Shopify witnessed both stellar growth and cultural challenges in the last 12 months. Here’s what you need to know.

Shopify CEO Tobias Lutke in front of a pixelated Shopify logo on a green background
  • Shopify saw outsized growth in 2020 as the pandemic brought more businesses online.
  • But it has also seen some cultural changes, with a wave of longtime employees departing.
  • Here’s a rundown of Insider’s reporting on Shopify, including recent departures and cultural issues.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shopify has been going through some big changes after a year of monster growth.

Founded in 2006, Shopify found success with a business model of providing e-commerce tools to small and medium-sized businesses lacking large technology budgets. That success accelerated in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to take their e-commerce operations more seriously, some for the first time, and consumer shopping habits shifted online.

The trends were apparent in Shopify’s financials: It reported 86% revenue growth for 2020. Its gross merchandise volume – or the total sales conducted on the platform – grew 96% year over year.

Insiders say that the past year has meant changes for Shopify’s culture, too. Current and former Shopify employees say there’s been a “wave” of turnover, both in the company’s C-suite and in its middle ranks. Frustration over how CEO Tobi Lütke and other leaders handled a series of racial incidents in the summer of 2020 also came to light.

Here’s a rundown of Insider’s reporting on Shopify, including recent departures, cultural issues, growth ambitions, and high-profile partnerships.

Cultural stumbles frustrated some employees

Current and former employees told Insider about a series of incidents in which they felt company leadership failed to properly respond to internal debate on racial issues in the summer of 2020. With protests in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd also taking place at the time, tensions were high.

One such incident involved a conversation among staff about the uploading of a noose emoji to Shopify’s Slack messaging system. As the discussions grew heated, Lütke changed a Slack channel where debate was taking place to be read only. A few weeks after, he sent an email to managers clarifying his stance on the role that companies should play in their employees’ lives.

Shopify is losing a number of key executives

Two Shopify executives in their headshots from the company before they left.
Chief Talent Officer Brittany Forsyth and Chief Legal Officer Joe Frasca both recently left Shopify.

Shopify announced in April that its chief talent officer, chief technology officer, and chief legal officer would be leaving the company soon. The news followed the departure of Shopify’s chief product officer in September.

But Shopify has also had departures in its middle ranks. Insider counted at least three vice presidents, one general manager, one managing director, and 11 directors who have left the company since June 2020. Several are leaving to invest in startups or launch their own companies. Some employees have said that Lütke’s management style could be driving people away.

Shopify is poised to grow even more

Shopify has been continually launching new products and entering into new partnerships with Facebook and Google intended to further its reach. This comes as the company sets its sights on further dominating the e-commerce market while fending off Amazon.

Shopify works with more than 1.7 million merchants and has ambitions to attract even more businesses to its platform by launching new products and services. It also plans to hire more than 2,000 engineers in 2021. Shopify now employs more than 7,000 employees.

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