Invest Ottawa hires Microsoft executive Michael Tremblay as CEO

Invest Ottawa CEO Michael Tremblay
Incoming Invest Ottawa CEO Michael Tremblay

An Ottawa native with decades of executive experience at multinational technology companies has been hired to head up the city’s lead economic development agency.

Michael Tremblay’s appointment as president and CEO of Invest Ottawa was announced to staff earlier this afternoon and ends a 10-month search to replace the organization’s former chief executive, Bruce Lazenby.

Mr. Tremblay will start his new job on March 2 and said part of the inspiration to head Invest Ottawa came last fall when he turned 55.

“As you get a little older, you start thinking, ‘What can I do to really contribute to the place (where) I was brought up?,’” he said.

“It is a really good time for me to dig in and do what I can to develop the economy of Ottawa.”

Mr. Tremblay said he got his start in tech by selling semiconductors on March Road in the early 1980s before becoming a vice-president at Digital Equipment Corp.

In the 1990s, he joined EDS Systemhouse as an executive vice-president before stints at JDSU, Fujitsu Canada and SAP.

Mr. Tremblay spent the last decade as a vice-president at Microsoft Canada overseeing the software giant’s public sector accounts in this country.

He’s served on several local committees, including the board of governors of Algonquin College alongside the school’s president, Cheryl Jensen, who was also part of the Invest Ottawa hiring committee that selected Mr. Tremblay.

Mr. Tremblay’s appointment comes as Invest Ottawa settles into its new home at the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards and, in many ways, into its new role in the city’s business community following several years of significant structural changes.

In the five years under Mr. Lazenby, the organization changed its name, moved offices twice and significantly overhauled its leadership team by replacing several long-serving managers and bolstering its board of directors with appointments such as Mayor Jim Watson as co-chair.

Invest Ottawa has also increased its services for entrepreneurs and opened its own startup incubation space.

At first glance, Invest Ottawa’s recent focus on early stage stage companies may seem somewhat at odds with Mr. Tremblay’s experience over the last 15 years in selling software for large multinational corporations to government clients.

However, Mr. Tremblay countered this perception by saying he has a long history of working with small businesses to support public-sector clients.

“Microsoft does almost all of its business through partners,” he said, adding that in many cases small business partners are Microsoft’s “last mile of innovation.”

Some members of the selection committee said Mr. Tremblay’s background will benefit startups in the city.

"With Michael's expertise in building and scaling businesses, coupled with the team in place today at Invest Ottawa, the entrepreneurial community will benefit significantly,” said Jason Flick, the co-founder and CEO of You.i TV, in a statement.

Mr. Tremblay also called Invest Ottawa “a mature organization” with a mandate to not only support startups, but also attract foreign investment, venture capital, help boost R&D and work with various levels of government.

He says he plans to spend his first 90 days at Invest Ottawa “listening carefully” and gaining input from individuals both within and outside the organization before drafting a work plan.

In general, he said he wants Invest Ottawa to be predictable and reliable, staffed with subject-matter experts and strongly connected to the local community and beyond.

“I want to have an impact, and I want to have an impact fast,” he said.