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In the early days of ecommerce, building a site for your company was time consuming, cumbersome and expensive. But for the last several years, Daniel Weinand has been on a mission to help business owners more easily turn their vision into a reality.
Weinand is the co-founder and chief design officer at Shopify, an Ottawa, Ontario-based ecommerce platform that makes software and solutions for small businesses, allowing them to run their own online stores at an affordable cost.
The company started life with just one store. Co-founder and CEO Tobias Lütke wanted to start a high-end online snowboard retailer, but was frustrated with the platform choices at his disposal.
In 2005, after shifting away from snowboards and focusing more on developing a framework to best support the sale of them — and just about any other product — Shopify as it is known today was officially launched.
Today, more than 275,000 businesses located in more than 150 countries around the world live on the platform. The company now has more than 1,000 employees and has partnered with big names such as Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Uber.
Shopify, which also went public last year, reported $72.7 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2016, up 95 percent from the same period last year.
We caught up with Weinand to talk about the importance of embracing failure as fuel for growth, staying confident in the face of regret, and why all entrepreneurs need to have an inner fire that always keeps them going.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you first started out?
A: Looking back, I realize that any bad or unlucky decision that I’ve made that led to an undesired outcome has actually been an important catalyst for my growth and learning. I truly believe that we learn from our mistakes — as long as we’re open to learning. With every failure I experienced, there was an opportunity to come out even stronger. So that being said, I’m glad I didn’t deny my past self the experience of all those failures.
Q: What do you think would have happened had you known this back then?
A: Hopefully, I wouldn’t get too spooked about future me paying past me a visit and everything would have played out the same way it did.
Q: How do you think young entrepreneurs might benefit from this lesson?
A: Starting a business is hard and experiencing setbacks is inevitable. Sooner or later you will find yourself feeling regret over a decision, but it is important that you maintain the confidence that you’ve used all of the necessary tools and information at your disposal to have made the best decision at the time.
Q: What are you glad you didn’t know then that you know now?
A: Being an entrepreneur requires trusting your gut instincts and having faith that you will prevail. I never focused on the high failure rate of startups, especially ones where the founders have little to no startup experience. In a way, being oblivious to this reality allowed us to keep focused, and prioritize on building the best product possible.
Q: What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: There are many words that describe the “inner fire” that an entrepreneur must have. Whether you call it passion, drive, grit or tenacity, it is a mandatory requirement that will help you stick with your new business and not give up prematurely. You only achieve this state of commitment by fully believing in your business’s mission.
Interview was edited for length and clarity.