Ottawa, the bold.
At first glance, that might strike you as somewhat incongruous, given the city’s typically subdued demeanour. Nevertheless, let that idea sink in for a few minutes, especially as you think about the region’s technology sector.
As longtime technology business observer Luc Lalande outlines in the pages of Techopia-EY Insights, Ottawa’s technology sector is celebrating a remarkable milestone ‒ its 75th anniversary. It’s not only longevity that should impress, it’s impact. The lead feature of the report demonstrates Ottawa’s global impact when it comes to innovation. Sure, there were challenges and setbacks over this period, but how many cities in North America can claim the technology prowess of this city? Look no further than the continued presence of global players such as Nokia, Ciena and Ericsson, which employ thousands of research and development workers long after the Nortel breakup. There is a reason they stayed.
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Ottawa isn’t simply a telecom hotspot these days. The sector has diversified and found success in many technology niches. The homegrown examples are obvious: Shopify, Kinaxis, Ross Video, Calian Group, Fullscript and others.
I’m not alone in calling for some boldness. In the “past, present and future” feature in the report, Kinaxis CEO John Sicard echoed the same sentiment. In his words: “I think we’re getting stronger. I really do. The evidence of successful technology companies, it’s omnipresent.”
Kyle Braatz of Fullscript touched on another key point when asked to contemplate the future of the tech sector in Ottawa. Entrepreneurs in this city have a remarkable track record at tackling tough technical problems. “Overall, I think the tech scene is really strong. There are some amazing companies being built in Ottawa. The best ones are product-oriented. They are building the best user experience. They’re not all smoke and mirrors and selling snake oil. They’re really going out and they’re building great products.”
Let’s not forget the city’s tech titan, Sir Terence Matthews. Terry has spent an entire career identifying the next wave of technology and pouncing on commercial opportunities. If there ever was an example of boldness, Matthews personifies it.
The leadership team at Shopify, notably Tobi Lukte and Harley Finklestein, are also demonstrating this boldness as they look to go upstream, targeting larger enterprises with their world-leading e-commerce technology. (EY is happy to partner with Shopify on this.)
As Ottawans, we have a challenge. We are very humble by nature. Sure, we step out sometimes, but it’s almost out of character.
We live in an age of accelerating disruption, with technology such as AI, life sciences, next-generation networks and autonomous vehicles. Why shouldn’t Ottawa, for example, lead the way in innovating public service delivery? We have the technical know-how and the drive to help build a better working world.
With this Techopia report, EY wants to breathe some oxygen into the local tech sector.
Let’s come together, identify the opportunities, take our turn at bat and swing for the fences.
Warren Tomlin is managing partner at EY.
Check out Techopia-EY Insights here: