Long-time VP and product leader Satish Kanwar departs Shopify

Kanwar steps down 10 years after Shopify’s Jet Cooper acquisition.

Long-serving Shopify executive Satish Kanwar is leaving the company after 10 years.

The Shopify vice president (VP) of corporate development and head of product acceleration announced the news today on Twitter and LinkedIn, noting that he intends to spend more time with his family, angel investing, and working on his family office.

“The end of this month marks my 10-year anniversary and last day at Shopify,” wrote Kanwar. “It’s impossible to express my gratitude for everything that is this place, people, and product, which has been my world for a decade.”

Kanwar joined Shopify in August 2013 through its acquisition of design agency Jet Cooper, which Kanwar co-founded with Verne Ho in 2009. During his Shopify tenure, Kanwar helped the company grow from a promising Canadian tech startup to the e-commerce giant it is today while working in various product, operations, and corporate development leadership roles.

Kanwar joined Shopify in August 2013 through its acquisition of Toronto-based Jet Cooper.

“In 2013, Shopify had a bigger vision for Jet Cooper than we had for ourselves, so we built Shopify Toronto… and the rest is history,” wrote Kanwar.

In a tweet reacting to the announcement, Shopify founder and CEO Tobias Lütke wrote, “A legend of Shopify riding into the sunset after a job well done. Sad and grateful.”

Kanwar’s Shopify journey began with Jet Cooper, a Toronto-based user experience (UX) and design agency that catered to a range of fast-growing startups and established companies like Telus and Cineplex.

In 2013, Jet Cooper was acquired by Shopify for an undisclosed sum. The strategic deal, designed to bolster Shopify’s design and UX capabilities, saw Jet Cooper’s 25-person team folded into Shopify. Kanwar came on as director of operations for Shopify’s Toronto office, while Ho joined the e-commerce firm’s ranks as director of design.

Lütke told the Financial Post in 2013 that while Shopify had faced no difficulty sourcing engineers, it was finding design talent harder to come by. Shopify bought Jet Cooper and tasked it with improving the look and feel of the e-commerce firm’s online stores. In a statement made at the time, Lütke said the Jet Cooper acquisition brings “some of the best designers in the world” to Shopify.

Back in 2013, Shopify was a privately-held primarily Ottawa-based company with nearly 300 employees. Since Shopify’s existing Toronto office was smaller than Jet Cooper’s team, they moved into the latter’s office, where Kanwar helped establish Shopify’s research and development presence in the city.

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Since then, Kanwar has served in a variety of roles at Shopify, including sitting at the opposite side of the table as Shopify bought other firms, like Toronto-based mobile studio Tiny Hearts.

After working for 12 months as Shopify’s director of operations in Toronto, Kanwar served as director of product for almost two-and-a-half years. In this timeframe, Shopify went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange after raising $131 million USD at a $1.27 billion valuation.

Following that, Kanwar briefly held the role of VP of product before transitioning to general manager and VP of product for channels. During his nearly three years in that position, he oversaw a variety of Shopify offerings, from online store and checkout to retail point-of-sale, multi-channel platform, product partnerships, and email and marketing tech, while also helping the company handle its relationships with players like Facebook and Google.

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, in November 2020, Kanwar became VP of corporate development and head of product acceleration, where he led the firm’s merger and acquisition, investment, and product alliance efforts. Since then, Kanwar has helped Shopify purchase and invest in a wide variety of companies that support its merchant ecosystem.

During his 10-year Shopify tenure, Satish Kanwar helped the company grow from a promising Canadian tech startup to the e-commerce giant it is today.

“As our oldest acquired founder today, my last tour of duty leading Product Acceleration (M&A / Ventures) let me bring many more founders closer to and inside of Shopify,” wrote Kanwar.

During Kanwar’s time in this role, Shopify has made strategic investments in companies like e-commerce returns platform Loop, logistics firm Flexport, artificial intelligence startup Crossing Minds, and marketing automation software company Klaviyo. Shopify has also acquired firms like influencer marketing startup Dovetale, web framework provider Remix, and fulfillment company Deliverr. In a website first launched late last month, Shopify Ventures, the company’s venture arm, revealed its full portfolio.

Shopify has since leveraged Remix to bolster its own headless commerce solution, while the Deliverr deal—which marked Shopify’s largest acquisition to date—has since been unwound as Shopify has scaled back its logistics ambitions.

“A legend of Shopify riding into the sunset after a job well done. Sad and grateful.”
– Tobias Lütke, Shopify

Beyond his work with Shopify, Kanwar has also become an angel investor in his own right, backing Canadian tech companies like Disco and venture funds like Roach Capital, and launching a family office named Good Future with his wife, Arati Sharma—another former Shopify leader and Jet Cooper employee.

“In 2023, I’m also a happy husband, (cool) dad, (bad) golfer, angel investor, board member, and forever work-in-progress,” wrote Kanwar. “I’m excited to spend more time on all of those things, plus work on our family office with the one and only Arati [Sharma] (more to come on that soon).”

Kanwar’s departure marks the latest in a long line of executive changes at Shopify during the pandemic. Since COVID-19 hit, Shopify has continually remade its leadership during what has been a rollercoaster few years for the company and the e-commerce industry at large.

When the pandemic forced folks to buy online rather than at physical stores, e-commerce demand skyrocketed and so did Shopify’s growth and share price. But as COVID-19 tailwinds subsided while customers returned to shopping in person, Shopify’s growth decelerated and its stock fell. In response, Shopify slowed hiring, laid off about 10 percent of its staff in July 2022, revamped its approach to employee compensation, and swapped CFOs.

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This year, Shopify raised its prices, rolled out a composable commerce stack designed to woo larger retailers, cut another 20 percent of its team, and sold off Deliverr and its logistics division to Flexport. So far, these moves appear to have helped: since its 2022 slide, Shopify’s share price has partially rebounded, up nearly 86 percent since the beginning of 2023 at publication time.

Since 2020, Shopify has also swapped out nearly its entire C-suite, aside from its top two leaders, Lütke and Harley Finkelstein—though the latter was moved from COO to president in 2020.

Kanwar adds to a list of senior leadership departures over the past few years that includes its CTO, VP of product acceleration, COO, CFO, VP of engineering, GM of revenue and VP of Shopify Plus, managing director of US West, managing director for EMEA, chief legal officer, CPO, and two engineering VPs.

During this time, Shopify has also hired a new CFO, chief revenue officer, chief human resources officer, chief information security officer, and general counsel, and promoted two other people to its C-suite as COO and chief growth officer.

Feature image courtesy Satish Kanwar. Photo by Lawrence Cortez.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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