, it takes hours to prepare an entire zoo's worth of meat. So we had to kill time while the Epic Cooking Crew did their thing.

The Epic Meal Time crew took to our Nerf weapons like bacon to maple syrup:

Let's get a close-up look at Harley:


We threw a little rooftop party:

Muscles Glasses gave our Chief Platform Officer "H-Fizzle" some "bro" pointers. Attention body spray manufacturers: here are your next spokes-bros!

While on the roof, I helped get the Stunt Double Circus performers, who were doing their usual Saturday act on the street below, to get their audience to chant the Epic Meal Time battle cry: "Bacon strips! Bacon strips!"

We played bowling on the Kinect:

Harley indulged in a little Street Fighter:

We made a run to the liquor store:

In the meantime, the cooking crew worked hard into the night.

The Shoot

At long last, the food was ready and now it was time for the final shoot. Our boardroom became the Epic Feeding Trough:

While the arts and crafts section of the show (you'll have to watch the video when it comes out to get what I mean) was shot in our kitchen:

We got to hang out during the shoots, just as long as we were out of the way and very, very quiet:

The Aftermath

With the shooting completed, there was only one thing left to do: eat their creation! Being Epic Meal Time, they cooked epic amounts of Paleo Diet-friendly food, and there was more than enough for the two dozen people who stuck around. There are three reasons there are no photos of all of us eating:

  1. I don't want to spoil the episode by giving away the theme.
  2. I was so hungry (it was 11:00 p.m. before we got to eat) that I couldn't be bothered to snap photos.
  3. We were all so hungry that the way we ate wasn't very pretty.

In lieu of pics of the dinner, I present the next best thing: the "Friar Tuck" vignette from the cheesy 1960s cartoon series Rocket Robin Hood. It's pretty much what we looked like:

The Apres-Aftermath

With the shoot completed, the food consumed, the office cleaned and vacated and the Epic Boys showered and de-greased, it was time for a night of celebratory clubbing. Bottle service and Shopify-branded accordion poses for everyone!

Even in the dead of night, in the darkest of clubs, Muscles actually keeps the glasses on:

The Conclusion

We'd like to thank the Epic Meal Time folks for coming down to the office, using our space as a location, feeding us and of course, for using Shopify to sell their swag! It was great hanging and pigging out with you guys.

Keep an eye on Epic Meal Time's site -- the episode shot at Shopify will be up in a few weeks.

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Notes In Transit


As I write this, I'm killing time in the food court by Vancouver International Airport's Gate 45, waiting for my flight back to Ottawa, home of Shopify headquarters as well as my home for the summer. My plane doesn't take off for a little while, and since Shopify was kind enough to provide me with one of the nicest laptops I've ever had and the airport was kind enough to provide free wifi, I thought I'd make good use of both and post some quick notes from this trip, with more detailed ones to follow later.

The primary purpose of my visit was to attend BarCamp Portland, the third BarCamp on the BarCamp Tour schedule. I was there to represent Shopify, who along with our tourmates BatchBlue, Grasshopper, MailChimp and Wufoo, were there not just as sponsors but as participants, presenters and people-at-large, meeting up with the Portland tech community. We member companies of the BarCamp Tour are the product of healthy tech communities, and we believe that other successful companies, as well as our ability to continue succeeding and serving our customers, depends on our efforts to help create and maintain those communities. That's why we sponsor BarCamps across North America, and it's also why we attend them.

I met a good number of people at BarCamp Portland and attended many sessions, and as you might have come to expect, I took copious notes. I'll be posted them shortly, so watch this blog!

I also took a little time to meet a couple of Shopify customers "up close and personal", to put some faces to some customer names, as well as to chat with them and get to know what they like -- and more importantly, don't like -- about Shopify, as well as what they'd like to be able to do with their Shopify stores. On this trip, I chatted with Erika Moen, creator of the DAR! and Bucko webcomics while in Portland (Erika's Shopify store is here), and then when I took the train to Seattle, I got a chance to catch up with Brian Sunter and Kenneth from Penny Arcade's merch department (Penny Arcade's Shopify store is here), took notes of what did and didn't work for them.

I do a fair bit of travel in my job, and I'll be posting my travel schedule in advance. If I'm heading to your city or town and you've got a Shopify store -- or perhaps just thinking about opening one -- let me know via email or Twitter; I'd love to catch up with you!

They're making the pre-boarding announcement for my flight, so that's it for now. See you on the other side!

