Techopia Live: Vallée and Boulanger reflect on 20 years of Pythian, Macadamian and Ottawa tech

Two Ottawa execs reflected on their firms’ 20-year anniversaries on Techopia Live this week. Founders Paul Vallée and Fred Boulanger took the orange seat to talk about how Pythian and Macadamian have changed over two decades, and how the Ottawa scene has changed around them.

“The Pythian of today is nothing like the Pythian of the late ’90s,” Vallée told Techopia Live.

The firm started in the 1990s entirely focused on the burgeoning New York market. Today, the now-global firm has passed 400 employees and is finding most of its growth in Europe.

Recently, Pythian’s European headquarters moved to London and has even partnered with Google to host its “Love Your Data” conference. Vallée says emerging tensions between the value of using big data to grow businesses and the rights of private data holders have made the continent an exciting market to be in.

“Data in Europe right now is all the rage,” he says.

The firm has shifted its offerings to what it calls “analytics-as-a-service.” With the rise of software-as-a-service, companies often have data stored in disparate, off-site servers. Pythian provides a platform that takes data from a variety of service providers from servers all over the world and integrates it with a company’s internal records and public data sources.

Playing off the sound of saying AaaS aloud, Vallée says the firm named its offering “kick.”

“And it is kick-ass. We’re very proud of it.”

Boulanger says Macadamian has pivoted significantly over the past 20 years as well. In 2011, the software firm focusing on user-interface solutions pivoted to focus exclusively on the health-care industry, which Boulanger says is having its “IT moment.”

New technologies, especially the digitization of patient records, have enabled new services and avenues for collaboration between clinics, hospitals and special care providers.

Boulanger says he was surprised by the tech opportunities in health care, but that his firm has found a renewed purpose in the field.

“I thought doctors and nurses were responsible for helping people in health care,” he told Techopia LIve. “Now, IT is taking such a greater role in this space that we get to play in it. It’s why we wake up every day now.”

Ottawa, 20 years on

Vallée and Boulanger both see a marked difference in Ottawa’s tech ecosystem than when they first got started.

Vallée sees a much more inclusive space where newcomers are welcome rather than turned away. He says that 20 years ago, firms such as Nortel and JDS Uniphase dominated the local sector and it was difficult to meet people, make connections and enter the space.

“It was very much an exclusive club in terms of being in the tech community at that time.”

Boulanger says there are many more resources available today than back then. Organizations and networking events offer a variety of ways to make the necessary connections to build a startup in Ottawa.

“Starting a company has never been, in my mind, easier than it is today. … We have great places here in town, accelerators as well as Invest Ottawa where mentorship and guidance can be provided for people who don’t know how to go about it,” he says.

Twenty years on, Vallée sees many high-potential startups that could be the next Macadamian or Pythian.

“The city is full of saplings now, and the fruit is yet to come.”