Recap: Ottawa’s business champions fêted at BOBs awards gala

Video, highlights and reactions from Ottawa's premier business event of the year

10 p.m.: John Ruddy reflects on a lifetime of achievements

To close the evening, Trinity Group founder John Ruddy took to the podium to reflect on his career and pay tribute to the community.

A pioneer of big-box retail development in Canada, Trinity has built properties from the Maritimes to Alberta. When Mr. Ruddy sensed the market for big-box stores was reaching its saturation point, he began shifting Trinity’s focus to mixed-use projects such as Lansdowne Park.

Today, the firm is at the forefront of a new wave of transit-oriented development with its ambitious plans for a trio of soaring highrises at Bayview Station near the intersection of the Trillium and Confederation LRT lines.

Despite the massive scale of his real estate projects, Mr. Ruddy said some of the most important things he’s been involved with over his career are the smallest projects – specifically, the individual experiences with his charitable involvement.

“What’s really important in our community is the people,” says Mr. Ruddy.

9:45 p.m. update: Lifetime Achievement Award

Bernie Ashe, the CEO of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, presented this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award alongside EY Ottawa’s Ian Sherman.

“His context is community,” says Mr. Ashe. While John Ruddy has made a huge contribution to sports in Ottawa, he has also dedicated himself to improving the arts, healthcare and education in the city.

John Ruddy
2017 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient John Ruddy. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

“John brings a sharp intellect, wisdom and respect to everything he does and everyone he knows,” says Mr. Ashe.

John Ruddy is this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

9:35 p.m. update: Newsmaker of the Year

Shirley Westeinde, past Lifetime Achievement Award recipient helped to present the award recognizing the 2017 Newsmaker. This award recognizes an Ottawa business that made major waves not only in the city, but around the world.

Blackberry QNX: Newsmaker of the Year

At the end of 2016, Blackberry QNX announced a new $100-million “innovation centre” in Kanata dedicated to developing software for connected and self-driving vehicles. The centre is expected to create up to 650 jobs in the coming years.

An Blackberry QNX autonomous vehicle drives through Kanata.

The Kanata North Business Association subsequently held an Autonomous Vehicles Summit in January to discuss the best ways forward for the city and its industry partners. Then Ford Motor Co., a partner of Blackberry QNX, announced in March it would spend $337.9 million to create an Ottawa Research and Engineering Centre focused on developing autonomous driving technology.

9:25 p.m. update: Kanata North #SeriousTechLivesHere

Jenna Sudds, former chair of the Kanata North Business Association and a mainstay of Kanata’s business community, announced the recipients for the Kanata North Company and Team of the Year awards.

These awards recognize exceptional performance within the west Ottawa neighbourhood. The Kanata North Research Park is home to approximately  500 businesses and 20,000 employees, making it the largest tech park in the country.

ThinkWrap Commerce: Kanata North Company of the Year

Top brands turn to Thinkwrap as their trusted e-commerce system integration partner when they want to grow revenue, increase online and in-store traffic, improve customer experience, grow a loyal customer base, and achieve operational efficiencies and higher profits.

ThinkWrap’s thought leadership in this market space has earned it a steady climb up the charts – it has ascended the Branham300 list of Top Tech Companies in Canada for eight years running. Revenues continue to grow an average of 30 per cent year over year with increased profitability. The team has doubled in size over the past three years.

Solink: Kanata North Team of the Year

Solink uses surveillance video as a rich source of data to empower brick and mortar businesses to reinvent their entire operations. The company narrows information from thousands of hours of video to a consumable subset that a user can use to answer important questions.

Solink's Cory Michalyshyn and Norm Wong.
Solink's Cory Michalyshyn and Norm Wong.

Thanks to clients like A&W, Tim Hortons and Axcess Financial, Solink grew recurring monthly revenues by a factor of four in 12 months. By focusing on efficiency and process improvement, Solink achieved this growth with only a 17 per cent increase in its team.

9:10 p.m. update: Best Performance

Mark Sutcliffe and Sandra Plagakis announced the recipients for the eight Best Performance awards across different industries, celebrating excellence in marketing, customer experience, exporting, social entrepreneurship, HR, co-op, sales and sustainability.

Ottawa 2017: Best Performance, Marketing

Ottawa 2017’s marketing team worked tirelessly to position Ottawa as the place for all Canadians to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation and create a positive reputation for the nation’s capital that will pay dividends for years to come.

