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10 Things You Didn't Know about Tobias Lutke

Tobias Lutke is the CEO of Shopify. For those who are unfamiliar, Shopify is the Canadian multi-national that runs the e-commerce platform of the same name, which makes it much easier for interested individuals to sell their products over the Internet.

1. Bilingual

Lutke is bilingual in the sense that he speaks both German and English. This is unsurprising because he was born and raised in Germany before immigrating to Canada where he is now a citizen.

2. Received a Schneider CPC As a Child

Speaking of which, Lutke received a Schneider CPC when he was still at the age of six, which contributed to his subsequent interest in computers. In short, a Schneider CPC was a German brand of the Amstrad CPC, a series of 8-bit home computers that was produced for the purpose of competing in the home computer market of the mid 1980s. It is interesting to note that there were a lot of video games available for the Amstrad CPC, which is perhaps unsurprising when it was meant to go up against other home computers that were used for playing video games in significant part.

3. Dropped Out of School to Focus On Computer Programming

In time, Lutke became interested in computer programming. This can be seen in how he started rewriting the code of the video games that he played at the ages of 11 and 12, which was on top of him making modifications to the computer hardware. Eventually, Lutke made the choice to drop out of school after the tenth grade so that he could enter into an apprenticeship program at the Koblenzer Carl-Benz-School, thus enabling him to focus upon becoming a computer programmer.

4. Moved to Canada Because of a Long-Distance Relationship

Long-distance relationships have earned their reputation for being even more challenging than their standard counterparts. However, there are some couples who manage to make them work. For instance, Lutke met his eventual wife Fiona when he was on a snowboarding trip in Canada. The two stayed in contact until Fiona had received her bachelor's degree, which was followed by her getting a job in Germany. There, the two remained for 10 months until Fiona returned to Canada to study for a master's degree, with the result that Lutke followed her.

5. His Business Started Out As an Online Snowboard Shop

Lutke and a couple of partners started up an online snowboard shop in 2004. Its operations were made possible by Lutke, who wrote a new e-commerce platform for it. However, it wasn't too long before Lutke and the other co-founders shifted their focus from snowboards to e-commerce using the e-commerce platform, thus resulting in the launch of Shopify in 2006. This made sense because e-commerce was very much an established concept by that point in time, meaning that there were a lot of parties out there interested in an e-commerce platform.

6. Might Not Have Become an Entrepreneur If It Wasn't For Chance

Initially, Lutke thought about just working for a company in Canada. In fact, he had actually gotten to the point of signing the papers for his employment when his would-be employer realized that he didn't have a work permit, meaning that he wasn't allowed to work in Canada at the time. However, Lutke was allowed to start his own business, which played an important role in him and his partners co-founding what would become Shopify.

7. Received a Lot of Support From His In-Laws

Speaking of which, Lutke's in-laws were very supportive of him. Moreover, when he made the choice to start his own company, both of them contributed to his efforts in their own ways. For example, Fiona's mother was apparently the one who handled their payroll as well as the rest of their accounting. Likewise, Fiona's father actually saved the company at one point in time by stepping in to cover the company's payroll when the cash flow was a bit tight. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fiona's father owns a considerable chunk of Shopify, with the result that he is a multi-millionaire in his own right.

8. The Great Recession Proved Beneficial For Shopify

The Great Recession was devastating, so much so that a lot of people still haven't managed to recover from it even though it has been more than a decade's time. However, it is interesting to note that it proved to be a boon rather than a bane for Shopify. Generally speaking, one would have expected the Great Recession to be bad for an e-commerce platform. After all, e-commerce platforms are reliant on e-commerce operations, which tend to perform poorly when the economy undergoes a recession. However, the Great Recession meant that a lot of people had a lot of spare time on their hands, with the result that a significant number chose to start up their own e-commerce operations. Due to this, Shopify benefited by being in a position to provide these individuals with helpful tools for achieving their ambition.

9. Has Managed to Retain Work-Life Balance

Entrepreneurship is tough, which is why there are numerous stories about entrepreneurs pouring hours and hours of their time into their businesses. As such, Lutke can seem rather unusual in that he has managed to retain a healthy work-life balance. Certainly, there have been times when Lutke has worked a bit longer than usual. However, he has never worked through the night because as far as he is concerned, he needs his eight hours of sleep like everyone else. To an extent, Lutke believes that this is because he founded Shopify in Ottawa, Canada, which doesn't have the workaholism of Silicon Valley.

10. Believes in Team Players

When it comes to hiring, Lutke believes in people who can work well in teams rather than people who can be summed up as brilliant loners. This makes sense because well-run teams can be much more than the sum of their parts, meaning that choosing team players can pay off handsomely from a practical perspective. For that matter, this makes even more sense when one learns that Lutke believes in hanging on to his employees for the long run rather than let them burn out, which is a very common problem in the tech industry.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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