Shopify’s new R&D office just a stepping stone in growth plans

Ottawa-based Shopify’s new R&D office opening in Toronto yesterday had Mayor John Tory tweeting about the promise of “100 new good jobs” in 2017, but if the ecommerce platform’s plans hold out, it will scale to 1,000 employees in the city by 2019.

Shopify’s first Toronto office at 80 Spadina Ave. has a capacity of 280 employees, and it plans to house more than 200 employees at the new 420 Wellington address. By 2019, it plans to open a new office space at 620 King St. that will combine those offices and new hires for a team of more than 1,000.

The new R&D office will mostly be staffed with software engineers and user experience specialists, according to Stergios Anastasiadis, the director of engineering at Shopify. That’s the team that focuses on building out Shopify’s app store platform that is used by its partners to develop new tools for merchants.

He’s looking to hire senior developers with experience building for mobile, platform, and hardware too. “The most important thing is services that scale because that’s what we need for success in our eco-system,” he says.

Shopify is also looking for new senior UX talent, says Monika Piotrowicz, director of UX for Shopify. That branch of the company includes four teams such as front end developers, product designers, and content strategists. Part of the job on this team includes regular out-reach to the partner community.

“We’re really supportive of our partner community, when they do well our product merchants do well,” she says.

The partner eco-system of independent software vendors that build on Shopify’s e-commerce platform is an important source of growth for the startup. While it hasn’t released 2016 numbers for performance on the app store, Anastasiadis says that 2015 saw $13 million spent by merchants on these add-ons and 2016 numbers will be even bigger. There are more than 1,500 applications on the platform, which is used by 325,000 merchants in 150 countries.

To help support its growing list of partners, Shopify has designed a support system that includes three lines of support teams, he says. A regular survey is sent out to partners for feedback, and an annual conference, Unite, is held in San Francisco.

Shopify executives, many of which who marched in Toronto’s most recent Pride Parade, also made a point to say that diversity was a priority for the team in its hiring.

In his opening comments, Tory said that Toronto had to convince the rest of the world that it’s a good city to move to if you’re looking to start a tech business – especially with competitions the like of New York City and Silicon Valley. He said Shopify, a company founded in Ottawa, expanding in Toronto is proof that “the talent is here, the ecosystem is here, and we can make it work here.”

He also offered help to startups.

“We’re very committed. If we can help make the case to someone else, including someone that was educated here and left, we are here to help,” he said.

Based on what Shopify executives are saying, they might not need much help.

“We’re going to run out of space here soon,” Anastasiadis says of the new office. “We’ll have to figure it out.”

Mayor Twitter mini-battle

Following the new office opening, the respective Mayors of Toronto and Ottawa exchanged some tweets that shoed differences about how to qualify the firm’s success.

Tory described Shopify as a “Toronto success story.”

But Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson had a different point of view.

Shopify Chief Marketing Officer Craig Miller was diplomatic about the matter.



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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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