"I found that OCRI was very, very stiff," Mr. Finkelstein said. "They weren't open to change, they weren't open to looking past Kanata, and it was all about what we used to do, not what we're going to do."
But on Tuesday, Mr. Finkelstein - dressed in jeans and a sweater, in contrast to the sea of suits around him - stood at a podium at Invest Ottawa's new offices, helping Mr. Lazenby officially launch the rebranded and refocused economic development organization.
Among the new initiatives being rolled out by Invest Ottawa is a business incubator that will provide space and mentors to dozens of early-stage entrepreneurs. Mr. Finkelstein called the program a step in the right direction to making the agency accessible to and interested in the next generation of tech leaders.
Speaking to a crowd of around 500 attendees, Mr. Finkelstein he was glad to see the diversity of people interested in Ottawa entrepreneurship.
"Not all of you are white, and not all of you are old," he said. "That's a good thing."
As Invest Ottawa unveiled its new logo, a trio of green bars ascending in height designed to look like the Peace Tower, Mr. Lazenby outlined the rebranding and "total rejuvenation" of Invest Ottawa.
Its two major goals will be to continue reminding people that Ottawa is full of entrepreneurs and innovators, and to address the shortage of equity capital in Ottawa. Mr. Lazenby said he is currently working on establishing a $25-million fund with local investors willing to write cheques and invest in local talent.
Touting itself as a "one-stop-shop for businesses," Invest Ottawa will accept any business that graces its doorway.
But a barber shop owner will be treated differently than someone developing medical equipment that could change the world, Mr. Lazenby said.
"Nobody is going to get turned away, but not everybody gets a full meal," he said.
Ninety per cent of Invest Ottawa's effort and energy will be directed into high-growth options, and the focus will remain on knowledge-based industries.
"You've got some (intellectual property) that is valuable, you want to sell it to the world? We're your guy," he said.
The launch event included trade show-style booths representing some of the almost 2,000 businesses that have worked with OCRI in the past.
One such company, called Mgestyk Technologies, offers 3-D motion-sensitive cameras that allow users to control a computer simply by moving their hands around.
Bogdan Ionescu, vice-president of engineering, said he was glad to hear of the steps Invest Ottawa is taking to reestablish itself within Ottawa, but hopes it addresses the most important issue facing entrepreneurs.
"Funding," he said. "Help us with funding. The other things are important - know-how, networking, but in the end ... where is the money?"
Mr. Ionescu added that in order to put Ottawa back on the map after the tech bubble burst more than a decade ago, investors need to put money in for businesses to put something out.
"It's like karma," he said. "What goes around comes around."
As for Mr. Finkelstein, he has offered his support to Invest Ottawa as an advisor and mentor for businesses in the incubator for a full year, and said he is hopeful Invest Ottawa will deliver on all of its promises.
"You can be assured that if they don't, I'm going to be very vocal about my disappointment," he said.