Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify is on a hiring spree and planning on expanding its offices to make space for hundreds of new employees.
In Montreal, the company aims to nearly double the workforce with 120 new employees in the next few years to add its existing headcount of 150. But those people will have a roomy office space as Shopify is expanding its Montreal footprint to accommodate as many as 450 people.
If it seems like a strange decision to build office space for nearly double the number of planned employees, but it makes sense in light of Shopify’s rapid expansion.
As of the fourth quarter of 2017, the company had nearly 3,000 employees, a 50 per cent increase over 2016.
Shopify provides a platform for online merchants which allows for payment processing, inventory management, online marketing and shipping support. Currently more than 600,000 merchants use the Shopify system.
The hiring spree isn’t confined to Quebec either. Last year Shopify opened a Waterloo office and announced plans to hire 300-500 people in the southern Ontario tech hub over the course of a few years.
And in Toronto, Shopify is planning to move its operations into a new office downtown on Portland Street.
“We’re building a bigger office there,” chief operating officer Harley Finklestein told the Financial Post on the sidelines of Unite 2018, Shopify’s annual developer conference where executives announced new products for the platform. “Right now we’re in two (offices.) We’re going to combine and move in there, and that’ll probably be in the next year or two.”
Shopify is making a big push internationally, translating its merchant platform into French, Japanese, Spanish and several other languages. As part of the international expansion, Finklestein said the company needs to expand the payment methods it supports to allow for regional preferences.
“For example in India, cash-on-delivery is a lot more popular of a way to transact than credit cards,” Finklestein said. “Well, that’s not even a translation thing. Now I have to add this idea of cash-on-delivery if I want to do really well in India. So part of the translation isn’t just changing words, it’s figuring out the cultural nuances.”
Shopify’s other major direction right now is towards bricks-and-mortar retail, as part of an effort to become an integrated solution for businesses selling across multiple retail channels — online, in-store, on Facebook, etc.
The company’s hiring spree is in support of both those directions, but it’s not easy to pin Finklestein down on what all those new people are being hired for.
While Finklestein says Shopify isn’t blindly hiring people without a clear sense of what job they’re hired to do, at the same time, he says he doesn’t really have a clear idea what all these people will be doing a few years from now.
To illustrate his point he cites the example of Shopify Capital, a system which gives Shopify merchants cash advances to allow them to buy inventory.
“When we first launched Shopify Capital, we had a group of people who were doing underwriting, who were basically trying to figure out how to offer cash advances, to what people, at what rate, at what timespan, who had the creditworthiness,” Finklestein said.
“That is entirely done now by AI machine learning. So what does that mean? That means all those people that I needed to run Shopify Capital in the early days, I don’t need them anymore. I can use them for something different.”