What Good is OCRI?

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.
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Troubling Insights on MaRS, OCRI, Communitech?

Greg Boutin has published several very pointed blog articles, pulling back the covers on MaRS and where our tax dollars are going… definitely worth a read!

http://www.growthtimes.com/2010/04/troubling-facts-about-mars-discovery-district-part-1-of-4/

The articles also calls  out OCRI and Communitech for their lack of transparency.

UPDATE April 30:

Jim Watson echos concerns of local community, highlighting OCRI’s lack of focus, and calls for change.

“The City doesn’t own OCRI”, Claude Hawe, OCRI CEO

UPDATE May 26 – OCRI not in the loop Part 1

“OCRI not aware…”

Only one Ottawa firm participating in McGuinty’s trade mission to Israel – OCRI “We don’t know anything about that trade mission”

UPDATE July – New Organization to be Funded

Mayor Jim Watson announces funding of new economic development organization – “Invest Ottawa”.  

INTERESTED IN LAUNCHING A NEW TECH BUSINESS? LEAD TO WIN WANTS TO HELP YOU!

Here is a recent call for participants from Dr Tony Bailetti for the 3rd session of the Lead to Win program which starts on July 28th – please spread the word!

INTERESTED IN LAUNCHING A  NEW TECH BUSINESS?  LEAD TO WIN WANTS TO HELP YOU!

If you are serious about starting a profitable technology business in Canada’s Capital region, we invite you to apply to the next session of the Lead to Win program.

The Lead to Win program is free to qualified applicants – no strings attached, no small print, no surprises.  Individuals from 37 organizations are investing to make Lead to Win participants successful for the benefit of the individual and our community.

Details on the program, including past success and testimonials from participants are available at www.leadtowin.ca.    If you need additional information over what is at www.leadtowin.ca, please contact:

Spaces in the Lead to Win program are limited – so prospective participants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Application instructions are available online at www.leadtowin.ca.

If you know of  others who may benefit from Lead to Win, please forward this email to them – help get the word out!

Regards.

Tony Bailetti
Lead to Win Program

Lead to Win May-June Sessions

The 2009 Lead to Win program kicked-off this week.  The program was originally planned to support 30 participants per session.  Due to overwhelming demand from highly qualified candidates the program capacity was doubled and 61 participants were accepted into the May-June program.

The first three days of workshops went exceptionally well.  All participants were highly qualified, highly motivated and highly committed.  The workshop was intense and there was a lot of interaction between the participants and the program leaders.  A breakdown of the participants company types, target markets, etc. is available: Lead to Win May 2009 Portfolio Snapshot

Photos from the first day of the program are available online –

Lead to Win (May 19, 2009)

More Beef, Less Bun!

We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn Ottawa has seen, and we are watching our high tech sector melt away.

I find it very disturbing that there are few organizations – other than the Talent First Network and NRC-IRAP – that are stepping up and taking visible, urgent and concrete steps to help out our community.

Talent First Network is aggressively pushing ahead with the Lead to Win program, which has garnered strong community support.

The IRAP team have ramped up their pace, they have streamlined processes to match the urgency of the situation, they are pursuing new programs, and they are on the frontline – engaging the entrepreneurs and high tech businesses who are working to expand existing businesses or build new businesses which will revitalize our high tech sector.

The big question is – Where is the leadership from the other tax-funded organizations? The City of Ottawa, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and Industry Canada have spent truckloads of money on the Ontario Centres of Excellence, Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation and The Ottawa Partnership (TOP) – these organizations  should be front and center but are virtually invisible.

When it comes to getting results from our tax dollars and leadership from the organizations they fund – it’s time for “More Beef and Less Bun!”  –

In the current economic downturn,  I would rather see more of my tax dollars going to IRAP and the Talent First Network.  They have the right attitude and they are focused on helping our community.

It’s time for MORE BEEF!  LESS BUN!

Jeffrey Dale Has Left the Building

Jeffrey Dale stepped down as OCRI CEO last week.   

Over the years, I used the OCRI services for the launch and ramp of both Liquid Computing and Purple Forge.  Liquid Computing and myself were both honored to receive OCRI Awards and recognition.   Moreover, I have benefited from Jeffrey’s personal help and support.

As a result of my belief in the good work that OCRI was doing for our community and my positive personal experiences with the OCRI team and Jeffrey, I joined the OCRI board of directors two years ago.   

With Jeffrey’s departure, I spent some time this weekend reflecting on what I will remember the most about OCRI under Jeffrey’s leadership.   There are a long list of things I will remember, but the three things that will stand out the most in my memory about Jeffrey are that  – 

  • Jeffrey was a very active and very visible cheerleader for Ottawa and the tech community.  He was also an articulate spokesman –  he put a face on the local tech community and was a visible advocate of its interests;  
  • Jeffrey worked tirelessly on behalf of the community in general – the job was definitely not a 9 to 5 type of job;
  • Jeffrey established a team at OCRI that was very much focused on the entreprenuer – in my direct experience – the OCRI team is responsive, knowledgeable and sincerely interested in making a difference, and that reflects on its leadership.

Thanks Jeffrey!

The Current State of Canadian and Ottawa Business Incubators

Business incubation has been identified as a means of meeting a variety of economic and socioeconomic policy needs, which may include:

  • Creating jobs and wealth
  • Fostering a community’s entrepreneurial climate
  • Technology commercialization
  • Diversifying local economies
  • Building or accelerating growth of local industry clusters
  • Business creation and retention
  • Encouraging women or minority entrepreneurship
  • Identifying potential spin-in or spin-out business opportunities
  • Community revitalization

Business incubators typically provide a range of services to clients that may include:

  • Help with business basics
  • Networking activities
  • Marketing assistance
  • High-speed Internet access
  • Help with accounting/financial management
  • Access to bank loans, loan funds and guarantee programs
  • Help with presentation skills
  • Links to higher education resources
  • Links to strategic partners
  • Access to angel investors or venture capital
  • Comprehensive business training programs
  • Advisory boards and mentors
  • Management team identification
  • Help with business etiquette
  • Technology commercialization assistance
  • Help with regulatory compliance
  • Intellectual property management
  • Facilities (e.g. office space, specialized lab space) and associated business services (e.g. security, receptionist, meeting rooms, phone service, photocopiers, printers,  internet service)

Stats Canada released a report in late 2008 “The Business of Nurturing Businesses” which takes a look at business incubators in Canada based on survey data taken in 2005.   Some key findings from the report include:

  • Almost all business incubators are sponsored by economic development organizations, governments, academic institutions, i.e. tax money
  • 1 in 6 incubators offer facilities and on-site support services
  • Almost half of all incubators were focused on professional, scientific and technical services businesses
  • The top three most used services of incubators were: legal consultation, management guidance and assistence in obtaining financing

There are various lists of incubators in Canada, unfortunately none up-to-date, including:

In Ottawa, we have the following business incubators:

Unfortunately, with the exception of Carleton University’s Tony Bailetti, there is little/no information available on the public incubators relative to return on investment of the tax money in the operation of the incubators – which would lead me to believe that compelling results do not exist.

From the perspective of efficiency, it appears that our tax money is being spent a bit recklessly relative to overlapping mandates and services.    The Ontario government and Ottawa Municipal government have both being doing a review of how they are funding and delivering their economic development programs.   I hope that as part of this review, they look towards stronger collaboration and reduced overlap of services between Provincial and Municipal programs.

A future blog entry will examine how business incubators role will evolve/change in the context of Business Ecosystems.

References: