Building For The Future

April 14, 2021


I’m often asked: why do I think Shopify has been so successful? My go-to answer has always been the same: luck. I'm not being flippant. There are different kinds of luck and Shopify has enjoyed them all. Random chance, timing etc. But one form of luck has been an extraordinary part of this company: people luck. Shopify has been so successful specifically because of people luck. Over a decade ago, I started recruiting the best executives to join me on the journey to take Shopify from 0 to 1 and I’m proud to sit here today and say that the team achieved that. Shopify is the best version of itself today and it’s because of the work that we put in together over the years. 

Like I said at Summit, Shopify is playing the infinite game. We are building a company that will likely outlive all of us. Playing the infinite game well means that more players get to play and the game continues long after our modest roles in it. Said in another way: we need to remember that everyone will leave at some point and that’s totally OK. Leaving well is a skill all by itself and there are roughly three ways to do it: 

  1. Leaving perfectly on time
  2. Leaving too early (not great for the individuals but ok for Shopify)
  3. Leaving too late (real problem. Doesn’t work for individuals or for Shopify) 

I’m letting you know that we have 3 executives who will be leaving using principle 1 above. Over the coming months, Brit, Joe and JML will start to transition out of their current roles. Each one of them has their individual reasons but what was unanimous with all three was that this was the best for them and the best for Shopify. Each of them has completed 2-3 tours of duty in their careers at Shopify and have achieved incredible things that will live on as their legacy: 

  • JML has grown the Engineering org and our capabilities at a mind boggling pace over his time here. When he started we had a total of 54 developers and during BFCM the platform peaked at 800k RPM. Now we have thousands of developers working around the world on hundreds of teams powering ~10% of sales that day. Great leaders build great teams and our engineering organization is the strongest it has ever been for the future. 
  • Joe was the first lawyer Shopify hired and since then has been our best line of defence over the last 7 years. He took us through the IPO and built a strong legal culture and team. We ask a lot from our lawyers and under Joe’s leadership, they were always there to ensure Shopify could maintain our speed and our level of ambition. 
  • Brit, employee number 22, has been at Shopify for 11 years. Yes, that means that 99.96% of the company has been hired after her start date. All of my earliest and fondest memories of Shopify involve Brit, including taking the company public together. The legacy Brit leaves behind is a world class culture and team that has evolved as we have scaled and now as we go digital. 

This team has been spectacular and deserves to take a bow. Right after that, we should focus on the present and future. We have a phenomenally strong bench of leaders who will now step up into larger roles. The brightest people in the world are lining up to work at Shopify and those that are joining us every day are incredible. The people luck and our talent density runs as deep as ever. The important thing is to continue making every version of Shopify better than the one that came before. We know exactly how to keep doing that, so let’s go. 

- tobi

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