Immigrant entrepreneurs honoured at TiECon Canada in Ottawa

City officials recently paid tribute to the community impact and contributions of four local businesspeople with roots outside of Canada.

TAG HR’s Seema Aurora, the Cupcake Lounge’s Claudia Arizmendi, Alvaro Pombo of ProntoForms and Aydin Mirzaee, co-founder of Fluidware, were all recipients of the 2016 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards. The honours were given out at the annual TiECon Canada conference on Friday.

Mayor Jim Watson, who was on hand to distribute the awards at the Brookstreet Hotel, said in a statement that Ottawa’s immigrant entrepreneurs are worthy of recognition for their contributions.

“They add value to our city in many unique ways, from the development of innovative technologies to the creation of new jobs and the generation of domestic and global partnerships that strengthen our local economy,” he said.

Ms. Aurora was born in Budapest, Hungary, and is the founder of TAG HR, a company she has grown from two employees to 45 over the past 25 years. The company specializes in IT and professional staffing, and counts the federal government among its customer base.

Born in Mexico but a graduate of Algonquin College, Ms. Arizmendi has been baking cupcakes for more than 20 years. As the owner and operator of the Cupcake Lounge, she employs more than 100 people and supports multiple local charities.

Mr. Pombo has been well-traveled in his development as an academic and entrepreneur, holding degrees from universities in his native Colombia, the United States and from the University of Ottawa. Prior to founding ProntoForms, a mobile workflow platform, he was chief information officer and vice-president of global information technology for the carrier internetworking division at Alcatel-Lucent.

Mr. Pombo said he was "honoured" to be chosen, but was quick to share the credit.

"This award isn't about me. It reflects this city and this country, where someone with an accent and no connections can reach as high as one aims to," he said in a statement. "I came from Colombia with the dream of building my life and an international technology company. Twenty-five winters later, those dreams have come through, and many more are still in the making thanks to the openness of this country.”

ProntoForms was named one of the Ottawa Business Journal’s fastest growing companies in 2016.

Mr. Mirzaee, originally from Iran, co-founded Fluidware in 2008 before a successful acquisition by SurveyMonkey two years ago. He currently serves as an advisor to the upcoming SaaS North conference, and is in the midst of planning his next entrepreneurial move.

This is the fifth year of Ottawa’s Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards. The awards were once again distributed at TiECon Canada, an event put on by the local TiE Ottawa chapter, which attracts entrepreneurs from across North America. The acronym stands for The Indus Entrepreneur, which is a global organization aimed at fostering entrepreneurship.