Techopia plans to level up in 2022 with new partner EY

OBJ has big plans at Techopia in 2022. In this episode, OBJ chats with the managing partner of EY in Ottawa, Warren Tomlin, to reveal some plans for the future with this new partner. This is an edited transcript of that conversation.

OBJ: Roll back the sands of time here, Warren. Going back to the 1990s. One of the cool things about you in the Ottawa tech industry is that you worked at Corel as a product manager of CorelDraw, back in the heyday. Tell us about that.

WT: Yes, I think it influences what we're going to talk about shortly. We're all given these career-defining opportunities. In the mid- to late nineties I was at Corel. What an incredible opportunity and company. I was given the opportunity to be the product manager of Draw, and I learned so many things in such an accelerated time that I'm thankful for because it's really enabled me to do all the things I want to do with my career so far.

OBJ: We’re not going to dwell too much on Corel, but those were incredible days way back when, like the heyday of the company, and CorelDraw was a truly global leading product, wasn't it?

WT: For sure. And, it's not just Canada, but Ottawa specifically there's just been so many incredible tech companies coming out of Ottawa. I don't even want to name them all because you invariably miss somebody, but it would be hard to not mention Corel as one of the early pioneers that put Ottawa on the map and started to help Ottawa achieve that Silicon Valley North mantra that we had in the late ‘90s.

OBJ: So true. Then your career path continued to all sorts of great achievements. You were the president of an interactive digital agency in Ottawa and then you became CIO of IBM.

WT: To use an IBM phrase, I've been really fortunate to reinvent myself and my skills the whole way along. Technologies come and go all the time, but what doesn't change is the need for organizations to remain relevant. That was at the forefront of reinventing experiences for us as consumers, with advertisers and at IBM as chief innovation officer there. It was equally as incredible to figure out how you take this elixir of amazing technologies and analytics and how do we combine them into something. That really changes the way that we live, work and play. And so they both were incredible opportunities.

OBJ: So you're bringing all of this experience to the table, where you occupy the position of managing partner of EY in Ottawa. I want to turn our attention back to the city and its local tech scene. What are some of your observations on what's happening in Ottawa's local tech scene?

WT: I think the short answer is, I don't know. If we go back to that Corel example, there were a lot of companies, and it was a very, very exciting time to be in tech. There are great technology companies in Ottawa. I just don't know that we hear about all of them beyond the headlines of the few. So how can we get the tech stars we have here doing incredible things globally and the next generation of those stars and put them together? That's in part why I think we're talking today, Michael. How do we not just benchmark all of these but how do we help these incredible tech companies we have in what was called Silicon Valley North not so long ago and bring it forward in a hopefully exciting way.

OBJ: Well, that is the perfect segue. The news we are sharing is that EY will be coming on board as a partner with Techopia in 2022 and beyond. We're looking to level up the project and deal with some of the issues you dealt with there. So, Techopia is providing that kind of day-to-day reporting, but I think we are in a bit of a different environment these days where there aren't so many established flagships. We know of a few big ones in town and they're well known, but it's really bringing a little bit more exposure and understanding about that next generation of tech firms. What are some of your thoughts on us working together and what we're seeking to achieve here, Warren?

WT: My sense is that social platforms and the internet have in some ways made startups’ lives easier by giving them access to customers, giving them ways to market and promote themselves in ways that weren't possible even 20 years ago. That said, that creates a lot of noise for them to navigate through. My hope is working with OBJ and building on the great work that Techopia has done to date is how we can figure out the best way to give these really incredible technologies and startups access to perhaps more capital and larger markets and help them break through the noise to get to the next level. And some of that will be simply through channels like this, that we're on today. It’s the first step in that journey of bringing that Silicon Valley North swagger back to Ottawa.

OBJ: This is almost like a bit of an open invitation. If you're one of those tech leaders in Ottawa, to connect with Techopia and EY, come to some hopefully face-to-face in-person events at your beautiful space and start that discussion and start building, as you said, a little bit more of a strategy and a plan. So listen, Warren, I want to to thank you very much for working with us. We're very excited to see what this project brings. We've teased elements of it but certainly there's more news to come. So thanks for joining us today, Warren. Appreciate your support and all the colleagues at EY.

WT: Thanks to you, Michael, and OBJ and all the great work you do in the city. And let's see if we can work together to help bring that oxygen back to Ottawa.

Techopia is going to send out some invitations to key tech sector leaders to join us in reshaping how Techopia will look, building momentum and, as Tomlin said, “adding more oxygen to the technology ecosystem.”