A pair of suits stand outside the main room of the Toronto Stock Exchange. They see a group of some thirty or more people getting ready to ring the bell that signals the start of trading. The two men vaguely recognize that the group standing in front of them is Shopify.
“That’s Shopify, right?” asks one of the suits.
“Yeah, I think they’re from Vancouver,” says the other.
Cover Canada’s admittedly small tech scene for long enough and you start to think that everyone in the country has at the very least heard of Ottawa’s Shopify. After all, they’re the first Canadian tech firm to garner a $1 billion valuation since the Internet bubble burst in the late ’90s, and the first of Canada’s marquee startups to file an IPO. Last week, the company completed its IPO, raising $131 million in the process. Today, in a sense, is a victory lap for the company.
Still, if the Bay Street types roaming the floor of the Stock Exchange are an indication of anything, it’s that the company still has work to do before they become a household name here. You get the sense, though, that the company is fine with that prospect.
“It’s been an exciting few weeks for us, and certainly an exhausting couple of weeks, as well,” says Harley Finkelstein, the company’s chief platform officer, in a one-on-one interview. “The roadshow was quite trying with 14 hour days of meeting over and over again, but it’s an exciting time for us and for our company. I think that now we want to get back to business and to continue to build what we started.”
For Finkelstein and company, the main challenge now is finding a way to keep the culture that made the company a success in the past while reconciling what it means to be a publicly traded company. “People come to Shopify to do their life’s work, and they stay with us for a very long time. I think that’s going to continue,” says Finkelstein. “In fact, if this IPO reminds us anything, it’s what a great company we’ve built and what a great culture we have at Shopify, but our continued success is going to depend on maintaining that culture because it’s so critical to who we are as an entity and to our success as a company.”
Additionally, there’s the challenge of enrolling investors into the company’s vision democratizing retail.
“We’re a company that’s focused on long-term growth, and we’re also a company that’s focused on becoming a trusted public company,” says Finkelstein “For us the two those are easily reconcilable, and as long as we continue to do our job and continue to serve small businesses, I think everyone is going to be very happy.”
What is clear is that this is a historic moment. “Hopefully Shopify acts as a bit of an example of what can be done from a small little office in Ottawa to being a global company, so we hope, and I hope on a personal level that we inspire other entrepreneurs to build incredible world class companies.”