Propagating the Ottawa startup community

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By Francis Moran

The official theme was “Ottawa’s digital media industry,” and the gamers, social networkers and content developers were there in spades. But what I heard at Wednesday night’s regular Start-up Drop-in put on by The Ottawa Network at LaBarge Weinstein had as much or more to do with propagating and supporting the entire start-up — indeed, the entire technology — community in Ottawa than it did with digital media per se.

In keeping with the format now well established by LWLaw partner and event host James Smith, we heard briefly from several different actors before the headline act shared what is billed as “words of wisdom.”

First out of the gate was a quartet of self-described “next generation” entrepreneurs who see themselves as having a serious role to play in cultivating and supporting their fellow tech entrepreneurs. Putting their blogging skills where their mouths are, they run StartupOttawa.com, an active blog by and about the start-up community. Mercury Grove‘s Scott Annan, Shopify‘s Scott Lake, TravelPod‘s Luc Levesque and Jean-Sylvain Sormony of Fuel all talked about the importance of cultivating “our generation of entrepreneurs,” as Lake put it.

Two start-ups whose very business model is all about propagation went next.

David Thompson described his company, Noleo, and its platform that hosts social networking applications, allowing them to simply and simultaneously run on a number of social networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. Alan Isfan’s FaveQuest is also all about propagating content across social networking sites, in this case taking broadcast television material and packaging it for redistribution to the social networking ecosystem.

Ben Houston, a fascinating young developer whose computational magic has been seen in several Hollywood movies, was an example of the propagational potential of the Start-up Drop-in itself since that’s where, a few months ago, he first met Keith Taylor, the business executive he has now recruited as president of his company, Exocortex Technologies.

I was momentarily stuck when Distil Interactive CEO Robert Thompson began to share his words of wisdom since it was not immediately clear to me how his comparison of Ottawa to other tech-savvy centres in which he worked would fit into my propagation theme. But his talk was really about challenging the 50 or so company leaders and managers in the room to propagate their obvious enthusiasm, commitment and empowerment throughout the rest of their company employees and, indeed, throughout the rest of the community.

It was a high energy evening, as have been the last several of these drop-ins.

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