The Globe and Mail | 11.28.14

Our Canadian CEO Of The Year You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

By Trevor Cole

Tobi Lütke wears his pink hard hat with pride. “I like it,” he says. “I’m the only person with a pink hard hat in the entire house.”

By “house” he means “building.” Lütke moved to Canada from Germany 12 years ago, at 22, and he will, to his chagrin, misplay a word now and then. In fact, at this moment, Lütke and his entourage are touring a six-storey construction site inside 150 Elgin St., the most impressive new office tower in Ottawa.

The tower is finished, but in this particular six-floor section, work continues according to the tenant’s rather extraordinary specifications. Close to 180,000 pounds of eight-inch concrete have been cut out of several of the floors to open vast holes allowing large staircases to connect one level to another. Each floor gets a theme—here, where brick walls are being mortared, it’s “Urban Street.” One floor above, it’s 1920s gangster Chicago, with plans for a poker room and a library with fake bookshelves that hide a secret, all-white boardroom. There’s a Transportation floor. There are also Canadian- and Scandinavian-themed floors, and one they’re calling the Back Alley. Throughout, there will be meeting spaces and professional kitchens. There will be banks of video monitors and a lot of high-tech soundproofing. And somewhere there will be a slide, because of course there will be a slide.

This is the enormous new home of Shopify, a company growing so fast that it is taking over two more floors of this tower than it needs, because it will surely need them soon.

Congratulate yourself if you’ve heard of Shopify, but don’t worry if you haven’t. The company actually prefers it that way. Despite becoming a darling among venture capital firms, drawing a total of $122 million in VC investment, and despite attracting a spate of recent coverage in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes and a dozen other media outlets, Shopify likes to remain hidden, like plumbing. It wants its customers to be the name brands.

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