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Hello There! (Introducing Joey deVilla)

Hello, Shopifriends!

I'm Joey deVilla, and I'm one of the new people here. I'm coming on board as Shopify's Platform Evangelist, and my job is to talk about Shopify to all sorts of people. The official job description says that my job is promote Shopify; I prefer to think of my job as making sure that you're a better developer, designer or businessperson (or any combination of those) as a result of building your stores, apps, themes and anything else on the Shopify platform.

I came to Shopify from a very cushy job as a developer evangelist at Microsoft Canada, and prior to that, I've worked managing tech projects at b5media, evangelizing for Tucows, doing front-end development and evangelism at OpenCola, developing at my own consultancy called His Own Bad Self, developing interactive CD-ROMs Mackerel Interactive Multimedia and watching Rome burn at a couple of dubious startups. Over the years, I've worked at all sorts of places: out of a cafe at a company of one to the sprawling campus of a company where I was of one of ninety thousand.

My background's in software development and technical evangelism, so I'm ready to talk about customizing stores, building apps and other opportunities for developers. From working closely with designers (I got my start in the multimedia CD-ROM industry back during its heyday in the '90s), I'm also ready to talk with them as well. And finally, if you're building a business on Shopify, my background in business -- from running my own consultancy to having worked at Microsoft with "suits" of all sizes and stripes -- means that I can help you too.

I'm going to be doing a lot of presenting, talking and writing about Shopify's platform, from writing apps to designing stores to the nitty-gritty of running a business, especially online ones. I'm also going to put the spotlight on you, the people who build their stores on Shopify and create Shopify themes and apps, to promote you and your business, as well as to help and inspire other Shopify users. I want you to be even more awesome through your association with Shopify.

You'll find me online in a number of places: here on the Shopify blog, as well as on my own blogs: the more technically-oriented Global Nerdy and the more personal one called The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century. You'll find me offline in any number of places: 

  • Ottawa, where Shopify is based,
  • Toronto, where I call home
  • and on the road, where you'll often find me (literally) singing Shopify's praises

And finally, the answer to the question everyone asks: "What's with the accordion?" It's what I like to call "social hardware", and after a few fun experiences with it, I've found that it pays to carry it about as often as possible. I like to think of it as a machine that converts music into adventure!

I'm here to help out, and you should always feel free to reach me. My email address is an easy one -- I'm

I'll see you out there!

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Shopify Loves Minecraft

Here at Shopify, we like to play just as hard as we work. The consoles in our games room are kept busy with games of Street Fighter and NHL hockey, we have Starcraft 2 tournaments and Counter-Strike LAN games after work some days, and it's pretty common for some of us to hook up online after hours and play some Team Fortress 2, Magicka, Call of Duty, or any number of other games.

For those times when we prefer to create things rather than blow each other up, we have our company Minecraft server.

Minecraft is a sandbox construction game that lets players create amazing three-dimensional structures and artwork out of blocks, using materials you harvest from the world around you. It can be played solo, or together with other people on a shared server.

Upon its launch late last September, the Shopify server saw a few weeks of furious activity. We dug tunnels, explored caverns, built castles and towers and dungeons, and even bored out an entire mountain down to the bedrock.

The initial activity eventually faded, in part because Minecraft multiplayer was still pretty incomplete at the time. The server was left in the hands of some dedicated players who continued to build, and now we're returning to find some pretty amazing stuff.

New players can now visit "Noob Town", a safe haven just off the starter island with supplies and access to other areas via a subway train network.

Other parts of the map are connected by a sky train system that takes a long time to fully traverse even at minecart speeds.

Some of our players prefer to work with rare or labour-intensive materials, creating obsidian houses connected by long bridges and underwater glass tunnels.

Others prefer more natural constructions using regular materials like cobblestone and wood, or melding them more seamlessly with the existing terrain, but their creations are usually no less impressive.

Navigation is much easier these days thanks to a web-based map interface powered by Google. It uses the standard Google Maps interface, but provides us with an isometric view of the terrain and our constructions.

We even have a roller coaster that starts from the tree in Noob Town, visits a few major landmarks, and then deposits you back in the town library. Here's a clip, courtesy of one of our developers:

With so many builders and so many different construction projects, our server has become a fascinating example of what a collaborative persistent world can become. But more importantly, it's also just a great way to relax and let out our creative sides – and relaxed, creative programmers means more great Shopify features for you.

