Five Ottawa tech firms to watch in 2017

With employment surging and funding announcements already emerging, 2017 is shaping up to be another big year for Ottawa's tech sector.

Here are some of the startups and industry anchors to watch over the next 12 months:

QNX

The BlackBerry subsidiary made a major splash in the closing days of 2016, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined BlackBerry boss John Chen at QNX’s Kanata facilities to announce a new $100-million “innovation centre” dedicated to developing software for connected and self-driving vehicles.

Mr. Chen told reporters the new hub would lead to some 650 new Ottawa-based jobs in the coming years, on top of QNX’s current local headcount of about 400. The company is already a leader in the automotive software space, developing so-called infotainment systems for major manufacturers including Ford, General Motors, Hyundai and Volkswagen.

In recent years, QNX has expanded its efforts into the realm of autonomous vehicles through projects such as object recognition technology so that a car can read a stop sign, for example, or recognize an adjacent lane. Mr. Chen says the company will be “building an ecosystem” by involving its industry partners, such as the University of Waterloo, in the new autonomous vehicle centre, a move that is expected to further bolster employment in Ottawa’s tech sector.

You.i TV

A fixture on OBJ’s annual fastest-growing companies list, You.i TV continued to make waves in 2016 with a $12.1-million Series-B funding round backed by media giant Time Warner.

The Kanata-based company’s software allows developers to use a common code to build a variety of media user-interface platforms, and its growing customer list includes high-profile entities such as Turner Broadcasting’s TNT network, the Canadian Football League and Corus Entertainment. Now at nearly 200 employees, You.i is sure to keep grabbing its share of headlines in 2017.

Mitel

It wasn’t all wine and roses for Ottawa’s largest telecommunications technology company in 2016.

CEO Rich McBee’s bold bid to challenge industry front-runners Cisco and Microsoft with a proposed $1.96-billion friendly takeover of California-based Polycom collapsed when Mitel decided it wouldn’t match a rival offer from Siris Capital Group LLC.

The Ottawa firm rebounded with strong earnings performances fuelled by its surging cloud services sector.

In late December, Mitel sold its mobile operations to Massachusetts-based Xura for $360 million and said it planned to focus on unified cloud-based business communications systems. Still, few industry observers believe Mitel is going to sit on the acquisition sidelines for long. The Kanata company is always worth keeping a close eye on, and 2017 will be no exception.

PageCloud

The ByWard Market startup with the audacious mission of “fixing the Internet” closed 2016 with a splashy anniversary bash in November and the announcement of $5.4 million in series-A funding.

Founder Craig Fitzpatrick plans to use that cash to beef up the company’s marketing and development teams for what he hopes will be a momentum-building year in 2017.

PageCloud’s drag-and-drop web design software has quickly become a hit with seasoned developers and newbies alike – more than 15,000 users have already signed up. Still, Mr. Fitzpatrick thinks that’s just the beginning, and he anticipates the firm’s headcount will double to 40 by year’s end.

Ranzure Networks

A relatively new kid on the tech block, this Texas-based firm was also acquired by Xura in December

Ranzure, which has a significant R&D presence in Kanata, is developing super high-speed 5G network technology for radio access networks – the portions of wireless networks that connect devices such as computers and smartphones to the networks’ core and help form the backbone of the Internet of Things.

Founders Erik Boch, Pardeep Kohli and Ashok Khuntia are no strangers to the tech startup scene, having played key roles in firms such as DragonWave and Spatial Wireless. Mitel chairman Terry Matthews – a man who knows a thing or two about building market-leading companies – is a big fan of Ranzure, making this startup a must-watch enterprise in 2017.