Invisible giant: Despite its outsized market value, Shopify maintains a ghostly presence in the capital region

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The company’s customer support group has likely more than doubled to nearly 3,000 as the number of websites using Shopify technology has swelled to 1.6 million, according to a tabulation by BuiltWith, an internet consulting firm.

Since spring, Shopify’s support workers have been joined in their work-at-home setting by 2,000 of the company’s engineers, along with a couple of thousand employees specializing in sales, marketing, recruitment and other jobs usually associated with a formal office.

Shopify’s Ottawa headquarters at 150 Elgin St., shuttered since last spring. Credit: Doublespace Photography jpg

Lütke characterized this shift as “digital by default,” noting that Shopify’s network of offices would now be used to accommodate meetings and special events, not staff. “Most (employees) will permanently work remotely,” Lütke tweeted last May.

This sort of transition is difficult enough for companies with employees that have a long history of working together. But Shopify has assembled its workforce so quickly that a majority have been there fewer than two years.

By moving them online, seemingly for good, Shopify has initiated a most unusual experiment in corporate behaviour and reorganization.

This transformation could well determine whether Lütke will be able to realize his goal, articulated to this newspaper in 2011, of building “one of Canada’s greatest success stories.”

Some might argue he’s already done it. But Lütke, who has talked more recently of laying the foundation for a 100-year company, would disagree. His firm is too fragile, too young yet to secure a lasting legacy.