Tobi Lütke named CVCA’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner

June 2, 2016 | By: Carolyn Goard

The founder and CEO of Shopify Inc., Ottawa, Ontario-based e-commerce company, has been named the 2016 recipient of the CVCA’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. This is a prestigious award given to Canadian entrepreneurs who have demonstrated a great deal of success in delivering superior returns to its stakeholders and who exude tenacity, innovation, leadership and contribution to the community.

Tobi Lütke was honoured with this award at the CVCA’s 2016 Annual Conference held last week in Toronto. Not able to attend the event, colleague and CFO of Shopify, Russ Jones, accepted the award on Lütke’s behalf.

Ultimately, Lütke’s impressive success story all started from a few lines of code.

Nearly a decade ago, Lütke launched an online store to sell snowboards. Despite a plethora of available options, he built his own platform to have the ability to connect with customers, which was the ultimate focus of his brand: to build relationships. Since 2006, he has grown Shopify—which actually started under the name Jaded Pixel Technologies—from five employees to over 1,200 people across four offices in Canada. This growth has not compromised Shopify’s values or spunky culture, and Lütke has been at the helm of maintaining this important vision for the fast-growing company. He’s also ensured Shopify demonstrates and maintains a deep understanding of the future of commerce.

Lütke, and Shopify, have ultimately shifted the power of commerce from large retailers into the hands of entrepreneurs and smaller merchants, which has empowered small and medium-sized businesses around the world to launch into the commerce ecosystem without daunting and expensive upfront costs. Since its beginning, Shopify has powered over 240,000 stores with $14 billion worth of sales for its vendors.

OMERS Ventures’ Jim Orlando, who nominated Lütke for the award, says the 2015 initial public offering (IPO) of Shopify was a significant tech highlight for Canada’s VC story. “We are so proud to have been a part of this journey with Tobi and the great team he has built around him.” OMERS Ventures led the company’s $100 million Series C round back in 2013.

“Tobi, and the vision he had for Shopify, has always been symbolic of the future of Canada,” says Orlando. “He was able to build an incredible product, right in the heart of the massive transformation the retail and commerce sector is going through. It hasn’t been easy, but Tobi proved to Canada, perhaps when we needed it the most, that long-term sustainability for a growing tech company is possible—and that they will be the acquirers, not the acquired.”

There’s no doubt Lütke and Shopify’s story shines a bright light on Canada’s innovation ecosystem and signifies the country’s ability to build world-class tech companies. Shopify was Canada’s first Internet start-up since the dot-com crash to reach a billion-dollar valuation—after the Series C round in 2013—and then went on to IPO on both TSX and NYSE, again proving to start-ups, entrepreneurs, and the rest of Canada that profit and success are achievable through long-term growth, vision and leadership.

Please join the CVCA in congratulating Lütke as the 2016 winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.