Ottawa Tech — Will History Point to Possible Futures? — Research Notes


Newbridge Networks “Newbridge 55” circa 1986. Source: Ottawa Citizen — The story of Ottawa’s Newbridge Networks and its picture-perfect timing by James Bagnall

Part 1 (below) will describe three distinct eras characterizing the evolution of the Ottawa tech industry and related spillover effects.

R&D: The bedrock of Ottawa’s tech ascendancy and emergence as “Silicon Valley North” (1948–1994)

Screenshot from YouTube video “BNR — Salute to Originals” — credit: Gordon Rainey
Reference: Brian Baxter. Source: Ottawa Citizen May 21, 1965
Michael Cowpland (left) and Terry Matthews, founders of Mitel, are shown in a 1984 picture. Credit: Ottawa Citizen — The Capital Builders: A who’s who of tech giants who not only survived — but thrived by James Bagnall
Job Ad (1951) Computing Devices of Canada
Earliest reference to Ottawa as “Silicon Valley North” found in Ottawa Citizen (Nov 21, 1980)
Commercial and Industrial Development Corporation of Ottawa-Carleton ad in the Ottawa Citizen (circa 1985)
Source: Ottawa Citizen article “And the Oscar goes to… Ottawa scientists were pioneers in animation technology” (Aug 31, 2018)

Boomtown (1995–2001)

Boomtown Special Report in Ottawa Citizen’s TechWeekly, Sept 24, 2000
Source: Canadian Venture Capital Activity: An Analysis of Trends and Gaps (1996–2002) (PDF)
Source: Ottawa Citizen, “High-tech spawning a very big city”, May 27, 2000
The February 2001 OCRI Technology Executive Breakfast (where Jozef Straus had 400+ attendees don his trademark berets) was a symbolic “high water mark” before the tech implosion.
Besides the OCRI Tech Executive Breakfasts another popular event featuring local tech entrepreneurs was the Hi-Tech Entrepreneurs Association monthly meeting at the National Research Council on Sussex Drive.
Source: Ottawa Citizen, March 19, 2002
Source: Ottawa Citizen Techweekly, March 3, 2005

Lost Decade and Fresh Founders (2001–2021?)

Source: Ottawa Citizen Techweekly, Aug 28, 2003)
Source: The Ottawa Citizen — The big tech wreck-oning (Dec 29, 2009) by James Bagnall
Ottawa Citizen, TechWeekly, Feb 16, 2006 — Article by Peter Hum
2015 — Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on his company’s first trading day. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Computing Devices (circa 1948–49) Source: Ottawa Citizen, Story by Marlene Orton (October 5, 1999)
Backbone Angels is a collective of angel investors co-founded in 2021 by 10 female Shopify leaders. The group will focus on investments in Black, Indigenous, and Women of Colour-led companies.

Part 2 — Critical discussion regarding the history, current status and future outlook of the city’s tech industry (30min)

How does Ottawa stack up?

What do the data reveal? More significantly, which tech sector health indicators should we be devoting more attention to? Which ones are the most significant and insightful in terms of understanding how the Ottawa tech sector really stacks up?

Source: TechCrunch — Canada’s startup market booms alongside hot global VC investment (July 22, 2021)
Source: 2016, 2006 Canadian Census as reported by the Brookfield Institute “Who Are Canada’s Tech Workers?” (Jan 2019)
Source: Ottawa Citizen — Jim Bagnall (Feb 06, 2021)
Published by the Ottawa Business Journal Feb 14, 2011
2019 Venture Capital in Canada. Source:
2021 Snapshot of VC in Top 10 Canadian Cities. Source: CVCA 2021 VC & Private Equity Year in Review
Source: Bloomberg — IPOs at 15-year high in Canada with tech industry coming of age (Apr 1, 2021)

Tech-based Economic development initiatives led by local government and partners:

Photo excerpt. Innovation Ottawa: A Strategy for Sustaining Economic Generators (2002)
Source: Ottawa Citizen, May 31, 2000

Engagement by Local Post-Secondary Institutions

Source: The Ottawa Citizen High Tech Report, November 15, 1999

Carleton University

University of Ottawa




Aletheia Guild

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Luc Lalande

Luc Lalande

Aletheia Guild

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