Podcast: Shopify’s C-suite shakeup, hot cottage market and ‘turning dirty air into dollars’

Editor's Note

Behind the Headlines is supported by Nelligan Law.

In this Behind the Headlines podcast episode, OBJ publisher Michael Curran speaks with OBJ editors David Sali and Peter Kovessy about some of the week’s biggest local business stories.

This is an edited transcript of the panel discussion. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud or Spotify.

MC: Three of Shopify’s highest-ranking executives are leaving the Ottawa-based e-commerce giant. Chief talent officer Brittany Forsyth, chief legal officer Joe Frasca and chief technology officer Jean-Michel Lemieux are expected to end their lengthy tenures with the company in June. Peter, what’s the significance of this shakeup?

PK: It’s timing. Shopify’s revenues and stock price have soared over the past year amid a pandemic-fuelled online shopping boom. But sustaining that is going to be a challenge. Some observers believe it could become harder for Shopify to rack up new merchants and ensure pandemic gains aren't erased once consumers have the ability to head back to brick-and-mortar stores. So this sudden, upcoming void in Shopify’s C-suite comes on the eve of what’s likely to be a very different chapter in Shopify’s corporate history.

MC: Dave, you recently took a closer look at a clean-tech firm that landed a couple of million dollars in financing. Hyperion Global Energy has a technology that collects carbon dioxide from factory smokestacks and turns it into materials that can be used in consumer products. Obviously carbon capture is a very important issue, but we also hear a lot about cleantech innovations that ultimately don’t gain market traction. What is the hype about Hyperion?

DS: Their slogan is “we turn dirty air into dollars.” Right away that's going to turn the heads of investors. Hyperion's technology collects greenhouse gases – which is obviously an issue that’s growing in importance every year – and can turn it into something that people want to buy. In a sense, it’s the Holy Grail when it comes to this sort of technology and what people have been trying to figure out for years.

MC: Our colleague Caroline Phillips recently took a closer look at the region’s red-hot cottage market. We know that local real estate prices are skyrocketing across the board. And we’ve all heard how the pandemic is driving people out of the city in search of space. But that’s not the full story. Peter, what are some of the more structural shifts that are reshaping the market for recreational properties?

PK: The pool of prospective purchasers has dramatically increased, primarily due to an influx of southern Ontario residents. A lot of these communities are about four, five hours from the Toronto area. For many, that’s a touch too far to be doing every weekend during the summer if you’re still working Monday to Friday in an office. But suddenly everyone is a lot more comfortable with remote work. So that means that instead of spending two days at a time at the cottage, people are looking at staying there for longer blocks of time and then it’s a lot easier to justify that four- or five-hour drive.