This text is taken from Courrier de l’économie. Click here to subscribe.
The boss of one of Canada’s largest companies is in love with Montreal. Imagine that!
Harley Finkelstein was born in Montreal. He grew up in Miami. And he works in New York and Ottawa. A new chapter is beginning for the president of Shopify and his family, as he has decided to settle down for good in Montreal, a city for which he seems to have an uncommon passion.
The one who joined Shopify in 2010 to become its chief operating officer in 2016, then its president in 2020, praises the cultural diversity of Montreal, which he describes as “the most entrepreneurial city in the world”. Which is no small feat, coming from a CBC board member who is also an advisor to the OMERS fund, the equivalent for Ontario public sector employees of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec.
He could sing the praises of Toronto. But no. For him, Montreal wins.
In an interview at the end of July with the Anglo-Montreal cultural magazine Cult MTL, Finkelstein summarized in two words what distinguishes Montreal in his eyes: culture and community. “I’ve been told before that to understand the trajectory of a city’s culture, you have to look at its artists, musicians and cooks. A city that has a disproportionate number of artists, musicians, and chefs probably has a huge culture. Miami and New York have plenty, but Montreal has a shovelful. »
borders are falling
Remember that for a few months during the pandemic, Shopify was the company with the highest valuation among all companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. A first for a technology company, and a rarity for the TSX, generally dominated by banks and oil companies.
Shopify ranks fifth among the largest Canadian market capitalizations these days, with a value of around $73 billion.
It’s almost an anomaly: you can’t say that Canada is a country of technology and innovation. And yet, he could become one, assures Harley Finkelstein. During a public address held in Montreal in mid-July, the businessman urged the government and Canadian entrepreneurs to rethink their vision of the country.
The time is right according to him for Canada to move from a branch economy for foreign companies to an economy where it is the companies here who acquire their rivals across the border.
His logic: we are entering an era of transformation where culture and creators will change the game. Technology driven by advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will transform many business sectors. During this phase of transformation, several industries will experience a phase of consolidation and changes that will certainly be major.
Canada has a healthy economy and capital is abundant. The country is trying to carve out a niche for itself in sectors such as AI, precisely, and the entrepreneurial culture has greatly evolved in the last 20 years.
And if there’s one city in the country that’s leading the charge, it’s Montreal. A rich culture, a diverse population, a prized place in AI technologies… Obviously, it is far from perfect, but we understand why the big boss of Shopify has fallen in love with his hometown again.