Techopia Live: AccelerateOTT taking 2019 pitchfest to 'next level'

An upcoming shot at $150,000 could represent more than just a major payday for a lucky Ottawa startup.

As organizers for the capital’s annual AccelerateOTT conference told Techopia Live this week, the sizeable pitchfest prize at this year’s entrepreneurial expo could be a stepping stone to scaling success.

Invest Ottawa, the city’s economic development agency, dropped the news last month that the annual pitchfest at this year’s AccelerateOTT conference in June will come with a $150,000 investment from Montreal-based Panache Ventures. The organization says it’s likely the largest prize ever put up at an Ottawa pitch competition.

Nick Quain, Invest Ottawa’s vice-president of venture development, told Techopia Live this week that the AccelerateOTT organizers had talked to stakeholders about how to take the excitement and energy around the conference’s regular pitchfest to the “next level.”

The big prize isn’t the only change at AccelerateOTT this year. To accommodate attendance demands, the conference is also moving from Lansdowne Park to a new downtown venue at the National Arts Centre.

A growing conference means bigger opportunities for pitching startups. While joking about the clich​é hockey-stick-growth chart common to most companies’ slide decks, Quain said many of the companies in the pitchfest this year will be further along the path to scale than in years past.

“Some of those hockey sticks – they’re going to be well on their way up it,” he said.

Before startups are given the chance to take the stage at AccelerateOTT, they’ll have to make it past a panel of judges at two pitch-in events, the first of which will be held at Bayview Yards on Thursday evening. In addition to Panache Ventures, other venture capital funds will be on hand for the preliminary pitches to check Ottawa’s promising firms.

Invest Ottawa co-chair Susan Richards told Techopia Live that while $150,000 could be a game-changing amount of cash for a startup, the attention that comes with that level of investment could be the real difference-maker.

“It’s always a good thing to win a pitchfest – that looks good to investors,” she said. “But to win a pitchfest for $150,000 – that makes eyebrows go up and people take note, and then they want in.”

As the managing partner of Techopia sponsor numbercrunch, Richards also shared some of her tips for software-as-a-service firms that might be pitching at the upcoming events. To hear her insights, watch the video above.