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Ottawa Staycation: Coffee at the Shopify Offices

Entrance to Shopify Offices

Back in 2010, I received an email that started like this:

My name is Brennan and I am a fourth year student at the University of Ottawa and co-founder of a local start-up called Avitu.  In a nutshell, Avitu is social and community driven online advertising platform and ad management tool. For the past 4 months myself and my two classmates (both software engineering students at UofO) have been incubating out of Shopify in the Byward Market trying to develop the ultimate tool for publishers to easily sell and manage their online ad space.

I responded and did what I could to help out. After all, how could I not admire a group of students so industrious that they are spending their spare time starting up a company? (If you knew me in university, please do not share what I was doing in my spare time as a student! Let’s just say it wasn’t nearly as productive, and may have involved quite a bit of rum and Diet Coke.)

During one of our email conversations, Brennan signed off like this:

Thanks again!  Next time we should meet in person (coffee is on me)!

I never did meet him in person or collect on that free coffee. Now, three years later, Brennan is Head of Business Development at Shopify and his coffee promise was still valid and included a tour of the oh-so-famous Shopify offices, which have been featured in virtually every major piece of business press in Canada. (If you want a quick catch-up on this Ottawa success story, try this article in Profit Guide which pronounces Shopify as “Canada’s Smartest Company.”) So on my staycation, I finally met Brennan “in real life,” as they say.

brennan loh and julie harrison

And yes, the offices really are as cool as they’ve been presented in the media. Here is one of my favourites rooms, it’s called “The Phone Booth,” and people can take private calls in there or hold conference calls with a couple of colleagues:

phone booth
Brennan gave me the full tour, and in doing so, we did a lot of “shop talk.” I think it’s safe to say that he’s a perfect representation of the Shopify culture — intelligent, driven, hard-working, and intensely committed to the company’s success.

With Shopify, we have a massive home-grown success story. What’s not to love?

P.S.  Shopify is a finalist in TechVibes’ Canadian Startup Awards —  you can vote for them, just click here

P.P.S. Yes, they have good coffee at Shopify. Actually, not just *good* coffee — amazing, expresso-based coffee. Look at this sweet machine! 

coffee machine at shopify


  1. Very cool, nice to hear the back story to your connection with Shopify. I didn’t realize until recently that they’re a local business. I like any company with a commitment to good coffee!

    • I think the back story is interesting too in that not only was it generous for Shopify to allow these students to incubate their business in their offices, but in the end Shopify now has 2 out of 3 of them as employees! 

  2. Jules – great story on the importance of business relationships and staying connected. Interesting. And yes, their offices are very cool!

  3. Hey, that’s cool! I knew Shopify was local, but I do love hearing these kinds of success stories. 
    And I love their phone room! 

  4. Jacqueline D. says:

    What a rock’n company – benefits package rocks, innovative and have really captured a much needed service in the virtual world for small to med sized businesses.  Ottawa needs more companies like this – fun, hip and innovative. 

    May the force be with you Shopify – go forth and conquer.  I will be watching:)

  5. Thanks for featuring such an innovative local company.  Being a tech marketing “geek” – Shopify, their business model, and culture has been discussed in several meeting that I have been involved in.  It is amazing to see this creativity and success just around the corner from us.

    • One of the interesting things I read about Shopify and their culture is that they have extremely high retention rates … like 8 years! I think that’s important to point out for those who roll their eyes at Shopify’s innovative techniques for keeping its team happy.  

  6. Great post.  Offices are super cool.  Love to hear about Canadians succeeding…even cooler when it is local.  This is my inspiration for the day.  Never too late to connect & there are cool things going on around us all the time.  Sometime we just have to look for them. Thks. ~ srae

  7. Thanks for the inside look at Shopify! It’s great to get a sense of how good companies differentiate themselves vis-a-vis workplace environments. As always, you provide a really valuable source of Ottawa-based info, especially for those of us in the tech field!

  8. If only coffee at work was like that at offices everywhere! What a creative and fun work environment – it must be energizing for the employees. I love that you are highlighting local success stories and keeping connections with those you help along the way. 

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