Shopify CTO Allan Leinwand to depart company, citing “personal reasons”

Allan Leinwand, CTO, Shopify.
CEO Tobi Lütke to also lead R&D as Shopify loses third C-Suite exec since September.

Shopify CTO Allan Leinwand is leaving the Ottawa-based e-commerce giant next month.

Shopify confirmed with BetaKit that it announced the news to employees on Friday morning.

In a statement provided to BetaKit by Shopify, Leinwand said his departure comes in light of “personal reasons,” which he did not elaborate upon. Shopify declined to share any further information about why Leinwand is leaving the company, nor did it make any executive available for this story.

Leinwand first joined Shopify in October 2021 after serving as Slack’s senior VP of engineering.

In a statement provided to BetaKit, Shopify president Harley Finkelstein noted that Shopify founder and CEO Tobi Lütke will take over leadership of research and development (R&D) following Leinwand’s departure. Shopify declined to share any further information about why Lütke is taking over R&D, or if the company plans to find a new CTO.

Whatever the reasons behind Leinwand’s departure, it represents the latest in a long line of executive changes at Shopify since the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2020, Shopify has continually remade its leadership team amid what an eventful few years for both the company and the e-commerce sector.

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

At least 12 senior leaders have left Shopify since March 2020 for a myriad of reasons. In their stead, the company has brought on more experienced leadership, including building out its executive ranks with former leaders at American software and financial services giants.

Most recently, Shopify replaced its CFO with ex-Morgan Stanley banker Jeff Hoffmeister, who spent more than two decades working with the firm’s technology investment banking group.

Leinwand’s departure comes as economic conditions have shifted and Shopify contends with an array of headwinds, including a tech downturn, a deceleration in e-commerce demand, and a looming recession.

Leinwand first joined Shopify in October 2021 after serving as Slack’s senior VP of engineering and CTO at ServiceNow and Zynga. Leinwand replaced Jean-Michel Lemieux, who left the company in mid-2021, the same time that Shopify lost its chief talent officer and chief legal officer.

RELATED: Shopify swaps CFO, COO amid financial downturn

Shopify’s journey since COVID-19 hit has been akin to a rollercoaster ride. When the pandemic forced many to shop online instead of at physical stores, e-commerce demand skyrocketed, and Shopify experienced tremendous growth. At its peak, Shopify was Canada’s most valuable public company, with a market cap of over $212 billion USD.

But in late 2021, the company’s growth began to slow as the pandemic tailwinds fuelling the rise of e-commerce started to subside, and customers moved back to buying goods in person. Coupled with a broader tech downturn fuelled by rising interest rates, Shopify’s revenue growth decelerated and its share price plummeted.

In response, Shopify slowed hiring, laid off more than 10 percent of its staff, revamped its approach to compensation, and in the fall, replaced Amy Shapero as CFO with Morgan Stanley banker Hoffmeister.

In a sign of the times, earlier this week, after keeping its prices “largely unchanged” for the past 12 years, Shopify announced it is raising the cost of its subscription plans by 30 percent for new merchants. The company did post record numbers over Black Friday-Cyber Monday, with Shopify merchants posting $7.5 billion USD in sales for the period. Shopify’s share price also partially rebounded from its 2022 slide, up 35 percent since the start of 2023.

Since February 2020, senior leaders that Shopify has seen leave the company include: its CTO, VP of product acceleration, COO, CFO, VP of engineering, GM of revenue and VP of Shopify Plus, managing director of United States west, managing director for EMEA, chief legal officer, and CPO. Additionally, Business Insider reported yesterday that the company had laid off two engineering VPs in January: VP of Infrastructure, Mike Lents, and VP of Engineering, Ravi Byakod.

In turn, Shopify has hired at least six new senior leaders, including Leinwand, a new CFO, chief revenue officer, chief human resources officer, chief information security officer, and general counsel. The company has also promoted two other people to its C-suite as COO and chief growth officer.

In a statement shared following the publication of this article, a Shopify spokesperson said: “Over the past few years, we built a talented, dedicated leadership team across our organization. The promotions of executives like [Kaz Nejatian, COO], the addition of CFO Jeff Hoffmeister and other top talent, demonstrate the strength and depth of our team as we position Shopify for our next chapter.”

Lütke’s new R&D role will not be the first time the CEO has taken on additional tech and product-related responsibilities following the exit of a senior Shopify executive. When former Shopify CPO Craig Miller left in September 2020, Lütke took over Miller’s responsibilities. At the time, Lütke noted he had no plans to hire a replacement, and Shopify doesn’t have someone in a separate CPO role currently.

A source familiar with Shopify’s operations and history noted to BetaKit that Lütke can be “incredibly difficult” to work for given his particular nature and care for anything that touches the company’s product. The source added that Shopify’s CEO has cycled through direct reports since long before the pandemic. “People who report directly to Tobi tend not to last long—or they last forever,” they said.

“[Lütke] is embedded in the work—in the craft and discipline—and cares about the product above all else.”

As Leinwand noted in his blog post, “[Lütke] is embedded in the work—in the craft and discipline—and cares about the product above all else.” He called Shopify a founder-led tech company “where the founder is setting the technical aim for the product,” and described this as “rare” while arguing it is part of what sets Shopify apart from other companies.

During Leinwand’s 15-month tenure at Shopify, the company rolled out the next generation of its retail point of sale hardware, acquired Remix, and launched Commerce Components, a composable commerce stack targeted towards enterprise retailers.

“Shopify has grown tremendously during my time here, and I’m deeply excited about what the future holds for the organization,” Leinwand wrote in the statement. “I’ll be working with the team over the next few weeks to ensure a smooth transition. I’m a proud shareholder and I’ll be cheering on from the sidelines.”

Pointing to the company’s work on the composable commerce front, Leinwand wrote that he believes Shopify will “continue to be a world leader” in headless commerce. “Together, we have set the foundation for the next huge growth lever for the company.”

For his part, Finkelstein expressed gratitude for Leinwand’s leadership, “thoughtful innovation,” and work building Shopify’s team. “We thank Allan for his many contributions to our merchants and wish him the best in his next chapter,” he added.

Feature image courtesy Shopify.

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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