Techopia Live: Ottawa tech panel shares 2018 hopes at L-Spark’s Holiday Hustle

Before Techopia Live took a break for the holidays, the show crashed L-Spark’s Holiday Hustle gathering where a panel of Ottawa tech leaders reflected on the year that was and looked ahead to 2018 in front of our first live studio audience.

One participant with a notable 2017 was Jenna Sudds, who transitioned this year from her role as executive director of the Kanata North Business Association to head up the newly formed Chief Information Officer Strategy Council.

She was able to update Techopia Live on her work so far, which has included conducting research on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and the future of work. The hope is that with CIOs from the public and private sector in the same room, the council could develop Canadian standards for emerging tech that could give the country’s companies a leg up.

Kanata-based SaaS accelerator L-Spark knows a thing or two about giving companies a leg up. After three years in business, managing director Patrick White says the firm’s goal hasn’t changed: “To create … two globally-established, dominant companies. Another Mitel, another Newbridge, another Shopify,” he said.

What has changed is how they plan to get there. Much of that has been in terms of the companies the accelerator works with, White says, and ensuring they’re ready for the kind of grind-it-out growth L-Spark expects.

He added that geographically, the latest cohort is drawn mostly from beyond Ottawa – a reflection of its growing brand.

Mike Weider, CEO of Clearwater Clinical, talked about his excitement for Ottawa’s own brand. He says he was “old enough” to remember the telecom boom of the ’90s, and says he feels a similar buzz returning to the city around software.

“I’m glad to see Ottawa coming back on the map in a strong way,” he told Techopia Live.

The challenge, Weider said, is creating startups at scale. He believes with Shopify’s emergence, there’s new room for Canada to show off what our tech can do globally.

“It’s about creating world-class companies. I’m excited about our potential … in the years to come.”

Carrying over from her time with KNBIA, Sudds says she’s excited to see where Ottawa goes with autonomous vehicles in the new year. One of her 2017 highlights was Canada’s first on-road AV test in Kanata, and she believes companies such as BlackBerry QNX are poised to be leaders in the space going forward.

Not to hammer the horn on the car metaphor too hard, but White concluded by saying that now is the time to climb into the front seat of Canadian tech.

We hear a lot about the success of the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, but White says that in order for the capital to earn attention from the federal government and the rest of the world, 2018 needs to be the year Ottawa tech gets loud.

“We need to be that vocal piece,” he said.