Ottawa building SaaS reputation

L-Spark might be the first to notice it: Ottawa could be on its way to becoming a hub for software-as-a-service startups.

Leo Lax, the managing director of the Kanata-based accelerator, says the decision to focus on SaaS companies was a direct result of being in Ottawa.

“We have an abundance, a really rich group of mentors, who are experts in enterprise software,” he says. “It was a natural choice for us to say, ‘Let’s take advantage of the natural intellectual capital we have right here in Ottawa and build on that.’”

Years ago, Ottawa made a name for itself in the telecommunications industry. Mr. Lax is among those who believe SaaS is the new telecom.

“We have all of the ingredients that require creation of such a major cluster,” he says. “We have the entrepreneurial talent that’s coming out of universities and colleges in the area. We have anchor tenants, global corporations that are here in Ottawa such as IBM, Mitel and others.”

Steve Cody, founder of local startup the Better Software Company, says he believes Ottawa is ideally suited to be a leader in the SaaS space.

He credits Shopify, which recently launched a hugely successful IPO on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges, for pushing the city into the forefront of the field.

“I think we have the perfect environment for SaaS startups,” he says. “I think we have huge competitive advantages, and Shopify has really led the way. They opened the doors for everyone else. They gave us credibility, that’s for sure, in North America.”

While Mr. Lax says Ottawa is still a few years away from being a dominant enterprise software hub, the process is well underway.

“We are a strong believer in the cluster that we are hoping to build in Ottawa,” he says. “In order to do that, our entire community of technology players, investors, partners, service providers should come together to make sure that our community becomes stronger in a safe and comfortable environment for our entrepreneurs.”