Celtic House, Shopify's Lütke among bevy of big backers for Canvaspop founder's new venture

Nazim Ahmed lands $3-million in seed funding for platform to help entrepreneurs produce personalized products
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Editor's Note

Correction: The OBJ Today newsletter incorrectly stated which company received funding - the company is Creative Layer.

The co-founder of an Ottawa firm that turns customers’ photographs into customized artwork has landed millions of dollars in seed funding for a new startup that's aiming to help Shopify merchants branch out into the growing personalized products space.

Nazim Ahmed launched his new venture, Creative Layer, two months ago after his previous company, Canvaspop, was acquired by Colorado-based Circle Graphics

Creative Layer announced this week it has secured $3-million in venture capital from a group of big-name local investors that includes Shopify co-founder and CEO Tobi Lütke, Celtic House Venture Partners, former Shopify executives Cody Fauser and Adam McNamara and MindBridge Ai founder Solon Angel.

Many of the new firm’s backers, including Celtic House, Lütke and McNamara, were previous investors in Canvaspop. Ahmed said the funders have inspired him to “take bigger swings” as he looks to capitalize on a burgeoning market.

“It’s just been amazing being surrounded by these people and being fortunate enough to have time with them,” he told OBJ this week. “It just elevates our thinking.”

Creative Layer is now testing its platform, which is designed to replace the “mish-mash of off-the-shelf tools” merchants have been using to process and fulfil orders for products from T-shirts to throw pillows that feature custom prints provided by customers.

It’s a market that proved lucrative for Canvaspop, which landed millions of dollars in funding and created products for more than 450,000 customers in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia before being acquired.

$30B market

Ahmed and his 12-person team now want to make it easier for other entrepreneurs to launch similar businesses powered by the Creative Layer platform. The product will initially be aimed specifically at merchants who operate online stores on Shopify’s platform.

The fledgling firm’s investors say they see a big upside in a business that caters to rising consumer demand for bespoke, one-of-a-kind designs, with some estimates now pegging the annual value of the personalized products industry at US$30 billion.

The new venture is “ideally positioned to provide creators, entrepreneurs, and brands with the cutting-edge tools they need to sell personalized products online,” Celtic House partner David Adderley said in an email to OBJ.

“With Nazim at the helm, Celtic House expects Creative Layer to emerge as the leading personalized print-on-demand platform and sees immense opportunity in the market as the creator economy continues to grow and expand.”

Ahmed said he expects the product to be out of its testing phase in the next few months, adding he plans to hire more engineers and software developers as the company continues to build out its technology.