THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE KANATA NORTH BUSINESS ASSOCIATION
POWERING THE WIRELESS CHARGING REVOLUTION
Made-in-Kanata tech attracts investments from automotive giants
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tech park, offering talent, research and training to accelerate the capabilities of our companies. There are a select few tech parks in the world that have closely and successfully integrated industry and academia. Partnerships such as this, as well as with others across the city and country, will give our companies direct access to the raw material of our tech industry.
THE FUTURE OF OUR TECH HUB
A NEW ERA FOR KANATA NORTH Greetings Kanata Networkers,
What are the outcomes? Prosperity, continued business growth and job creation. We are at a critical point in time that will determine the future potential of our national tech hub. In collaboration with our partners in public and private industry, we have an amazing opportunity to foster a vision for the future of this unique economic zone as a special district and develop the Kanata North Technology Park into a world-class model for innovation, technology, infrastructure and economic development. Let’s go 2020! Jamie Petten Executive director Kanata North Business Association
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As 2019 drew to a close, I was reminded that this will be the last message I share with you from this decade. To summarize all that has been accomplished in Canada’s largest tech park over the last 10 years would be an insurmountable task. However, I am proud to note that signs of continued growth are evident all around. With more than 540 member companies now directly employing 24,000 highly skilled and talented professionals in the tech park, it is safe to say that serious tech still lives here. Contributions to GDP now exceed $13 billion annually, up 66 per cent since 2015. This reinforces that the Kanata North technology park is an economic and innovation engine for Ottawa, Ontario and Canada. Our workforce is highly educated, skilled and valuable, contributing at four times the national productivity rate. The recent opening of the University of Ottawa’s Kanata North campus supports a successful partnership and a close integration of a post-secondary institution in the
As a community we are moving into a new era – one that features smarter, more productive and seamless integration of technology into our everyday lives. The way we commute, connect and collaborate will be vastly different over the next decade. With this new era approaching, there is also much optimism for positive impact and change. There’s a sense that to progress, we must build collaboratively and sustainably. So what does that mean for the future of our tech hub? I turn to our government and innovation leaders and ask them to reflect as this decade comes to a close. We urge them to consider: • Making Kanata North an urban centre with an overall community design that Canada’s largest technology park deserves; • Investing in infrastructure for transportation to support the current and future level of growth; • Continuing the widespread cooperation, commitment and cultural shift with all levels of government to promote new ideas and concepts; • Creating flexibility and approvals at a more rapid pace to encourage and allow for ease of growth; • Investing in Kanata North to be the national and global model for integrating all infrastructure and technology related to smart cities; and • Investing further in connected and autonomous technologies and testing to showcase Ottawa as Canada’s connected and autonomous vehicle capital.
“The only thing that was sent wirelessly in the past was information. Now we’re sending power.” – Peter Di Maso, director of product line management at GaN Systems, on the Kanata company’s wireless charging technology. Read the full story on page 12.
WHAT’S NEW, WHAT’S NEXT Upcoming events and key dates
CITY GM ADDRESSES KNBA Planning chief looks to ‘create something new and exciting’
CENGN SUMMIT The opportunities – and challenges – of 5G
BEST OTTAWA BUSINESS AWARDS Kanata North companies shine
10 WHERE WE WORK Kanata North’s unique workplace culture 14 WHERE WE LIVE Why tech talent calls Kanata North home 16 BUSINESS BRIEFING News from Canada’s largest tech park 18 STARTUP OPEN HOUSE ‘We can’t hire people fast enough’
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THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE KANATA NORTH BUSINESS ASSOCIATION
POWERING THE WIRELESS CHARGING REVOLUTION
Made-in-Kanata tech attracts investments from automotive giants
The Kanata Networker is the official publication of the Kanata North Business Association. Learn more at kanatanorthba.ca Reporting by Lisa Thibodeau
19 OUT OF OFFICE Management meetings on two wheels
What do Ottawa Senators players do off the ice? Business leaders, community partners team up with players to improve the lives of children across Eastern Ontario and West Quebec
rom the moment fans walk beneath the larger-than-life photos of the Ottawa Senators players towering over the doors of the Canadian Tire Centre to the time the final buzzer sounds, the spotlight is focused on the on-ice talents of the city’s NHL franchise. But those same players are also part of a much larger and less visible off-ice team – one that directly touched the lives of some 60,000 youth in Eastern Ontario and West Quebec in 2018-19 alone. With the support of local business leaders and fans, the Ottawa Senators Foundation partners with the community to create social recreation opportunities, fund SENS Rinks, invest in educational initiatives as well as improve youth physical and mental wellness. The Foundation is also an ardent supporter of Roger Neilson House, a pediatric respite and palliative care home for children. To date, the Ottawa Senators Foundation has raised some $65 million through a range of fundraisers and activities such as the recently expanded 50/50 draws and the annual Sens Soirée gala, which gives attendees the opportunity to meet the NHL players. In only his second season with the club, Senators winger Brady Tkachuk is already playing an active role with the Foundation through his involvement with the gala and other events. “Since the day I got here, there has been a big feeling of community,” Tkachuk says. “Ottawa is a big city, but it has that small-town feel. We are lucky to have great fans that create a team with us off the ice to give back and help those in need.”
OBJ360 CONTENT STUDIO
SENS Rinks and plan for five new facilities, creating accessible recreation and sports opportunities for children across the region. Similarly, donations enable the Foundation to help local families overcome financial barriers and send children to summer camp as well as assist young adults attending post-secondary school. All told, the team consistently ranks among the top NHL clubs for community investment, player engagement and support of community activations, says Danielle Robinson, the president and CEO of the Ottawa Senators Foundation. “They engage and interact with the community in a positive way that motivates the donations and philanthropy that allows us to make an impact,” she said. “We are very fortunate for our long history of players eager to engage with us through the club or our Foundation and even on their own.”
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COMMUNITY IS NO. 1 Well-known Sens alumnus Chris Neil was heavily involved with the Foundation during his playing career and, following his retirement, became an ambassador for the club. He and his wife, Caitlin, serve as honorary co-chairs of Roger Neilson House and he says he’s fortunate to have been able to see the Foundation’s impact first-hand. “Community has always been No. 1 for me,” said Neil. “Seeing the families at Roger Neilson House and
other programs and having an opportunity to see them get the support they need is incredible. Neil says the Foundation does great work, but adds there is a growing need for its support across the region. To address the challenge, the Foundation is putting an emphasis on community partnerships that extend the organization’s reach and impact. The volunteer board of directors, for example, is made up of prominent members of the business and non-profit community including EY’s Ian Sherman, BMO vice-president Roxanne Bouchard and Welch LLP’s Connor McGarry, among others. Additionally, the Foundation works with local employers to engage their staff and find opportunities to volunteer with children and at-risk youth. Support from the business community – as well as individual donors and fans – has also been instrumental in allowing the Foundation to construct 15 outdoor
what’s new - what’s next? WHAT’S NEW…
WHAT’S NEXT… JAN. 11-12 CARLETON UNIVERSITY HACKATHON – CUHACKING 2020
The second round of applications for cuHacking is open. All are welcome, regardless of background, education or experience. Students in high school, university or college can attend. Sign up for this MLH hackathon taking place at the Richcraft Hall at Carleton University. Visit https://cuhacking.com.
FEB. 7-9 UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA, UOTTAHACK NEW TEDXKANATA SPEAKERS REVEALED TEDxKanata will kick off its sixth season next March under the theme “ignite.” Come for an inspirational evening of ideas worth spreading. The first round of speakers has been announced and includes Rose Cain, JP Michel, Wendy Knight Agard and Kostyantyn Khomutov – a diverse lineup of insightful personalities sure to ignite your curiosity! Tickets are on sale and can be purchased at tedxKanata.com.
Applications are now open for uOttaHack, one of Ottawa’s largest hackathons that’s now hosted over three days at the uOttawa campus. New for uOttaHack 3 is the addition of hacking TRACKS, specific categories for hackers to build projects around and address
problems in the real world. Visit 2020. uottahack.ca for details.
