After 10 years leading Tulip, Ali Asaria steps down as CEO

Tulip COO and president Ian Rawlins to replace Asaria.

Ali Asaria, who has been at the helm of Kitchener-Waterloo-based retail startup Tulip since its founding 10 years ago, is stepping down as CEO. 

Asaria announced he will be leaving the role in a LinkedIn post published Friday. In it, he noted that Ian Rawlins, COO and president of Tulip, will assume the CEO role.

Recently, Tulip has shifted its focus to profitability, a move that entailed the startup laying off 25 team members last month.

“About ten years ago, a group of us founded Tulip with a vision to create software that would change an industry,” Asaria said in the announcement. “Perhaps more important, we wanted to create a unique company culture that brought together special, quirky individuals with big hearts. I’m so proud of the company and technology that we’ve all built together.”

Asaria is a serial entrepreneur who was previously an engineer for BlackBerry, where he contributed to the development of the Brick Breaker game. He went on to found and lead another e-commerce startup,, which was acquired by McKesson Canada in 2017.

Founded in 2013, Tulip has developed a retail experience platform aimed to help brands increase sales and conversion while improving efficiency. The startup’s clients include major fashion, luxury, and retail brands such as Mulberry, Saks Fifth Avenue, Kate Spade, COACH, and Michael Kors.

Tulip claimed to have experienced significant growth during the pandemic as the retail industry “doubled down on investments in store innovation.” The startup’s last raise was a $34.4-million CAD Series C financing in 2021 to grow its team and bolster its global expansion. Tulip also acquired US retail SaaS company Blueday in 2020.

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But more recently, Tulip has shifted its focus to profitability, a move that entailed the startup laying off 25 team members in November. At the time of the layoffs, Tulip had 235 employees per its LinkedIn page, indicating the layoffs would have represented a 10 percent reduction in the startup’s workforce.

In a LinkedIn post, Asaria said the downsizing would allow the startup to “operate from a position of profitability, no longer requiring outside capital to build and grow.”

“With this reduction, combined with all the hard work the teams have been doing, the company enters a new phase in our evolution from when we started as a small startup 10 [plus] years ago,” Asaria wrote.

Asaria will move into the role of board chair at Tulip, where he said he will work to ensure the board is aligned on vision and that the startup continues to “grow and succeed.” Asaria said he will remain “one of the largest shareholders” of Tulip.

Feature image source MaRS Discovery District.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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