Ottawa Changemakers: Iranian immigrant takes advantage of incubators, accelerators

Soheil Ataie left Iran for Canada in 2019. Photo provided
Editor's Note


Ottawa Changemakers is presented by Invest Ottawa and RBC Royal Bank.

Despite only having been in Canada for four years, Soheil Ataie is already a familiar face among the region’s entrepreneurship incubator programs. 

On top of completing Concordia University’s Quebec Scientific Entrepreneurship (QSE) program, Ataie is proud to have ticked ETS Montreal and Invest Ottawa programs off his incubator and accelerator checklist. 

“(I’ve had) very successful experiences and it helped me work on my product,” he says. “As an immigrant, it was very important for me to enter these programs.” 

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Ataie left Iran for Canada in 2019. “Financial and business opportunities are considerably limited back in my country,” Ataie says, adding that he needed cutting-edge technologies to develop his concepts. “I said, ‘OK, I can just change where I live. It’s gonna be a new experience (and) since I’m an adventurous person, let’s give it a try.” 

Once he made the decision to move, Ataie got a student visa and sailed through the immigration process. However, just a handful of months into his time in Canada, the pandemic hit. 

“A lot of things changed,” Ataie says. He was teaching English at the time to speakers of other languages but, thanks to COVID, classes were called off. That’s when Ataei decided to sign up for the QSE program.

For Ataie, the most important benefit of programs like QSE is “being accepted by the (local) tech community,” he says. “Trust needs to be established.” 

The other huge benefit is the development of a network, which “can be very difficult,” Ataie says, adding that he initially faced a cultural barrier between himself and fellow entrepreneurs. “It takes a lot of time and patience.”

Thanks to the incubator and accelerator programs, Ataie became familiar with how Canada’s startup ecosystem works. It has been particularly useful to him as he continues to build his software development business, Phoenix Orbit. 

Founded by Ataie in 2020, Phoenix Orbit provides AI services to help businesses boost their sales by allowing customers to find the item they need quickly. Without a service like Phoenix Orbit, a customer might not make a purchase, Ataie says, especially if the person is rushed. 

“This specific system makes sure that every single customer is connected to (their) product and the sale happens.”

Likening it to a “smaller ChatGPT,” Ataie says that a customer can tell the Phoenix Orbit bot what they’re looking for and the bot can instantaneously run through the store’s merchandise. 

“It’s going to be like mutual chatting, exchanging some text messages,” he says. 

Ataie has collaborated with retail businesses in the past. His inspiration for Phoenix Orbit came from seeing firsthand the number of missed sales opportunities. 

“Labour resources are very tight in Canada right now,” he says. “There aren’t enough associates and the real person might not remember all the details on their computer.” 

His business currently has five employees, including Ataie as CEO. He’s determined to keep growing the operation and has set the 2026 World Cup as a milestone.

The World Cup will be hosted by 16 cities across Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Canadian venues include Toronto and Vancouver.

“We’re expecting an influx of people coming this way,” Ataie says. “(Phoenix Orbit) will help businesses of any type to be prepared, there will be no missed opportunity.”

For Ataie, getting to where he is today would have been a lot harder without the incubator and accelerator programs he attended. His advice to other immigrant entrepreneurs? “Find your nearest local accelerator and start your work with them,” he says.

“Expect failure,” Ataie adds. “Failure is part of it. Your first idea is not supposed to be your best idea — pivot. You might want to cry, but it’s OK, don’t give up.” 

Ottawa Changemakers highlights entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences who are making a difference in the city.

Invest Ottawa is Ottawa’s lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries. Guided by a vision to be a globally recognized, innovative, inclusive and future-ready city, Invest Ottawa delivers programs and services that catalyze the growth and success of entrepreneurs and firms.

RBC Royal Bank is a global financial institution with a purpose-driven, principles-led approach to delivering leading performance and creating value for clients and communities.

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