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Is Shopify distancing itself from Ottawa?

Shopify’s Gradual Departure from Ottawa: A Shift in the Tech Landscape

Ottawa, November 12, 2023 — Shopify Inc., once a staple of Ottawa’s tech scene, is distancing itself from the city that was its home for nearly two decades. Founded in Ottawa by Tobi Lütke, Shopify has been a symbol of tech innovation in Canada’s capital. However, recent developments indicate a shift away from Ottawa, a trend reflected in the movements and decisions of its top executives.

That’s the takeaway from an article by Tara Deschamps in The Canadian Press that profiles a company that might have become to big for a medium-sized town.

Tobi Lutke leaves Ottawa

Lütke, along with other senior leaders like Shopify president Harley Finkelstein, have moved away from Ottawa, dispersing across Canada and the U.S. This move aligns with Shopify’s embrace of permanent remote work, leading to a significant change in its operational model. The company has even replaced Ottawa with “Internet, Everywhere” as its headquarters in press releases.

According to Rick Watson, founder of RMW Commerce Consulting, this is a common trajectory for tech giants seeking proximity to like-minded entrepreneurs and talent pools. Lütke’s relocation to Toronto and Finkelstein’s move to Montreal were motivated by personal reasons, including family proximity and the company’s engineering team.

The departure of Shopify’s senior staff from Ottawa doesn’t necessarily represent a disapproval of the city. Daniel Araya, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, suggests that the current trend is towards flexibility and remote work rather than being tied to a single location. Shopify’s new operational ethos emphasizes a global presence, with key figures like chief financial officer Jeff Hoffmeister and chief human resources officer Tia Silas based in New York, and other executives in Texas, Washington, D.C., and Toronto.

As Shopify adapts to a changing work landscape and continues to expand its global footprint, Ottawa’s role in the company’s future appears to be evolving. The city, once central to Shopify’s identity, is now part of a broader, more dispersed network that reflects the company’s growing international influence and the changing nature of work in the tech industry​​.

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