Invest Ottawa hosts epic grad party at Bayview Yards

Trualta platform for family members caring for aging loved ones announced as 10th company to graduate from IO Accelerator program

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Last night was no regular Tuesday at Bayview Yards.  The city’s innovation hub was party central as some 400 people from the business community celebrated and cheered on our local entrepreneurs during Invest Ottawa’s graduation event.

Honoured were 10 local businesses that have graduated from Invest Ottawa’s flagship IO Accelerator program. Collectively, the companies have created 643 jobs and raised $365 million in capital. They also rank among the fastest growing or best places to work in Ottawa.

Attendees heard how the accelerator program was designed by Invest Ottawa, the city’s lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in the capital, as a way of providing more support to Ottawa’s startups.

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We realized we needed a more dedicated program that would lean in and that would support those companies that had potential to create more jobs,” said Nick Quain, vice president of venture development at Invest Ottawa.

He proudly praised the 10 companies that have graduated into its IO ScaleUp program. “They are amazing people, amazing business leaders. Pound for pound, our founders punch way above their weight class and are absolutely world-class.

“While we provided some support, leaned in where we could, make no bones about it — they were going to be successful, regardless.”

On hand was Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, who spoke highly about entrepreneurs and the work they do to push boundaries, challenge the norm, create a new future and change the world. “That kind of work is happening at Invest Ottawa every single day and these 10 companies are a fantastic example of that,” Sutcliffe said on stage.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe with Nick Quain, vice president of venture development for Invest Ottawa, at Bayview Yards for Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The nine alumni were: Rewind, Knak, Relogix, RVezy, GoFor, Noibu, Growcer, Fellow and Spiderwort. The founders did the whole graduation ceremony thing by putting on square tassel caps and walking across the stage. Quain presented the entrepreneurs with the gift of a framed map of Ottawa that included a red heart to indicate where Bayview Yards is located and a rocketship to show the founders where their respective business is.

The audience rose to its feet with warm applause when the wife and two sons of the late Brad Rollo, CEO and co-founder of GoFor, took to the stage. Rollo, 52, passed away in late 2021 from cancer. GoFor is a technology platform enabling the on-demand delivery of construction materials.

“It’s really nice to be invited,” his wife, Melina Craig, told OBJ earlier, at the reception. She briefly shared some of the fond memories she and her boys have of Bayview Yards, such as visiting with Brad over coffee in the café. It’s where he loved to sit out in the open and talk with others, when he wasn’t hard at work. “This is a really special place for us,” she said.

The ceremony culminated with the grand reveal of Trualta as the 10th tech company to graduate from the accelerator program. The online education platform provides health-care training tools for family members who are caring for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

From left, Jonathan Davis, founder and CEO of Trualta, on stage with Nick Quain during Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Founder and CEO Jonathan Davis spoke openly about his early days as an entrepreneur, trying to make his way in the challenging healthcare IT industry. He participated in a fireside chat with Rewind founder and CEO Mike Potter, who, by the way, is still growing out his hair after having dyed it yellow (ripe mango yellow, to be exact). The bold-hued hair was part of a fundraiser for the Ottawa Food Bank. It raised $12,000. His co-founder and CTO, James Ciesielski, opted to dye his beard the other company colour: electric purple.

Davis said the accelerator program has been “a game-changer” for Trualta. “It really has made a huge difference in our business and in my entrepreneurial journey.”

Growing the business hasn’t been easy, said Davis of all the “windshield time” spent driving around in his car and “pounding the pavement” to meet potential clients, many of whom are south of the border.

The entrepreneur initially bootstrapped his startup and then raised some funding. He now has a team of 37 – although he did have to pause to remember the most up-to-date number. Quipped Potter: “You know the company is growing when the CEO doesn’t know how many employees there are.”

Davis also touched on the research that was done at the University of Florida into the effects of Trualta’s program on caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The results were “very, very compelling,” he said of findings of improved outcomes, feelings of lower stress experienced by the caregivers, and of them being able to keep their loved ones living at home for longer.

On the topic of company values, he expressed his gratitude for recruiting the right people. “I think one thing we’re lucky about is that, because we are a pretty mission-driven organization, so many of the people on our team recognize that it’s a privilege to be able to help families who are in their toughest moments caring for people.”

The celebration was held in the Bayview Yard’s main event space, the RBC Foundry. It features new mural artwork that’s meant to promote Ottawa in an inclusive environment.  The art competition, held last fall by RBC and Invest Ottawa, was won by Akseniia Karpachova, a new immigrant from Ukraine. She sent most of her winnings back home, to support the war against Russia, while using the rest to support her son’s education in the region and to help him pursue his dream of playing in the NHL, the room heard.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the work,” said Michael Tremblay, president and CEO of Invest Ottawa.

Invest Ottawa also announced that night the new name of its co-working space, Studio7.

From left, Mike Potter, co-founder and CEO of Rewind, in a fireside chat with Jonathan Davis, CEO and founder of Trualta, at Bayview Yards for Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Some 400 people attended Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Brendan Farnand, co-founder and CCO of Knak, with co-founder and CEO Pierce Ujjainwalla, and co-founder and CTO Patrick Proulx at Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Amanda Speroni, Marissa DiNardo and Megan Maltby with Nick Quain, all part of the Invest Ottawa team, at its IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Some 400 people attended Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Alida Burke, co-founder and COO of Growcer, with co-founder and CEO Corey Ellis at Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Mike Potter, co-founder and CEO of Rewind, in a fireside chat with Jonathan Davis, CEO and founder of Trualta, at Bayview Yards for Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, virtual CFO Susan Richards, former board chair of Invest Ottawa, with Laura Mindorff, co-founder and COO of local software company Wicket, and Jeff Horne, co-founder and CEO of Wicket, at Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, TrackTik chief people officer Heidi Hauver (formerly part of the Invest Ottawa team), with Sonya Shorey, vice president of strategy, marketing and communications at Invest Ottawa, and Jennifer Francis, board chair of  the Capital Angel Network,  at Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Knak co-founder and CEO Pierce Ujjainwalla with Brendan Farnand, co-founder and CCO of Knak, and co-founder and CTO Patrick Proulx at Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Invest Ottawa president and CEO Michael Tremblay on stage with Nick Quain, vice president of venture development at Invest Ottawa,  at Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Fahd Alhattab, founder of Unicorn Labs, with Kailin Noivo, co-founder and president of Noibu, at Invest Ottawa’s  IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Some 400 people attended Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Mike Potter, co-founder and CEO of Rewind, with team members Matt Upton, director of product development, and software developer Daniel Laframboise, along with Trefor Munn-Venn, master coach with Rhapsody Strategies,  at Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Invest Ottawa president and CEO Michael Tremblay with Mayor Mark Sutcliffe at Bayview Yards for Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Some 400 people attended Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Melina Craig — the wife of the late Brad Rollo – on stage with sons Kieran Rollo, 10, and Declan Rollo, 12, as well as Nick Quain, vice president of venture development at Invest Ottawa, during the family’s participation in Invest Ottawa’s IO Accelerator Graduation Party, held Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at Bayview Yards. Photo by Caroline Phillips

caroline@obj.ca

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