A private organization supported by all three levels of government, Ottawa 2017 set itself some lofty goals: bring 1.75 million additional tourists to Ottawa in 2017, generate more than 2.5 million hotel room nights over the course of the year, stimulate hundreds of millions of dollars of new activity for the local and provincial economies, and boost the level of pride in the community among residents by 20 per cent from 2016 levels.

The year isn’t over yet, but all indications point to bullseyes across the board thanks to a coordinated marketing strategy that blended traditional and non-traditional media channels.

Food Services, University of Ottawa: Best Performance, Customer Experience

In 2010, MacLean’s annual university ranking gave the University of Ottawa a D for Food Services. This led to a roadmap for improvement with 26 recommendations and a new vision statement: “Eat, learn, live uOttawa. Connecting people in an inviting culinary destination.”

Twenty-five of those recommendations have been implemented and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Customer satisfaction scores have risen enough to put uOttawa’s Food Services on track to achieve “best in class.” Revenues have shot up by 144 per cent in less than a decade as more students chose to eat in the Dining Hall. This effort has extended beyond improving the quality, diversity and affordability of the menu. For students in residence (uOttawa has about 4,400), the dining hall is often a home away from home.

You.i TV: Best Performance, Export

You.i TV builds products that help media and entertainment companies deliver the best experiences for their customers on every screen.

Jason Flick
You.i TV chief executive Jason Flick

In its last fiscal year, You.i TV grew its exports as a percentage of total sales by 80 per cent thanks to engagements with Sony Crackle and Turner. The North American sales team has expanded across the U.S. with the addition of 14 staff. New partners are being trained in Columbia, Russia and Sweden. Heading into 2018, less than 10 per cent of You.i TV’s revenue will come from domestic sales.

Ottawa Tool Library: Best Performance, Social Entrepreneurship

From hand tools and power tools to garden tools and kitchen gadgets, the Ottawa Tool Library isn’t just a place where you can borrow what you need, you can learn to use it, too, through workshops and classes for all skill levels. There is even a Repair Café to get more life out of what you have. OTL is a place where makers of all stripes can come together to socialize and talk shop.

This social and environmental focus makes OTL different from the typical tool rental outlet. OTL nurtures community and creativity throughout the city, by installing libraries in public spaces and partnering with charitable organizations that also rely on the library for their projects, such as StopGap and Hidden Harvest.

Kinaxis: Best Performance, HR

Kinaxis is a longstanding provider of cloud-based supply change management solutions. Three years ago, the company went public and earned a place in the Magic Quadrant for business intelligence and analytics platforms from influential market research firm Gartner.

This sparked a new phase of growth of company, which put a fresh emphasis on managing talent. Over the past couple of years, Kinaxis has engaged in an “employee value proposition review” – a formal effort to understand why people join the company, why they stay and why they might leave. This insight has been used to shape the company’s branding and recruitment strategies.

Kinaxis: Best Performance, Co-op

Kinaxis has been frequently recognized as a Top Employer in the Ottawa area, but that alone isn’t enough to attract the best and brightest in a competitive labour market for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) talent. Kinaxis has a long history hiring co-op students from local academic institutions. This commitment continues to grow each year with its business.

The company believes in encouraging students to consider different career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Hiring students adds to the company culture and injects fresh thinking and new perspectives, along with knowledge of leading edge technology. It’s also a great way to partner with post-secondary institutions and brand the company with potential hires.

Giatec Scientific: Best Performance, Sales

Giatec has developed smart IoT-based technologies that use wireless sensors and mobile apps for real-time monitoring of concrete. From ensuring an optimal mix for long-lasting durability and performance, to assessing the condition of existing concrete infrastructure, Giatec gives contractors and engineers the reliable insight they need.

Giatec has averaged 100 per cent annual growth over the past seven years. It doubled revenues last year and is on track to double them again in its next fiscal. Such impressive growth is thanks to a big international push and an outbound marketing strategy that combined the best of the old and the new – email and old-fashioned cold-calling with new software and a growth-hacking campaign through social media.

Rainbow Foods/Brightside Capital: Best Performance, Sustainability

Since 1978, this family-owned retailer has continued to set the standard in the Ottawa area for natural and organic food products, as well as a comprehensive assortment of vitamins, supplements and other natural health products.

