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Ottawa’s new innovation complex needs lots of parking. And maybe a few other things, too

Ian Scott presents Ottawa's plans for new innovation complex at Bayview YardsBy Francis Moran

Once they got past an inexplicable preoccupation with parking, participants at a focus group session last night had some good input for Ottawa’s economic development folks who are planning an ambitious innovation complex just west of the city’s downtown core. Ian Scott, an economic development officer in the city manager’s office, gave a presentation on the proposed new complex, slated as part of a complete community development plan for the near-derelict Bayview Yards, and then solicited feedback from the 50 or so people who turned out.

Suggestions ranged from the bizarre — one participant, harking back to days when out-of-town customers had nowhere nearby to stay when they visited Ottawa tech companies in Kanata, insisted a hotel had to be part of the development — to the obvious — restaurants and coffee shops. But folks also called for an inclusive facility where startups could launch and grow, where support services would be available, where a critical mass would build such that people, both tenants and others, would want to hang out, and where — and this was my chief contribution — serendipitous collisions could happen between those entrepreneurs and all elements of the startup ecosystem.

A lot of the discussion, though, focused on the negative in a way, I have to say — In fact, I did say — that is so bloody typical of this city.

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Ottawa’s proposed innovation complex suffers Ottawa’s familiar inferiority complex

con027601_123462741By Francis Moran

When Ottawa’s newly reconstituted economic development agency Invest Ottawa earlier this year unveiled its proposal to convert a disused former city workshop in the Bayview Yards into a hub for the city’s technology and startup communities, I thought it was one of the boldest initiatives from an organization whose hallmark, at least in its previous incarnations, was not exactly one of bold and innovative thinking. I have long looked covetously at Kitchener-Waterloo’s Communitech Hub, Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District or Campus London in the British city’s east end, and I welcomed the IO effort to create a similar locus and anchor point for Ottawa’s considerable but largely fractured technology communities.

(And I use the plural of community advisedly here. Ottawa’s tech sector is an amalgam of communities that, best efforts of many people notwithstanding, continues to fracture between the older, west-end companies focused mainly on communications infrastructure and the younger, downtown companies working on software and apps.) Read More

Happy summer day

Summer on the north shore of Prince Edward Island

By Francis Moran

Today is a typically confused holiday for we Canadians.

It’s the Monday of a long weekend that is enjoyed coast to coast.

Well, almost coast to coast; in that unique fashion of theirs, Quebecers express their distinct society aspirations on this day by not having it off. (Although they did get to enjoy their Fête nationale du Québec on June 24, so they can’t really complain.)

We have trouble deciding what to call this quasi-national holiday in the rest of the country.

For most, it simply carries the anodyne moniker, August Long Weekend.

For Haligonians, it’s Natal Day. (Although I lived in Halifax for more than 10 years, I was never a real Haligonian. At best, I was a reasonable Halifacsimile. But I always enjoyed the Concert on the Hill and fireworks on what was only nominally the city’s birthday.)

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‘The definition of an entrepreneur is someone who is abnormal’

David Rose speaks at StartupGrind OttawaBy Francis Moran

Ottawa entrepreneurs were treated last night to a rare performance when seasoned entrepreneur and pioneering angel investor David Rose, founder or funder of more than 75 technology companies, spoke at the city’s monthly StartupGrind event. Describing himself as a third-generation entrepreneur, Rose spent fully 40 minutes answering StartupGrind organizer Cheryl Draper’s very first question about his early adventures in company creation and angel investing. As entertaining as his personal story was, it was the concrete advice he gave to entrepreneurs that made the evening valuable.

Like many other tech sector observers, Rose pointed out that it has never been easier to start a company. His first venture consumed $20-million of investors’ money to get to a revenue-producing product. His next venture cost $2-million to get to the same stage, and the third just $200,000. The costs have dropped by another order of magnitude — or maybe even two — to the point that today, he said, “almost anyone can start a web company at almost no cost.”

This low cost of entry means that too many people start companies to do easy things or to mimic things that have already been done, Rose said, a paradox that I don’t hear enough people emphasizing. The world doesn’t need another recruitment site or social shopping site, he said. Instead, “look around for real problems that haven’t been solved by anyone else…The first question (every entrepreneur needs to ask) is, ‘Does anyone want what I’m going to build?’”

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Welcome to our new design

By Francis Moran

If “new and improved” is supposed to be the most potent statement in marketing, then I have high hopes for the newly designed website you are now reading.

If you are a long-time reader, you will know that this blog had its origins almost six years ago, when the bulk of my time was spent managing the technology PR agency, inmedia Public Relations, that I had founded a decade earlier. A few years ago, I started a transition away from an agency model and back to my roots as a marketing strategist. Although inmedia persists and continues to have some great clients, I now spend most of time working hands on with smaller and startup B2B technology companies that know they need the marketing strategy piece but don’t have either the resources or the requirement for a full-time VP of marketing.

The model I set out to develop was a virtual one wherein we are able to bring to the table exactly the marketing resources a young company requires in exactly the right amount and at exactly the right time. In support of that, we re-striped the inmedia blog about two years ago under the name of the new venture, Francis Moran and Associates, and widened our scope of our writing to cover the whole spectrum of bringing technology to market, from hard-core marketing issues like positioning and social media to adjacent issues like financing, government support programs and the health of the whole commercialization ecosystem in our three key operating areas of Canada, the United States and Britain.

You really seem to like what we have done. Traffic levels have seen consistent growth. We have attracted contributors of a calibre far higher than anything we anticipated at the outset. And the blog has created an international footprint for my personal brand that could not have been achieved any other way.

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