Shopify just getting started, Lütke tells crowd

Shopify may have had a banner 2015, but its CEO said Tuesday he thinks the best is yet to come.

“We've just started, I think," Tobias Lütke told the crowd gathered at the Westin for the latest instalment of the CEO Talk Series, put on by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and the Ottawa Business Journal.

Mr. Lütke said he sees a “massive opportunity” for Ottawa in the tech sector, adding he believes fantastic companies can be built in the capital.

And Shopify, he said, will be around to see it all happen.

“I want Shopify to see the next century,” he said.

Anyone looking to get insight in what makes the Best Ottawa Business Award 2014 CEO of the Year tick was in luck, as Mr. Lütke offered various nuggets of advice on how to build a successful tech company.

“If you don’t have an executive coach, get one,” said Mr. Lütke, who never finished high school.

“I was horrible at school,” he said, adding it was not nearly as exciting as computer programming. 

He continues to be a fan of co-op programs, which is where he developed many skills in his native Germany. He told the crowd these programs are the key to developing skilled tech workers.

Mr. Lütke compared building Shopify to an engineering problem, where one has to break down a big problem into manageable parts.

With the search for talent continuing to be a major issue in the capital, Mr. Lütke shared his opinions on how to build the right team.

Not surprisingly, he said Shopify doesn’t put a lot of weight behind degrees. Instead, it decides on candidates based on their life stories and how much they care about learning.

“It’s how you react when you don’t know what to do,” he said, adding Shopify hires people for their potential and then lets them develop it.

It’s important to hire “cool people,” he said, and let them be themselves. He also said a workforce needs to have as much diversity as possible.