Startup hub OneEleven shuttering Ottawa office less than a year after opening

bradforsyth
Brad Forsyth, OneEleven Ottawa's managing director, wanted the accelerator to play a key role in the Ottawa startup pipeline. File photo

Less than a year after it launched a downtown accelerator aimed at taking local startups to “the next level,” Toronto-based OneEleven is closing its Ottawa office.

Sources confirmed to OBJ that the nine companies now operating out of OneEleven’s site at 66 Slater St. have been told they have until the end of July to find new homes and vacate the space.

According to tech news outlet BetaKit, the organization ​– which is backed by OMERS Ventures, the provincial government’s Ontario Centres of Excellence and Ryerson University – is also closing its office in the United Kingdom that opened to great fanfare earlier this year.

Sources said OneEleven has decided to focus on its original Toronto location. OMERS Ventures founder and former CEO John Ruffolo, a champion of OneEleven’s expansion plans, left the organization last year.

OneEleven officials did not respond to OBJ’s requests for comment. CEO Dean Hopkins told BetaKit earlier this week that the organization’s Toronto operation has “grown significantly” in the past two years and it wants to double down on its efforts there.

“Toronto is the fastest growing tech market in North America, so we’re focusing on supporting our community at home for now,” he said.

Launched in 2013, OneEleven now hosts more than 30 companies at its main office on Front Street in downtown Toronto. The organization provides mentorship, office space and other services to fledgling firms that have already received one or two rounds of VC funding, generally have between 10 and 30 employees and are poised for major growth.

Ottawa was OneEleven’s first expansion site. When the organization announced its decision to open an office in the nation’s capital last spring, it said it was the first step in a long-term plan to spread its reach across North America, Europe and Asia.

Hopkins, an Ottawa native who previously helmed Osprey Labs, told OBJ last April his hometown was a logical choice for OneEleven’s first foray outside Toronto.

“Ottawa has a history, a long legacy of entrepreneurship dating back to the very early days in tech,” he said. “When we looked at the markets, we said this was a great market for us to first expand into.”

OneEleven tapped veteran tech entrepreneur Brad Forsyth to head the Ottawa office. Forsyth, the founder of software firm Mxi Technologies, said at the time he hoped OneEleven would become part of a “feeder system” that would help graduates of incubators such as Invest Ottawa and L-Spark scale up to the “next level.”

“The idea is to get (companies) to that series-A, maybe series-B, and then they’re ready to roll,” he told OBJ last June. “We haven’t done as many (IPOs) as we should (in Ottawa), and I think that’s going to be one of the measures I’m going to be looking at.”

Startups currently ​leasing space at OneEleven’s Ottawa office include Mad Radish, a quick-service restaurant chain launched a couple of years ago by DavidsTea founder David Segal, online auto accessory retailer CanadaWheels ​– which recently placed eighth on OBJ’s 2019 list of the city’s fastest-growing companies ​– and Canopy Rivers, a cannabis investment firm backed by pot-producing giant Canopy Growth Corp.

OneEleven, which has two full-time employees in Ottawa, is now working with its tenants to find them alternative office space.

After announcing its move into Ottawa early last year, OneEleven doubled the size of its Toronto hub to 100,000 square feet and announced plans to expand to Vancouver, London, Berlin, Boston and other cities. OneEleven initially said it planned to open its West Coast location before the end of 2018, but that proposal never materialized.

The organization did launch its first European office in London in early 2019, but that venture reportedly failed to gain traction with startups in the British capital’s ultra-competitive co-working environment.