For its 60 full-time employees, Rainbow Foods offers a highly competitive health and dental benefits plan, and provides health and safety training above legally mandated requirements.

The company has also reduced its environmental footprint by cutting paper usage by 50 per cent, investing $20,000 into retrofits to reduce electricity consumption and switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Rainbow Foods also recently became the first private company in Ontario to be "Fair Trade designated."

9:00 p.m. update: Deals of the Year

Ian Sherman, the chair of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, spoke to the many great things the city’s business community has achieved through the chamber.

Then, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson took to the stage to present the Deal of the Year awards, alongside Dirk Bouwer of Perley-Robertson, HIll & McDougall LLP. These awards celebrate multimillion-dollar contracts, acquisitions, partnerships and major financing rounds.

Shopify: Technology Deal of the Year

Online and mobile retail is a complex and rapidly evolving market. Consumers now have so many paths to purchase –this demands partnerships across the industry ecosystem to give retailers the resources they need to succeed.

Shopify began 2017 with deals already in place with the sales channels of Facebook, Pinterest and Messenger. In January came a deal with Amazon that allows U.S. merchants to integrate an Amazon sales channel through their Shopify accounts.

In June, Shopify teamed up with Buzzfeed so U.S.-based merchants can reach hundreds of millions of potential customers through that platform – users can tag their products for use in the viral content site’s product campaigns. eBay followed in July – as of this fall, U.S.-based Shopify merchants can list and sell their products on eBay using their Shopify account. Then came Instagram in October. As with Buzzfeed and eBay, Shopify merchants will be able to tag products in their Instagram posts from their Shopify accounts – this allows consumers to tap on a product and buy it on the merchant’s checkout without ever leaving the Instagram app.

Ottawa 2017: Tourism Deal of the Year

For the Ottawa 2017 team, La Machine’s four-day run in late July represented a satisfying climax after a two-and-a-half-year effort to host what is arguably the largest and most complex theatrical production the city has ever seen.

Some 750,000 people flocked downtown to take in the spectacle. Guy Laflamme, executive director of Ottawa 2017, likened it having two extra Canada Day celebrations. The torrent of social media activity generated by the event included comments from downtown eateries that ran out of food and completely underestimated the floods of customers.

Assent Compliance - Finance Deal of the Year

Less than a year after it secured a Series A round of venture capital worth $20 million, Assent Compliance made headlines again with a Series B round worth $40 million in July.

Andrew Waitman
Assent Compliance CEO Andrew Waitman

According to CEO Andrew Waitman, no other Canadian tech firm has secured such a large combination of Series A and B rounds in such a short period of time. When he joined the 12-year-old company in 2014, it had 25 employees. The latest financing round is expected to help it boost its headcount to 325 within the next 12 to 18 months.

CBRE: Real Estate Deal of the Year

The final signatures hit the dotted line only a couple of months ago on the largest real estate deal in Ottawa’s history. A consortium of investors purchased the Constitution Square office complex on Albert Street downtown for $480 million. CBRE Ltd., the Canadian arm of the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, brokered the deal along with RBC.

Constitution Square
Constitution Square

The value of the deal is more than twice that of the previous record holder – the federal government’s purchase of the former Nortel campus on Carling Avenue for $208 million in 2010.

Mad Radish: Retail Deal of the Year

Nine years after he brought tea retailing to the masses with DavidsTea, entrepreneur David Segal has returned to his native Ottawa to do it all over again, this time with salad. Driven by the rightful conviction that many Canadians would like to find something healthier than burgers, nuggets and fries when they need to grab a quick meal, Segal has launched a new venture called Mad Radish.

Mad Radish founder David Segal
Mad Radish founder David Segal

Segal made additional headlines when he announced Mad Radish wouldn’t take cash, taking the lead on a trend toward cashless, digital transactions.

Canopy Growth: Global Markets Deal of the Year

The days are quickly ticking down to when pot becomes legal for general consumption in Canada. That paves the way for an explosion in consumables that include marijuana. To stay ahead of evolving consumer trends and market dynamics, Constellation Brands wants to cook up some marijuana-infused beverages for the Canadian market.


But it needs a quality source. At the end of October, Constellation and Canopy announced a $245-million deal for a 9.9 per cent ownership stake in Canopy. The news drove up Canopy’s share price by 20 per cent. The company finished October with a market cap of $2.77 billion.

