The importance of Canada’s innovation economy has quickly become a key priority for government at all levels of office. Prime Minister Trudeau has signaled that knowledge-based businesses will be a key focus for the Liberals and their Ontario counterparts have said the same. With that in mind, Invest Ottawa had the privilege of hosting two very special guests within just a few short weeks of each other.
On April 1, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario joined four local MPP’s and eighteen business leaders representing the city’s innovation economy and local knowledge-based businesses for a round-table discussion. It was the Premier’s first visit to the city’s economic development agency.
The group took full advantage to discuss a variety of topics: Ottawa’s key role as the second largest economy in the province; the talent springing from local world-class, post-secondary institutions; and, how to cultivate more employment of women in technology. The core message was that Ottawa’s technology sectors are growing rapidly and are primed to be a major component of the innovation economy.
In March, we welcomed Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Bardish Chagger, to Invest Ottawa. She took the time to speak with every startup, learning about their innovative products and understanding the challenges they face as a small business. “At its roots, Invest Ottawa promotes economic development through entrepreneurship; by extension you are creating jobs and sustaining our high quality of life,” said Minister Chagger, after announcing important changes to the Canada Small Business Financing Program. It is gratifying to know that these two important actors in our ecosystem took the time to recognize the red-hot technology sector in Ottawa.
Invest Ottawa has appointed a new Director of Marketing, Karen Letain. Karen has a wealth of experience having overseen the marketing operations at an executive level for both large and small organizations. Before coming to Invest Ottawa she co-founded the marketing firm OutsideIN, which served private and public sector clients throughout North America. Karen and her team will be launching a number of campaigns, to help the 1700 knowledge-based businesses in Ottawa grow and attract the best talent.
In April, Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson led a five-day trade mission to India. He was joined by 35 business and industry leaders including Invest Ottawa. It was a resounding success as various agreements and strategic partnerships signed between Ottawa companies and their Indian counterparts have an estimated total value of over $80 million.
Invest Ottawa also signed key agreements with NASSCOM’s (National Association of Software and Services Companies) accelerator program 10,000 Startups and Reliance Industries Ltd’s GenNext Innovation Hub, an incubator for startups, in Navi Mumbai. Both agreements will provide opportunities for Ottawa companies to build relationships and networks within the country. Invest Ottawa is now the only economic development agency in Canada to have solidified agreements with accelerator/incubators in three key emerging markets: India, China and Brazil.
As always, lots of incredible milestones are being met by the startups working out of our incubator and accelerator. Here is a quick snapshot:
Postcard (formerly Travelabulous) was accepted in CTA@Boston, an initiative of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. It provides Canadian high-growth market-ready companies support to access global markets and entrepreneurship services, and has locations in NYC, Boston and Silicon Valley.
OrbitHub, a club management solution provider for racquet sports, has just launched a mobile app, OrbitPlay, on Android (iOS will be out by summer). The company will be partnering with the City of Ottawa to offer public court tennis players new services to improve their playing experience.
Contextere is developing an intelligent personal agent delivering curated guidance and actionable insights to the industrial worker; basically an Internet of Things’ (IoT) software company empowering the 21st century industrial workforce. The fledgling firm was accepted into the IBM Global Entrepreneur developer program to integrate their technology with IBM Blue Mix and Watson Artificial Intelligence engine.
eStaffMatch connects qualified event staff with event organizers all through a phone app. Recently their CEO won the North American round of Get In The Ring in Mexico and travelled to Colombia for the worldwide round, where she did extremely well.
In early March, we hosted 11 international journalists who primarily focus on the Aerospace sector. The visit was part of a four-day tour, organized by Global Affairs Canada, which included stops in Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg in addition to Ottawa. The focus for the tour was on UAV and passenger-experience and highlights included a visit with ING Robotic Aviation, presentations by Carleton’s Aerospace program, a tour at NRC’s Cabin Comfort and Environment Research Facility (CCER) as well as a presentation on Lixar IT’s work in apps and technologies to enhance passenger experience from ticket purchase through to arrival. Articles have already appeared in Aviation Week, Kurier, The Next Silicon Valley and Aerospace Insight. We will continue to leverage these relationships to find further opportunities to showcase Ottawa’s expertise and innovation in the aerospace sector.
And there were some great local companies who received a well-earned cash injection over the last few months. Some notables are Diablo Technolgies receiving $19 Million in Series C venture capital funding, Azastra Opto was handed $1.25 Million through the EcoFuel Accelerator program and GymTrack raised $800K through the Fed Dev program.
So long but not goodbye
After nearly five years of guiding the city’s economic development strategy, I’ve decided not to renew my term as President and CEO of Invest Ottawa. The time has come to pass the torch, just as the innovative ideas from Ottawa have begun transforming the world stage.
There are now nearly 68,000 people working in over 1,700 knowledge-based businesses. In the last five years, Ottawa software companies have raised more money in the public markets than all other Canadian cities combined, and in the last four years, Ottawa tech companies have drawn more than $3 billion of capital into the local economy. More recently Ottawa was crowned the most “Business-Friendly” mid-sized city in the Western Hemisphere.
Invest Ottawa has been a part of this growth; attracting nearly $300 million in foreign direct investment, helping nearly 500 local companies grow globally, helping to facilitate the creation of over 4,400 jobs and coaching more than 20,000 individuals pursuing entrepreneurial passions.
When I accepted the role in 2011 at then OCRI, our vision for Ottawa’s technology sector was ambitious and while we have made some good progress thanks to the passion and collaboration of Ottawa’s vigorous business ecosystem and the team at Invest Ottawa, there is lots of room to grow.
As always, please send me your thoughts and suggestions.
President & CEO