E375: Tobias Lutke – Founder & CEO of Shopify



about this episode

Shopify wants to make ecommerce simple and cheap. In the early 2000s, founder Tobi Lutke was trying to sell snowboards online, but the barriers to entry were enormous. He created his own cloud-based software, and like a lot of entrepreneurs, ended up abandoning his original snowboard shop idea. He now has 60,000 companies that use Shopify as the backbone for their online retail operations. From Shopify’s base in Ottawa, Canada, Jason talks to Tobi about the future of retail, why BestBuy will die, and his ambition to become one-stop-shopping for every interesting product, the stuff that doesn’t come with a barcode. Plus, the story of his stunt recruitment day at IBM, as they announced layoffs at their Ottawa facility.

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1:15 Shopify is a huge company that has over 60,000 customers. And the company provides shopping services.

2:00 When did this company start?

2:22 So you were selling snowboards?

4:30 People were not charging for cloud-based software at that time (2004).

6:15 The one thing I’ve heard from people is you charge too little ($20-30/month to have a store).

9:15 My choice for the Audible book of the week in Flourish by Martin Seligman. http://audible.com/twist to get a free audiobook. And forward your subscription to audible@launch.co to be entered in our iPad mini contest (deadline August 15).

15:45 So 200 people right now, and you’ve raised some decent venture capital. Tell us about the size of the company today.

17:00 Commerce is going to change significantly. How do you think it’s going to change?

18:55 So if I’m buying my Jambox from Jawbone, and I see it in a store, airport, or on my mobile phone, it’s all the same back end: it’s Shopify. Does that mean you’re going to build a point of sale system?

20:50 When you saw Square’s massive success doing point of sale, did you kick yourself?

21:31 You have same day delivery, mailboxes changing to package boxes, and you have Amazon’s pickup locations (at 7-11, etc).

22:40 What do you think is going to happen to retail?

26:00 Thanks to Scott Ed Walker at Walker Corporate Law. He specializes in helping startups with years of experience and flat rate fees: scott@walkercorporatelaw.com

26:45 Experience + retail: Apple Store, Disney Store, Nespresso Store, Microsoft Stores. What do you think of the experiential retail concept?

28:40 What would you do if you were BestBuy?

30:00 Who’s doing a good job? You mentioned LuluLemon.

30:30 So pop-up stores are the future?

31:30 So if Shopify were to have 10 retails locations in 10 cities, what would you do?

33:10 I would love to be able to go to a pop up store once a month and talk to the CEO about what their line is and why they made it.

36:50 What’s the average size of a shop on Shopify? $100k per year? $1m per year?

39:30 How do you decide between going global and adding fun features?

41:40 People are addicted to the metrics, right?

42:44 The hardest part of the job?

45:30 Who’s a bigger competitor – Amazon, Etsy, or Kickstarter?

48:50 This is a company that’s worth $500m-$1b. Has that sunk in?


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