How Invest Ottawa is helping build entrepreneurial momentum in the nation’s capital
If you think Ottawa is just a town buried under the ashes of the once mighty Nortel, think again. In an effort to increase its reputation among the startup community, last year the city launched Invest Ottawa, an arm’s length organization with a mandate to make Ottawa the best place in Canada to start and grow a business.
Invest Ottawa (or IO, as it has become known) delivers collaborative economic development programs and initiatives that increase entrepreneurial momentum as well as wealth and jobs in the city and surrounding region, while marketing Ottawa’s diversified economy and high quality of life.
The city’s startup community has grown tremendously in recent years. IO is helping to further drive this entrepreneurial buzz as the designated Regional Innovation Centre (RIC) for eastern Ontario and a member of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs.
Our services include startup incubation and mentorship, seminars and workshops for entrepreneurs and small businesses, and commercialization and acceleration for existing companies. We are currently engaged with 203 portfolio companies and are home to 26 resident accelerator companies. Our startup portfolio companies have attracted more than $26 million in investment.
Fast facts about the city
- Ottawa has a large knowledge-based industry with more than 1,900 companies employing 75,000 workers across a range of tech sectors, including life sciences, cleantech, defence and security, wireless, photonics, and film, television and digital media.
- It was recently ranked first among 61 global cities in the creative economy based on technology, talent, tolerance and quality of life. Ottawa’s talent score was the highest out of any city by a wide margin.
- Ottawa added 10,000 new jobs in the technology sector in the first six months of 2013 alone.
What makes Ottawa unique for doing business is its position as the only city in North America that offers startup community services as well as foreign direct investment (including soft-landing business attraction) and film commissioner services—all in one place.
The talent pool is also deep. Companies range small enterprise to large, multinational corporations such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and IBM. While most of IO’s programs are focused on entrepreneurs, startups, and small- and medium-sized enterprises, it also works to engage large multi-nationals in the community.
Some of IO’s recent portfolio company successes
- 360pi, a company that makes software to monitor retail pricing whose customers include ACE Hardware, Best Buy Canada and Overstock.com, recently landed $4.1 million in venture capital investment.
- Gnowit, which provides real-time media monitoring using artificial intelligence, was selected as one of four Canadian companies headed to the UK on a trade, investment and mentorship mission.
- Omniglobe Solutions was awarded a contract to provide their unique software-based Internal Communication and Recording system for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) program. Omniglobe’s system will support the key communications network technology being delivered by General Dynamics Canada.
Earlier this year, IO also developed GrindspaceXL, a four-month, co-hort based acceleration program for early-stage technology companies. The curriculum is designed to get participants customer-focused and investor-ready. The third cohort launches next month. Learn more about Invest Ottawa at www.investottawa.ca.
Bruce Lazenby is President & CEO of Invest Ottawa. He was Chairman of the Ottawa Software Cluster; Vice President in Canada for Corum Group Ltd., an M&A advisory firm, and CEO of FreeBalance Inc., raising funds for venture capital and debt financing. A graduate of Royal Military College, Bruce served in the Department of nNational Defense as a logistics officer and navy diver. He speaks at knowledge-based events and was voted Canada’s Private Sector Technology Leader by CATA. See more…