8:45 p.m. update: #NextBigThingOTT Awards

These awards mark new Ottawa businesses that are making waves with innovation. While all three are based around exciting new technologies, the recipients share another common thread in their commitment to improving day-to-day lives of their customers and the broader community. The awards were presented by Invest Ottawa’s Michael Tremblay and Tina Sarellas, the regional president of RBC.

The Growcer

The Growcer is a social enterprise led by CEO Corey Ellis and COO Alida Burke that manufactures containerized growing systems for remote food production to help address the issue of food security. These systems are designed to work in extreme conditions (like the Arctic) for consistent, year-round production of leafy greens, brassicas and herbs.

The Growcer's Corey Ellis
The Growcer's Corey Ellis

Shipping containers are retrofitted into plug-and-play hydroponic systems that allow for produce to be grown commercially anywhere and anytime throughout the year. Each Containerized Growing System can operate optimally in temperatures colder than -50 degrees Celsius.

MasterpieceVR (Brinx Software)

MasterpieceVR has developed what it calls the most intuitive and powerful virtual reality social 3D content creation platform in the world. CEO Jonathan Gagne and his team launched the premium version of the platform for creative professionals only a few months ago after almost three years of development and testing. A month later, they had 11,000 users.

Creative professionals can use natural digital sculpting and painting tools to rapidly create high-quality 3D content either individually or collaboratively in real time with colleagues located anywhere. Dynamic brushes and powerful sculpting tools allow users to build tangible objects, colourful environments and high-quality models.


Contextere’s vision is to take a “human-centric approach to the Industrial Internet of Things” with artificial intelligence that focuses on human performance.

Contextere's Gabe Batstone, left, and Carl Byers
Contextere's Gabe Batstone, left, and Carl Byers.

With Contextere, Fortune 1000 companies and their employees capture value through dramatic decreases in human error, equipment downtime and safety incidents. This is accomplished via an enterprise platform that delivers to individual workers a curated work instruction in real-time with context relevant to their personal experience, demographics, physical state, geography, environment and the people around them.

8:35 p.m.: Best New Businesses

Sampford Advisors

Sampford Advisors is a dedicated advisory firm for assisting mid-market Canadian tech companies navigate mergers or acquisitions. While larger companies can turn to a big financial institution or multinational professional services firm, these avenues are often not the right fit for a smaller firm, especially in high-tech.

Since January 2016, Sampford has grown to a team of six and expanded with a Toronto office without any external funding. In its first year of operation alone, the advisory closed some US$350 million in M&A transactions.

Collab Space

Complete with offices, boardrooms, an education room for larger groups, and optimized co-working spaces, Collab Space is not merely a place to conduct business, it’s a community culture built to connect entrepreneurs and mentors, conduct accessible workshops and seminars that encourage growth and diversification, and grow networks.

Profitable from day one and completely self-financed, Collab Space continues to expand its programs to help entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level and get the mentoring they need to beat the odds. The company adds about four members per week thanks to word of mouth and social media exposure as “the place to be” for Ottawa startups.


With a roster of virtual CFOs, controllers and bookkeepers available on demand, numbercrunch offers a fresh Goldilocks solution for startups, small businesses and even mid-sized companies.

Susan Richards
numbercruch co-founder Susan Richards

numbercrunch is self-financed and has been profitable since its inception in 2014, with revenue growth averaging 50 per cent a year. The number of local client companies is nearing 70. While its clients hail from a variety of market sectors, numbercrunch works heavily in the tech sector with unique accounting expertise in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model.

8:25 p.m.: Congratulating Kevin Ford

Calian Group employees, wearing custom t-shirts, joined CEO Kevin Ford on stage to celebrate their chief executive's award.

Calian staff

8:20 p.m. update: David Ross introduces the 2017 CEO of the Year

The 2016 CEO of the Year, David Ross, takes the stage to pay tribute to this year’s recipient, Calian Group chief executive Kevin Ford.

Kevin Ford
2017 CEO of the Year, Kevin Ford

Mr. Ross jokingly conceded that he was slightly disappointed that he didn’t get to hold onto the award for another year, but conceded that “he hears the next guy is pretty awesome.”

