I had an interesting discussion last week regarding OCRI with a few local entrepreneurs. The general issue being “What good is OCRI?” for entrepreneurs in Ottawa.
There was a lot of negativity about the lack of relevance and the fact that OCRI has increasingly become something of a joke around town due to its public fights with politicians (“The City does not own OCRI!”), lack of transparency and general lack of results. OCRI has serious issues, there is little debate on that point.
However, it is worth noting that OCRI does/has run some programs that, in the past, I have personally found of value and which are worth highlighting:
- OCRI Awards - The annual award program is a great help to local companies from a marketing perspective. It raises awareness of local companies in the region, and for the winners offers ongoing value for marketing as well as during fund-raising and talent recruiting.
- Market Research – It is not generally well-known, but OCRI can offer free market research reports (covering competition, market sizes, market trends) from major research firms. These research reports typically cost thousands of dollars per report and are out of reach for most entrepreneurs at the early stages. The OCRI membership fee alone is worth the value of the marketing reports that OCRI can offer for free.
- Trade Shows – In the past OCRI has co-ordinated international trade show participation where they have provided shared booth space at discounted prices for local companies. For an early stage company this sort of assistance is very valuable as trade show participation is generally costly to plan, execute and fund. In the case I was personally involved in, we were also able to receive partial re-reimbursement for our travel expenses from another government program OCRI was co-ordinating with.
- Venture Capital Forum – I have participated in two forums over the years. I found the preparation for the events and pre-screening coaching provided by OCRI to be constructive and valuable. While no financing came out of the events, there was value to the networking and experience in presenting. The resulting improvements to my pitch were helpful in subsequent VC pitches I gave.
- Entrepreneurship Center – Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I used the online resources of this program extensively. The material was well-organized and practical… and saved me a ton of time.
- Events – In the past, OCRI has co-ordinated some very relevant, inexpensive and useful networking and educational events. In particular, the Bill Gates events were world-class.
- Job Board – In the past, I have posted jobs to the OCRI job board. Having a job board that is regionally oriented and which doesn’t have outrageous fees associated with it can be very useful to an early stage company when recruiting.
If you are an entrepreneur in the Ottawa region working on launching or growing your start-up, the following organizations have the most to offer:
- The Ottawa Network – Networking events – connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and suppliers – membership fee (negligible) and per-event fees (negligible)
- TiE - Educational and networking events focused on wealth creation – membership fee and per-event fees
- Lead to Win – Education and support in growing your company (introductions, advice) – all free
- CLD - Support in growing your company (grants, loans)
- IRAP - Support in growing your company (grants, advice, introductions)
- The Code Factory – Incubator space (inexpensive) and networking events/workshops (usually free)
The Lead to Win program is accepting applications for the November session.
If you are interested in creating your own company – check out the program at http://www.leadtowin.ca.
Spaces are limited and the program has been over subscribed for every session held so if you are interested do not delay getting your application submitted.
Check out some of the companies that have successfully made it to Phase III of Lead to Win.
The Gartner “Hype Cycle” illustrates the growth, maturity and adoption of technologies. It can be used to determine whether to invest in types of tech – technologies with high user benefit and low time to mainstream acceptance are ripe for investment and implementation, while technologies with minimal user benefit and a long time until mainstream acceptance should be approached with “extreme caution.”
This is another cool technology – a lab on a chip that does over 1,024 different chemical reactions in parallel.
The technical paper describing the technology is available online.
If you are currently working in Nortel, Mitel or any of the other local tech companies that are under stress and under the threat of downsizing, then you are probably thinking about your “Plan B”. If your “Plan B” involves launching your own business, then you should take a close look at the Lead to Win program.
Past successful Nortel alumnus who have participanted in Lead to Win have included: Chuck Colford (Trigence (aka AppZero), Congruance IT), David Vicary (Nakina, Weyes Eyes), Jerry Everett (onconference), Brian Hurley (Liquid Computing, Purple Forge), and many others.
Lead to Win is now accepting applications for it’s 4th session which will occur later this year (Lead to Win is currently nailing down the exact date and will announce it soon).
The program is focused on helping enterpreneurs develop and grow their businesses.
The program is free to qualified participants.
Program details, application process, testimonials, FAQ’s, training materials, etc are available online at http://www.leadtowin.ca.
If you know others who might be interested in the program, please send them to http://www.leadtowin.ca!
Lead to Win held a reception on Monday evening for participants and supporters. Special guests included the Mayor of Gatineau and the acting Mayor of Ottawa. Both expressed their support for the Lead to Win program and new businesses the participants are hoping to launch.
Mayor of Gatineau, Marc Bureau
Acting Mayor of Ottawa, Michel Bellemare
Participants at the reception commented on the strong and growing support from the community for the Lead to Win program.
Past Lead to Win Alumnus David Vicary, CEO of Weyes Eyes and past CEO and founder of Nakina Systems announced that he had secured seed funding for Weyes Eyes, his second start-up venture. For more on this, please read the related Ottawa Business Journal article.
David Vicary, CEO Weyes Eyes
Photos from the event are available online.
The reception was hosted by Développement économique – CLD Gatineau (DE – CLDG).