The Big Read

Shopify’s app store is its secret weapon. Now it’s investing millions in some developers. What about the rest?

OTTAWA — Jonathan Poma has spent a lot of time in the world that Shopify built. In February 2013, the Columbus, Ohio entrepreneur launched a T-shirt brand on Shopify’s then-new enterprise offering for big businesses looking to online retail; a year later, he started an agency to do the same for other sellers. “There’s a small community of us who’ve been in e-commerce for that long,” he said.

So last year, when Poma went out to raise a Series B for his startup Loop Returns, another name from that tight-knit ecosystem was on his call sheet: Satish Kanwar, now Shopify’s vice-president of product acceleration. In July 2021, the Ottawa-headquartered commerce firm joined a US$65-million round for Loop, which makes tools Shopify merchants can use to handle returns and exchanges. “Shopify was a very clear, compelling strategic partner,” Poma said. 

Loop isn’t the only firm building tools for Shopify merchants in which Kanwar and co have invested—the Canadian tech giant has racked up at least 20 deals in just over two years. Beyond capital, Shopify’s portfolio firms get the company’s stamp of approval, and the chance to work with it more closely. But some developers worry Shopify is playing favourites. 

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