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Culture Happens

The following is a guest post by David Hicks (@affinityclick) lives and blogs in Ottawa where he is the Marketing & Social Media Manager for AffinityClick.

A few weeks ago I saw this recruiting poster previewed on Twitter by @Shopify and it stuck with me. Kanata, for those not local to Ottawa, is Yet Another Beige Suburb™, a bedroom community about 20 minutes West of Ottawa. I should know: I lived there for almost five years. And then I escaped.

Kanata also serves as Ottawa’s vaunted Silicon Valley North, housing a large number of technology firms, both big and small. Most of these firms are situated in the doldrums of North Kanata, arrayed around March Road, somewhere adjacent to The Middle of Nowhere. It’s a terrible place to work unless commuting to lunch or chain pubs are your idea of a good time. I should know: I worked there. And then I escaped.

There are many reasons why people move their families and business to Kanata, but the primary one is that it’s cheap and there is lots of parking. As it should be: it’s relatively cost effective to level cornfields or raze forests for new construction than it is to redevelop urban space. And you can put in lots of roads, huge rivers of asphalt, which you need because you have to drive everywhere. However, cheaper is not always better.

Other than the obvious jab at the joylessness of working in an expanse of concrete boxes that all look the same, this poster told me that Shopify understands the people they are trying to recruit. Note that I say people and not employees. People have lives, dreams, like sunlight, drink coffee, eat Thai food on Wednesdays, and might bike to work; employees are crammed into cubicles under buzzing fluorescent tubes and wonder if it’s okay to do online banking while they eat their lunch at their desk.

So I took a look at the linked careers page and they list some interesting stuff above and beyond the standard HR rah-rah jargon. They make a huge amount of hay about the equipment you’ll be using (shiny Apple goodies), the office space (heritage post-and-beam construction), generous parental leave and childcare benefits (babies are expensive and inconvenient) and the location (in the restaurant/bar/coffeeshop/shopping district). I think it’s a compelling pitch because people actually care about such things: nobody dreams of working in a poorly ventilated 5×5 cubicle on a wheezing PC with a 17” CRT and driving 10 minutes to get lunch or coffee.

The term ‘Corporate Culture’ gets casually tossed around so much it has become almost meaningless. The reason: the people who use/abuse it the most are usually the very people who chart how many kilo-keystrokes are being extracted from the cubicle farms. They draft policy manuals full of “open door policies” and “work:life balance” without irony, failing to realize that corporate culture is not something companies do, it is something that companies are.

You can’t create a corporate culture, but give your people light, air, water, a few Mac Book Pros, and a place to grow and it will happen.

A word about AffinityClick :

there is no policy manual, just wide open spaces, a Macbook Pro under your arm, and the goal of being something. It’s nice to have a beacon like Shopify to guide the way—they’re one of the most successful local startups in the area, and I think a big part of that is that they hire people and not employees. And as AffinityClick grows, we’re trying to do the same.

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Shopify Photowalk

With one of our out-of-town developers visiting the head office, a bunch of us went on our first Photowalk around the Market after work. Unfortunately, we went out on the hottest and haziest evening of the summer, but we still had a great time.

We walked to a great lookout that overlooks Parliament and the Ottawa River, ended up having great fun 'light painting' on the wall of the National Art Gallery. Luckily, no permanent damage was done.

Some of us take our Street Fighter seriously

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Deck Out Our New Office

Over the last year, many great people have joined the Shopify team and we have outgrown our previous office. In March we moved to a bigger space and have slowly been renovating it.

Now that we are in the last stages of the renovations, we are calling on all Shopify stores to helps us decorate and accessorize it. We want to deck it out with a collection of items sold by Shopify stores.

Simply submit your suggestions by posting either:
  • A link of the items in the comments
  • Tweeting the link and including #DeckOutShopify

It has to be from a Shopify store. We will pick and feature the items we ordered right here on the blog.

What are we looking for? Well all kinds of stuff and we are open to any suggestions. Typical (and no so typical) office stuff such as:
  • Pictures
  • Pens
  • Cups
  • Mugs
  • Posters
  • Notebooks
  • Vinyl stickers
  • Food for the fridge
    ... and @ryanlanglois wants a slip and slide.

Here is a video tour and some photos of the new space. Once the office decorated with your cool products, we will do the big reveal.

Reception Area

Stand Up Tables


Engineers & Designers

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