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10. Obstacles faced in launching or running a tech startup in Ottawa

10. Driving Innovation for Impact: Startups Redefining Change in the City

Institution: Algonquin College

CSWB plan priority: Integrated and simpler systems

Project Term: Fall 2023

Course Code: DSN8014/DSN8023 Industry Project I & II

Professor: Jed Looker & Raphael Joseph

Group Members: Vidhi Vala, Daryl Lopez, Radhika Mittal, Preshit Rastog

City Lead: Aditya Maddali


Background: Ottawa stands out as one of the best technology hubs in Canada, and used to be called Silicon Valley North due to its expertise across various tech sectors. Despite boasting a thriving startup ecosystem, recent research indicates a concerning trend of brain drain, with young talent migrating to other major cities in pursuit of opportunities. Our project focuses on examining the challenges associated with launching or running a tech startup in Ottawa. These challenges align with the city's strategic priorities:   

- Strengthen the role of special and  economic districts as places that are important to the city’s identity, culture, and economy with secondary plans as economic generators.   

- Diversifying our economy and amplifying our region’s brand.    

- Attract and retain immigrants, students and talent.   

Our initiative aims to address these challenges by fostering a startup ecosystem tailored to the needs of young innovators. By actively attracting immigrants who are inclined towards risk-taking and entrepreneurship, we envision a diversified economy and a bolstered retention rate among the city's youth. Furthermore, our literature review underscores the role of smart cities in fostering entrepreneurial endeavors, with startups offering innovative solutions to urban challenges.

Objective(s): The primary aim of this project is to delve into strategies for enhancing the startup infrastructure within the City of Ottawa. Our approach involves harnessing the robust tech ecosystem already in place, as well as leveraging the dynamic startup community. However, our vision extends beyond startup ecosystem development. Central to our mission is the recognition that urban and social issues are multifaceted and complex. Therefore, we advocate for a collaborative approach, uniting the collective expertise, creativity, and passion of diverse stakeholders. By bringing together the city administration, local resources, and the vibrant community of young entrepreneurs, we aim to create an environment conducive to innovation and problem-solving. Through this concerted effort, we seek not only to bolster the startup ecosystem but also to address pressing urban challenges and social disparities. By empowering individuals and organizations to work together towards common goals, we envision a future where the City of Ottawa emerges as a destination of innovation and inclusive growth.

Approach: Our project began with a comprehensive examination into the brain drain within Ottawa. Despite existence of some of the finest educational institutions and a pool of talented young individuals brimming with innovative potential, the city was witnessing a troubling exodus of its youth. Recognizing the imperative to retain and harness this local talent, we embarked on a journey to understand the underlying factors contributing to this trend. We embarked on an investigative journey, conducting interviews with a diverse range of stakeholders, including young innovators, seasoned startup founders, and subject matter experts deeply immersed in the entrepreneurial landscape. Our conversations aimed to unearth the motivations driving these individuals to choose Ottawa as their base of operations, explore the catalysts propelling them towards entrepreneurship, and identify the formidable challenges they encountered along their entrepreneurial journey. Through these discussions, we gained invaluable insights into the intricacies of the city's startup landscape, shedding light on areas for improvement. In addition to the interviews we conducted an in-depth literature review to understand the history of startup landscape in Ottawa, the shifting dynamics of remote work preference among the youth, and how other cities around the world strategically leverage startup innovation mindset to solve urban problems. Our findings indicate that many young professionals who prefer remote work are drawn to Ottawa due to its reputation as a cost-effective alternative to larger cities grappling with urban issues. Additionally, we discovered a lack of sector diversity stemming from the dominance of government and high-tech industries, potentially limiting the city's ability to attract more private investment. Delving deeper, we identified a disconnect between the city's aspirations, the vibrancy of its startup ecosystem, and the aspirations of its youthful demographic.

Potential for Impact: The impact of our project is multifaceted, profoundly influencing Ottawa's startup ecosystem. At its core, our initiative aims for a community-driven approach to addressing the complex urban and social challenges faced by the city. By fostering collaboration and collective action among stakeholders, we strive to catalyze positive change and foster innovation within Ottawa's entrepreneurial landscape. In the short term, our intervention seeks to empower young innovators by providing them with the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to navigate the intricacies of the entrepreneurial journey. Through targeted initiatives and programs, we aim to equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the support they need to transform their ideas into viable businesses. By facilitating access to information and networking opportunities within the city, we endeavor to nurture a new generation of dynamic startups poised for success. Looking towards the long term, our project envisions a strategic alignment between Ottawa's economic development initiatives and its startup ecosystem, spearheaded by organizations like Invest Ottawa. By fostering collaboration between these entities and young innovators, we aim to harness the collective expertise and creativity of diverse stakeholders to tackle pressing urban and social issues. Through sustained partnership and dialogue, we aspire to drive meaningful impact, fostering a more inclusive and prosperous future for Ottawa’s startup ecosystem. Furthermore, we aspire for our initiative to redefine Ottawa's identity and elevate its regional brand beyond its historical government-centric focus. By positioning the city as a magnet for young changemakers and innovators, we aim to showcase its potential as a dynamic destination with opportunities for growth and transformation.


Community Partner: N/A

Community Partner - Mission: N/A


See presentation below:

Presentation project 3
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