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No Priors Ep. 49 | With Shopify VP of Core Product Glen Coates

No Priors Ep. 49 | With Shopify VP of Core Product Glen Coates

In this episode of No Priors, we have Glenn Coates, the VP of Product at Shopify, joining us to discuss how AI is changing e-commerce and entrepreneurship. Glenn leads the core developer platform at Shopify, including all their AI products. Prior to his role at Shopify, he founded Handshake, a B2B e-commerce platform that was acquired by Shopify in 2019. We delve into the topic of innovation at scale and the challenges of leading at Shopify.

Background and Integration at Shopify

Glenn shares his background, starting with his career in video games and later founding Handshake, which was eventually acquired by Shopify. He highlights the interesting journey of integration after the acquisition, mentioning the retention and growth of founders within the company. Shopify has been successful in retaining acquired management teams. Glenn discusses the challenge of integrating disparate platforms and products, emphasizing the importance of avoiding duplicates at the same layer of the stack. Shopify aims to simplify the process of starting and running a business and continually seeks ways to improve integration and consolidation of its infrastructure.

AI and E-commerce

Glenn emphasizes the role of AI in e-commerce and entrepreneurship and how it enables more individuals to start and run successful businesses. He explains how Shopify is leveraging AI to simplify processes and make them more accessible to entrepreneurs. He highlights the exciting developments at Shopify, such as the improvements in the product data model, image editing with AI, and enhancing search capabilities. The aim is to provide entrepreneurs with professional-level tools and experiences without the need for expensive resources.

AI Integration at Shopify

Glenn discusses the approach to AI integration at Shopify, where AI products like Sidekick are allowed to propose changes but not commit them without human (merchant) verification. The human-in-the-loop approach helps mitigate risks and ensures that the merchant retains control over their business operations. Glenn acknowledges that the last 5% of improving AI capabilities is the most challenging, but there are constant advancements happening both internally and externally in the field. He mentions the CES presentation by the company Rabbit as an interesting strategic decision, treating the UI as the interface for AI interaction.

Exciting Developments and External Factors

Glenn highlights the foundations work at Shopify, which focuses on enhancing the product data model and providing standard attributes and categories. This, coupled with AI, improves the search experience for customers and helps merchants rank higher in search results on various platforms. He also mentions external factors that interest him, such as the strategic choices made by the company Perplexity to tackle the challenges of native search and achieving a balance between facts and opinions. The ever-evolving nature of AI and its impact on search powers the excitement and innovation happening in the field.


Glenn Coates, VP of Core Product at Shopify, discusses how AI is transforming e-commerce and entrepreneurship. He highlights Shopify's approach to integration and the exciting developments in AI products like Sidekick and image editing with AI. Glenn also mentions the importance of finding the right balance between facts and opinions in search capabilities. Shopify aims to simplify the process of starting and running a business and leverage AI to make tools and experiences accessible to all entrepreneurs.

Keywords: Shopify, AI, e-commerce, entrepreneurship, integration, duplicate products, product data model, image editing, search capabilities, human-in-the-loop, CES, Rabbit, perplexity, search experience, facts and opinions.


  1. What is Shopify's approach to integration after acquiring companies? Shopify aims to consolidate and integrate systems and platforms to avoid duplicates at the same layer of the stack. The company focuses on retaining and growing the roles of founders from acquired companies within Shopify.

  2. How is AI being used at Shopify to transform e-commerce? AI is utilized to simplify the process of starting and running a business, making it more accessible to entrepreneurs. It enhances product data models, enables image editing with AI, and improves search capabilities to provide professional-level tools and experiences to entrepreneurs.

  3. What are the challenges in integrating AI into e-commerce platforms like Shopify? The main challenge lies in improving AI capabilities from around 75% to 95%. Achieving the last 5% is a steep uphill climb. However, advancements in technology and external factors contribute to the constant improvement of AI integration at Shopify.

  4. What is the importance of balancing facts and opinions in search capabilities? Finding the right balance between facts and opinions is crucial to creating search systems that cater to different user needs. While some search queries require specific factual answers, others may require opinions or recommendations. Striking the right balance ensures a comprehensive search experience.

  5. How does Shopify leverage AI to simplify processes for entrepreneurs? Shopify utilizes AI to automate tasks, provide intelligent suggestions, and enhance the overall user experience. By leveraging AI technologies, Shopify aims to make processes more accessible and eliminate barriers for entrepreneurs, allowing them to focus on growing their businesses.