Veteran tech leader Hannah retiring after two decades at helm of software firms Vocantas and Pronexus

Gary Hannah
Gary Hannah is retiring after nearly two decades as CEO of Ottawa software firms Vocantas and Pronexus. Photo courtesy Gary Hannah

A prominent Ottawa tech executive is stepping away from the industry after two firms he led for more than 20 years were sold to a Quebec company. 

Gary Hannah, who served as CEO of software makers Vocantas and Pronexus since 2003, says he’s opted to retire following Montreal-based Valsoft’s acquisition of the companies in mid-October. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The 30-year tech veteran is perhaps best-known for being chair of the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation, the predecessor of Invest Ottawa, in the early 2000s. Among his other prominent roles was a four-year stint as vice-president of 1990s tech powerhouse JetForm.

Hannah says he plans to travel the world “alphabetically” starting with Africa, Amsterdam and Arizona once COVID-related restrictions ease, adding he’s already turned down several offers to join corporate boards and assume senior management roles at other companies.

“I think I’ll give it a year to see if I can get bored,” the Regina native told OBJ with a chuckle.

Hannah said more than a dozen prospective buyers had kicked Vocantas’s tires over the past couple of years. 

The company, which was launched 18 years ago to makes software that helps workers quickly and seamlessly switch shifts and report absences to employers, has posted annual revenue growth of more than 30 per cent in recent years. 

Customers include Ford

Vocantas’ platform uses analytics to ensure that employees who switch shifts with their colleagues are properly qualified, have had adequate rest and meet other key criteria such as seniority. Its clients, most of which are in health care and manufacturing, include Ford and the Ottawa Hospital.

Founded in 1994, Pronexus specializes in software that underpins the Vocantas platform, automatically routing employees to the proper supervisor when they call to say they can’t make it to work.

After turning down previous potential suitors, Hannah said he was swayed by Valsoft’s pledge to keep the firms in Ottawa and retain all 46 employees.

“We didn’t need to sell the companies, and that’s a nice position to be in,” he said, noting both Vocantas and Pronexus are profitable. “It really was 100 per cent about the right fit as far as the people and keeping the technology here in Ottawa.”

Valsoft has bought more than 50 software companies since it was founded in 2015. Hannah says the wide variety of organizations under its umbrella will open up new customer verticals and geographic markets for Vocantas and Pronexus.

“Ottawa has a lot of really good technology (talent) in this space, so it’s kind of nice that you get somebody who’s going to keep you here and grow you here,” he explained.