Shopify founder Tobi Lütke: From c’t reader to tech billionaire and Amazon rival

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He has become a billionaire with software for online shops, but when Tobias “Tobi” Lütke learned to program, the Internet did not yet exist. The most important inspiration for the later founder of Shopify was therefore computer magazines such as c’t, Lütke said in a live talk with c’t on Wednesday: “I found computers incredibly interesting – but I didn’t know any other people who found computers interesting. The c’t was my connection to this world. “

As a teenager, he once took a “suitcase full of c’t issues” on a cruise with his family because he was not really interested in the ship. “I read them up and down for the whole two weeks,” said Lütke. “Now I look back and say it was important that this happened.”

Lütke grew up in Koblenz in the 80s and 90s and moved to his girlfriend in Canada in the early 2000s, where he set up an online shop for snowboards and then laid the foundation for Shopify with the shop software he developed himself. Today Shopify is worth around 150 billion euros on the stock exchange and thus plays in a league with Germany’s most valuable company SAP. In the online retail space, Shopify is one of the few serious Amazon competitors.

Shopify will in future compete with Amazon with its own logistics infrastructure, said Lütke in an interview with c’t. “We are in the process of building warehouses for our customers.” The aim is to shorten the shipping routes for online purchases.

The corona pandemic has accelerated the already rapid growth of Shopify: The company has hired 5,000 new employees since the pandemic began, doubling its workforce to more than 10,000, said Lütke.

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The decision to let employees work from home on a permanent basis played an important role. “We have hired amazing new people that we would not otherwise have been able to hire.” Shopify will probably continue to work together digitally in the future. “I haven’t been in an office since February last year,” said Lütke.

Given the performance of his Shopify shares, Lütke could now, like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, found his own space company and launch into space. But he has other plans: “For me, climate change is the more important problem,” he said. That is why his company is investing in technologies for CO, for example2-Separation from the air.

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