Indigenous entrepreneurs travel to Ottawa for pitchfest at Lockheed Martin Canada

Six teams of Indigenous entrepreneurs travelled to Ottawa last week to compete in a Dragons’ Den-style pitch event for a $5,000 prize and the opportunity to work on upcoming projects with Lockheed Martin Canada.

Participants were drawn from the New Brunswick-based Joint Economic Development Initiative, an Indigenous non-profit that runs an accelerator and incubator among its programs.

Marc Diotte, Lockheed Martin Canada’s Ottawa-based senior subcontracts program manager, said the company had spoken to some of the entrepreneurs prior to last week’s event.

“We do have the intent of working with them,” said Diotte.

Specifically, the company is looking to include some of the firms in its naval shipbuilding work, which includes made-in-Ottawa technology.

The winner of last week’s event was Plato Testing, a firm that provides outsourced testing services for websites, mobile apps and enterprise software.

Chelsea Griffith, a software tester with Plato who travelled to Ottawa, has been with the company since it launched in 2015 and has watched it expand to four provinces and increase its workforce to more than 60 staff.

More growth is on the way, she said, adding that the firm is excited about the prospect of working with Lockheed Martin.

“We’re looking to expand in the next couple years – we’re in the scaling phase,” said Griffith.

“Lockheed is a great fit for us because the industry has a high degree of risk, where the software needs to function properly.”

Diotte said Plato’s pitch stood out because of the impact the organization has on First Nations communities as well as its potential for future growth.

The runners-up were A1 3D Printing  and Sacred Lands Eco Resort. While both operate in sectors without a direct connection to shipbuilding, JEDI officials said they still hoped that Lockheed Martin would see opportunities in working with the firms.

“Sacred Lands Eco Resort is a tourism company, but we would love to see the development of a relationship with Lockheed that would provide corporate retreats and cultural retreats,” said JEDI’s Mark Taylor. “They’ll have the opportunity to continue the relationships they’ve developed here today.”

— By Lara Vronick