A (Sales)force to be reckoned with: Software giant signs on as sponsor of new Kanata meeting hub

Hub350
Hub350 is slated to open this summer at 350 Legget Dr. in Kanata. Image courtesy Kanata North Business Association

Global software powerhouse Salesforce has signed on as an anchor sponsor for a new meeting and events hub in Kanata North ​– an agreement local tech leaders hope will set the stage for more Silicon Valley giants to establish or expand their presence in the region.

One of the world’s biggest software firms, San Francisco-based Salesforce makes tools that help companies manage their relationships with other customers. It employs more than 50,000 people worldwide and has offices in dozens of cities, including Toronto and Vancouver. 

But the software-as-a-service juggernaut has never had a footprint in the National Capital Region. While Salesforce isn’t establishing a physical office in the city just yet, Kanata North’s boosters believe the recently announced three-year sponsorship agreement sends a signal that the west-end tech district is the place to be for plucky startups and well-established industry leaders alike.

“When we were looking at an anchor (sponsor) ... it was really important for us to attract a company that wasn’t in the park today that was as big and bold and successful as they could be,” said Victoria McGlone, chief operating officer at the Kanata North Business Association. 

"This is big Silicon Valley giants looking at this little gem of a tech park in Ottawa, Canada and saying, ‘I want to be there.’"

“This (partnership) … just elevates us even more onto that global stage. This is big Silicon Valley giants looking at this little gem of a tech park in Ottawa, Canada and saying, ‘I want to be there.’ For us, that’s so monumental.”

McGlone wouldn’t disclose financial details of the arrangement, saying only it involves a “significant” investment from Salesforce. 

Under the deal, the software maker will be featured prominently in marketing efforts to promote the KNBA’s new Hub350, a 12,000-square-foot facility in Mitel’s former headquarters at 350 Legget Dr. that is slated to open this summer. 

The company will also offer seminars for KNBA members at the space. In addition, Salesforce executives and officials from the business association will launch a new leadership council for chief information officers and chief technology officers at Kanata-based firms.

McGlone said the agreement is the “first of many” sponsorship deals in the pipeline for Hub350. Others will include partners from academia and the financial sector as well as tech, she added.

Pitch rooms, outdoor events space

Designed by Ottawa architect Andrew Reeves’s Linebox Studio – the company behind trendy workspaces such as Shopify’s former Elgin Street headquarters – Hub350 is being billed as a “state-of-the-art global technology centre.” 

The new site will feature open-concept meeting rooms as well as smaller private offices and auditoriums with stadium-style seating where founders can pitch their businesses to potential investors. Other amenities, including an in-house bistro, bar and cafeteria as well as outdoor events space, are expected to be added over time.

“We’re expecting it to be a very busy, high-traffic centre,” McGlone said.

“It emulates what happens in Silicon Valley when you have companies surrounded by venture capital and finance (as well as) universities just pumping in talent. It becomes this self-sustaining ecosystem, and Salesforce bought into that very early in the discussions, because they’ve obviously lived it in Silicon Valley.”

The KNBA is relocating its office to the new site, and Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business is setting up meeting space in the facility with an eye to potentially hosting classes and seminars at the hub.

McGlone said it’s no coincidence that Hub350 is housed in the former home of one of Kanata’s pioneering tech enterprises.

“It couldn’t go anywhere else,” she said. “The idea of being able to bring history along as we open this brand-new really cool space has resonated very well.”