Shopify: Tobias Lütke


Tobias Lütke is the co founder and CEO of Shopify, an ecommerce platform with over 800,000 customers and annual revenues of $1 billion.

In this interview on How I Built This, Tobias tells his story of programmer with a passion for snowboarding to building the “go to” ecommerce software.

3 lessons…

  • Finding value in the solutions for internal problems – After solving his own problem (no affordable, fully integrated ecommerce software) Tobias and his co founder realized that others would have the same challenges. The market for the software appeared to be bigger than the market for his snowboard store. So they pivoted.
  • When approaching investors, have a proven formula for growth. It’s a lot easier to get funding if you have something that says “insert money here and profit comes out here”.
  • “It might not work” isn’t a reason to not start something. Early on Tobias and his co founder asked themselves “what happens if this doesn’t work?”. The answer was that it doesn’t matter because they’re going to learn a lot. And it’s going to be part of life’s experiences.

In 2004, German programmer Tobias Lütke was living in Ottawa with his girlfriend. An avid snowboarder, he wanted to launch an online snowboard shop, but found the e-commerce software available at the time to be clunky and expensive. So he decided to write his own e-commerce software. After he launched his online snowboard business, called Snowdevil, other online merchants were so impressed with what he built that they started asking to license Tobi's software to run their own stores. Tobi and his co-founder realized that software had more potential than snowboards, so they launched the e-commerce platform Shopify in 2006. Since then, it has grown into a publicly-traded company with over 4,000 employees and $1 billion in revenue. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," after Barb Heilman invented a device that easily releases child car seat buckles, she started a business with her daughter Becca Davison called Unbuckle Me.