Why I vol­un­teer with In­vest Ot­tawa

You.i TV co-founder Ja­son Flick says city’s suc­cess as an en­trepreneur­ship hub stems from a will­ing­ness to help young com­pa­nies get on their feet

Ottawa Business Journal - - COMMENTARY -

Once, while host­ing an Ac­cel­er­ateOTT event, I asked the au­di­ence to de­fine Ot­tawa’s busi­ness com­mu­nity in just a few words. I got a lot of se­ri­ous-look­ing faces but few an­swers.

Of those an­swers, I think the one from Tobi Lutke, the CEO of Shopify, char­ac­ter­ized Ot­tawa best: “We are the city be­hind all the things we use. We aren’t Face­book, but Shopify drives their e-com­merce. We didn’t build the in­ter­net, but it nearly all ran on Nor­tel hard­ware.”

I’ll take it fur­ther; we have no big me­dia com­pa­nies here, but You.i En­gine drives some of the world’s big­gest TV apps. We don’t build cars here, but Ki­naxis pow­ers the sys­tems that man­age the just-in-time parts. We don’t build fleets of planes, but MXI Tech­nolo­gies man­ages the main­te­nance of the world’s largest air­lines. And the list goes on and on.

I think that sen­ti­ment matches Ot­tawa’s hum­ble yet au­da­cious stance as a key player of the less showy busi­nessto-busi­ness (B2B) world, which in turn drives the more flashy busi­nessto-con­sumer (B2C) one. From my per­spec­tive, the evo­lu­tion of Ot­tawa’s tech sec­tor has been ex­cit­ing to fol­low, both as a par­tic­i­pant and a spec­ta­tor.

I be­lieve this suc­cess ex­ists be­cause our com­mu­nity has al­ways ral­lied around each other. I started my first real busi­ness dur­ing the early days of the in­ter­net, sell­ing used com­puter equip­ment. At the time, there was lit­tle sup­port for lo­cal en­trepreneurs. Our so­lu­tion was to cram about 20 fledg­ling en­trepreneurs into a small room at St.

An­thony’s Soc­cer Club in Lit­tle Italy. The room was free for us to use, and you dropped a dol­lar in the case if you took a beer.

We talked about how our star­tups were far­ing and shared lessons learned, even our set­backs. There were no en­trepreneurs-in-res­i­dence as there are in to­day’s busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors. We were just a bunch of startup geeks cre­at­ing a space to help and sup­port each other. It was not a scal­able ap­proach, but we all ben­e­fited sig­nif­i­cantly from it. I’m sure I speak for this early group when I say that a lot of peo­ple gave up their per­sonal time to help oth­ers be suc­cess­ful. I count my­self in on both sides of that equa­tion.

My in­tro­duc­tion to In­vest Ot­tawa was join­ing the in­no­va­tion ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee back in 2012. It im­me­di­ately be­came ob­vi­ous that IO was on the path to scal­ing en­trepreneur­ship in a mean­ing­ful fash­ion. Just as our tech com­mu­nity has evolved, IO rep­re­sents the evo­lu­tion of our small, cramped meet­ings in those early days.

Whether your head is per­co­lat­ing that next big idea or you are a sea­soned tech en­tre­pre­neur with busi­ness abroad, IO has a way to help. I know this be­cause the num­bers speak for them­selves. At least 22,000 peo­ple have at­tended its en­trepreneur­ship-re­lated sem­i­nars, and its ex­perts have de­liv­ered more than 35,000 hours of men­tor­ship to star­tups. We’ve helped 500 com­pa­nies

grow glob­ally and have fa­cil­i­tated 4,700 new jobs for the city. And if you time it right, drop by the in­cu­ba­tor space for the late-night piz­zas and watch our starv­ing star­tups hus­tling to get prod­uct out the door; they’re just some of the 1,100 new com­pa­nies that have done the same over the years.

I have also seen first-hand how mas­ter­fully IO can se­cure pre­cious fund­ing from the prov­ince, fed­eral govern­ment and lo­cal ser­vice providers. It’s no easy job, but when it’s man­aged prop­erly, their work is magic for the city.

To­day, I am hon­oured to have a seat on IO’s board of direc­tors and chair the in­no­va­tion com­mit­tee. Our vol­un­teers are pas­sion­ate about the com­mu­nity and driven to push In­vest Ot­tawa’s reach across the en­tire func­tional land­scape. We have CMOs, CEOs and univer­sity deans men­tor­ing and even rolling up their sleeves for projects. They put in this time be­cause they once needed that same help. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is filled with vol­un­teers and staff who all share a pas­sion for mak­ing Ot­tawa an in­cred­i­ble place to live and work.

That is why I joined In­vest Ot­tawa. That is why I vol­un­teer my time with In­vest Ot­tawa. That is why oth­ers do. This is a unique com­mu­nity that is dy­namic and sup­port­ive. For those of you who’ve been on the re­ceiv­ing end, it’s time to give back and get in­volved.

“We are the city be­hind all the things we use.” TOBI LUTKE, CEO OF SHOPIFY

Ja­son Flick is a vet­eran in the world of en­ter­prise growth and man­age­ment, hav­ing founded and scaled a num­ber of suc­cess­ful soft­ware com­pa­nies, most no­tably Flick Soft­ware, Ef­tia and N-Able. Ja­son be­lieves in dis­rupt­ing the sta­tus quo, which is what led him to start You.i TV with co-founder Stu­art Rus­sell. He is cur­rently a sit­ting mem­ber of the board for Turner Ad Labs, In­vest Ot­tawa and Flick Soft­ware.

FILE PHOTO

Ja­son Flick first joined In­vest Ot­tawa’s in­no­va­tion ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee in 2012.

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