He ran down a few quick facts about Mr. Ford:

  • He joined Calian Group in 2010 and was appointed as CEO in April 2015;
  • Since then, Calian has bought five companies, including four Ottawa firms;
  • Calian’s share price has risen 60 per cent under his leadership;
  • He recently led the company to land the biggest contract in the company’s history;
  • He spearheaded the drive to create the Kanata North BIA;
  • And he’s coached hockey for 20 years.

8:15 p.m. update: We're underway

The awards portion of the evening is underway with our hosts Mark Sutcliffe and Sandra Plagakis:

7 p.m. update: Highlights from the red carpet

Missed the red carpet interviews? Watch the recap below:

With a record 740 people in attendance, there are many familiar faces from Ottawa's business community in attendance.

6:55 p.m. update: Ottawa 2017’s impact on the capital

It’s been an especially busy year for Guy Laflamme, the executive director of the Ottawa 2017 Bureau. The organization delivered some 200 local events this year to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary in the capital.

“For Ottawa, we definitely changed the image of the city,” Mr. Laflamme told OBJ’s Carlo Lombard on the red carpet. “We contributed to an increased level of pride and confidence of citizens and business leaders. We demonstrated that Ottawa could be the hub of the country, could deliver monumental, massive large-scale events like never before.”

6:45 p.m. update: Westin Ottawa marks milestone

The evening’s host – Westin Ottawa general manager Ross Meredith – is celebrating several milestones in 2017.

In addition to being “34 years young” this year, Ottawa’s largest hotel in June opened Twenty-Two, a floor-to-ceiling enclosed ballroom overlooking Parliament Hill.

6:15 update: Passing the torch

The 2016 CEO of the Year, David Ross, arrived at this year’s edition of the BOBs with an important job: to hand off the honour to this year’s recipient, Kevin Ford.

Mr. Ross described being named the 2016 CEO of the Year as “a huge honour” and “one of the highlights of my life.”

Here’s a link to the profile of Mr. Ross that OBJ published last year.

6:10 p.m. update: Honouring the best

The Westin Ottawa’s ballroom is starting to fill up with guests, some of whom are stopping to speak to OBJ’s Carlo Lombard on the red carpet.

That includes Shawn Hamilton and Nico Zentil of commercial real estate firm CBRE, which is being honoured this evening for brokering the sale of Constitution Square.

Mr. Hamilton paid tribute to Lifetime Achievement Award recipient John Ruddy, calling him “an innovator in retail” and “representing the best-in-class” in real estate.

3:30 p.m.

More than 740 people are expected at the Westin Ottawa tonight to honour the city’s top companies and corporate leaders at the premier business gala of the year.

If you missed your chance to buy a ticket to the Best Ottawa Business Awards (BOBs), fear not: OBJ will be covering the event live right here, starting at 5:30 p.m.

The celebrations started earlier in the week on social media, where the community is invited to post messages using the hashtag #OttBOBs.

OBJ will be on the red carpet, broadcasting live interviews with guests as they arrive. After dinner, we’ll be broadcasting speeches by CEO of the Year Kevin Ford and Lifetime Achievement Award recipient John Ruddy, as well as interviews with some of the honoured companies.

In between, we’ll be highlighting the achievements of some of this year’s recipients, including:

  • Assent Compliance
  • Blackberry QNX
  • Canopy Growth
  • CBRE
  • Collab Space
  • Contextere
  • Giatec Scientific
  • The Growcer
  • Kinaxis
  • Mad Radish
  • MasterpieceVR
  • numbercrunch
  • Ottawa 2017
  • Ottawa Tool Library
  • Rainbow Foods
  • Sampford Advisors
  • Shopify
  • Solink
  • Thinkwrap Commerce
  • uOttawa Food Services
  • Welch LLP
  • You.i TV

Messages of congratulations are already being delivered online and, in some cases, in person:

The BOBs are co-produced by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. The awards aim to recognize the most successful and innovative companies and business leaders who are driving economic growth and prosperity in the nation's capital.

Each year, more than 100 nominations are submitted and reviewed to determine which companies are deserving of recognition and praise for their accomplishments.

This year’s event will take place at the Westin Ottawa, with views overlooking Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal.

As we wait for this year’s celebrations to get underway, here is OBJ’s coverage of the 2016 edition of the BOBs, as well as video of the 2015 keynote address by Ottawa entrepreneur and Fluidware co-founder Aydin Mirzaee: