Creative Layer secures backing from Shopify CEO, Celtic House for personalized printing platform for Shopify creators

After selling Canvaspop in July, Ottawa’s Nazim Ahmed has already launched his next startup, Creative Layer, raising $3 million CAD from the same group of investors who backed Canvaspop, plus some new additions.

With Creative Layer, Ahmed plans to apply what he learned building Canvaspop to help Shopify businesses manage orders, proofs, fulfillment, and more through its print-on-demand platform. The newly launched startup aims to capitalize on the growth of the creator economy, the rise of e-commerce platforms like Shopify, and an increase in the demand for personalized products.

“With Nazim at the helm, Celtic House expects Creative Layer to emerge as the leading personalized print-on-demand platform.”
-David Adderley

The Ottawa-based company has already secured $3 million in seed funding led by Shopify co-founder and CEO Tobi Lütke and Celtic House Venture Partners, both of whom previously invested in Canvaspop. The SAFE round, which closed in August, also saw participation from former Shopify CTO Cody Fauser, who invested in Canvaspop, as well as Adam McNamara, former Shopify VP of product and current founding partner at Ramen Ventures, and Leonard Teo, founder of Art Station.

“Having backed Nazim and Canvaspop for the past four years to a very successful exit to Circle Graphics, Celtic House believes that Nazim and his team are ideally positioned to provide creators, entrepreneurs, and brands with the cutting-edge tools they need to sell personalized products online,” David Adderley, partner at Celtic House Venture Partners, told BetaKit.

Founded in 2009 by Ahmed and Adrian Salamunovic, Canvaspop offers an online printing service that helps users to turn their photos into wall art. Ahmed stepped down as Canvaspop CEO following Canvaspop’s recent acquisition by HIG Capital-owned Circle Graphics. But instead of taking a break, he founded Creative Layer, bringing some of Canvaspop’s small, core team members, the group responsible for building the company’s tech, to the new startup.

“It was perfect timing,” said Ahmed, Creative Layer’s CEO, in an interview. “We exited Canvaspop, all the investors [and] founders did very well with that, and then we took the technology and extracted it, brought it to a new corporation I started called Creative Layer, and then raised funding for the new business.”

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According to Ahmed, over the last year and a half, the team behind Creative Layer began noticing other personalized, print-on-demand businesses being launched on platforms like Shopify.

“I started contacting some of these stores just to get to know them, and I started noticing all sorts of common problems that each one of these stores were running into in the back-end of operations … that’s when we started building a solution to run all of their back-end operations as a Shopify application,” said Ahmed.

Ahmed said Creative Layer’s team had already solved a lot of these problems at Canvaspop, which kept all of its engineering and development in house.

Now, the CEO said Creative Layer has “the right team, the right opportunity, and the right timing to be able to offer a solution in the back end for all of these entrepreneurs so that they can scale and grow their businesses, and focus on the things that they’re good at, which is product development, product marketing on the front end, while we run their entire back end.”

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With Creative Layer, Ahmed and his team intend to build on relationships they established with manufacturers at Canvaspop, while also working with other platforms that tap into a wider network of global manufacturers.

The startup plans to target influencers with audiences around a specific segment, creators with an existing merchandise store that are looking to offer a personalized product offering, and creators or micro-brands with an audience around a specific demographic who want to better engage their fans.

Creative Layer currently has 12 employees, and plans to add more in developer and engineering roles. Creative Layer is currently operating in closed beta, serving several customers. Over the next couple of months, the startup aims to launch as a Shopify app.

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“I’m really excited about having a successful exit of a certain good size in Canvaspop, and now taking all of that knowledge, expertise, network, to build something that’s more focused on the platform layer,” said Ahmed.

According to Ahmed, “there’s a much larger vision here,” which he plans to unveil over time with the addition of new components to Creative Layer’s platform.

“With Nazim at the helm, Celtic House expects Creative Layer to emerge as the leading personalized print-on-demand platform and sees immense opportunity in the market as the creator economy continues to grow and expand,” said Adderley.

Feature image of Nazim Ahmed, courtesy of Creative Layer

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit staff writer who loves to tell Canadian business and tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.