AccelerateOTT will shift farther downtown from its traditional home at Lansdowne Park’s Horticulture Building to the National Arts Centre on Elgin Street when the annual entrepreneurship conference returns in June.
With AccelerateOTT entering its eighth year, organizer Invest Ottawa opted for a change in venue to take the event to the “next level,” says Nick Quain, the economic development agency’s vice-president of venture development.
The annual conference, which brings together tech leaders, entrepreneurs and investors from across Ottawa and North America, is often a sell-out event – more than 500 people crammed the Lansdowne venue in 2018, according to Invest Ottawa figures. Quain says the organizing team has been looking for a space with higher capacity for a few years, but has been hesitant in the past to make the jump from the Horticulture Building.
“AccelerateOTT is kind of synonymous with Lansdowne, with the Horticulture Building, and that brand has evolved around that building. We had a lot of pause,” he says.
The old venue’s open design had led to complaints in that past when attendees focused on networking would carry on during talks, occasionally drowning out or distracting on-stage speakers. Last year Invest Ottawa introduced an outdoor tent featuring a startup expo to introduce the organization's accelerator companies to the community and give attendees a dedicated space to connect.
Quain says the positive response to the expo will see AccelerateOTT build it out bigger at the NAC, which has both more capacity and variety in its space.
Invest Ottawa also saw an opportunity to attract more downtown startups to the event by bringing AccelerateOTT closer to the core. Shopify’s just across the street from the NAC, after all, and firms such as SurveyMonkey and Klipfolio recently moved in down the road.
“Downtown is changing in Ottawa,” Quain says. “You've got a lot of tech startups downtown and and it just felt like, hey, this is something if we're going to take this to the next level, let's try it in a different location.”
While the Shaw Centre probably springs to mind for most conference-goers in Ottawa’s downtown, Quain says the NAC had several elements that could foster the same atmosphere AccelerateOTT has cultivated at Lansdowne. Invest Ottawa did consider Shaw Centre as a strong option, but features such as the NAC’s abundance of natural light reminded organizers of the bright vibes from the Horticulture Building – a distinctly “unconference-like” setting the team wanted to continue, Quain says.
AccelerateOTT returns to Ottawa at the NAC on June 11.