UOTTAWA WINTER ENGINEERING AND HIGH-TECH CAREER FAIR JAN. 22-23, 10 A.M. TO 3 P.M. Join leading employers in recruiting outstanding students in chemical, mechanical, biomedical mechanical, civil, software, computer and electrical engineering as well as computer science during this two-day event. Visit the Kanata North Business Association events calendar for more details.
L-SPARK AND BLACKBERRY WELCOME NEW ACCELERATOR COHORT
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Kanata-based L-SPARK, Canada’s largest accelerator for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies, and BlackBerry have selected six companies for the second cohort of their joint accelerator program, which aims to advance Canadian technology startups that are focused on vehicle-connected services and cloud connectivity to the vehicle. Visit the blackberry.com/newsroom for a list of companies and details.
DEMYSTIFYING THE GREEN ECONOMY EnviroCentre provides a series of free workshops on the green economy for local businesses. Funded by the Climate Action Fund, these workshops run from Jan. 15 to March 31 across Ottawa. Visit https://www.envirocentre.ca/ letstalk for details.
INTERNATIONAL WOMXN’S WEEK Watch for announcements in the coming weeks from Invest Ottawa and other businesses around the city on upcoming projects and events taking place in March to celebrate International Womxn’s Week. More details to come.
City considers ‘special economic zone’ designation for Kanata North New community classification would ease development challenges, AGM attendees learn
Steve Willis is the city’s general manager of planning, infrastructure and economic development. FILE PHOTO
“WE ARE LOOKING TO CREATE SOMETHING NEW AND EXCITING THAT HASN’T EXISTED BEFORE.” – Steve Willis, general manager of planning, infrastructure and economic development, City of Ottawa city organization and a group representing one of the most dynamic and interesting business communities in all of Canada.” One item on the agenda that had attendees applauding with support was Willis’ mention of increasing public transportation to Kanata North, an issue
that may be fast-tracked with the adoption of the special zone classification. Jamie Petten, the president and executive director of the KNBA, echoed the need to ease traffic congestion during the commute to and from the tech park in her remarks at the AGM, highlighting how the
KNBA continues to meet with all levels of government to find creative solutions. The crowd also bid farewell to Amy MacLeod as she wrapped up her term as KNBA’s board chair. The former Mitel executive, who recently joined shipbuilder Seaspan’s Ottawa office, thanked the KNBA membership for their support and ongoing efforts to make Kanata North a thriving tech park. The evening wrapped up with a look ahead to 2020. Petten hinted at some new initiatives the team is hoping to bring to light such as turning the annual Discover TechNATA 2020 career fair into a crosscountry roadshow.
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he Kanata North Tech Park is in the running for a new special development title from the City of Ottawa that could see planning policies relaxed in the community. Attendees at the Kanata North Business Association’s 2019 AGM heard from Steve Willis – the city’s general manager of planning, infrastructure and economic development – about the city’s plan to differentiate at least two Ottawa areas as “special economic zones.” The designation in the city’s Official Plan would spark a review and update of development standards with the goal of introducing more flexible land-use policies and greater density. This would make it easier for communities such as Kanata North to grow and evolve more quickly, nimbly and efficiently. “We are looking to create something new and exciting that hasn’t existed before,” Willis told attendees at the business association’s AGM in late November. “This community should be spending time on innovation, not getting bogged down with processes.” More broadly, a special economic zone designation would bring more recognition to the significant contributions that the Kanata North Tech Park makes to Ottawa’s economy while striving to increase the overall quality of life through investments in infrastructure and community development. “I’ve actually been really excited ... about the partnership with the KNBA,” Willis added. “It’s a partnership that is exemplary of what we can do when working with a
CENGN talks 5G future at Kanata summit Next-generation networks trialled in remote locations
s tech leaders and telecom enthusiasts remarks. Fahmy alluded to a current gathered in Kanata to explore the project the organization is working on to multibillion-dollar potential of 5G, bring the internet to a remote area that has several speakers challenged delegates to no connectivity, despite being only several tackle inequities in broadband access and kilometres away from a town that enjoys ensure 5G networks unleash opportunities high-speed internet access. for all Canadians, regardless of where they “We hope to do several of these projects live. so we can create a blueprint that says, ‘In Excitement over the new networks these types of situations, here are some of stem from the promise of fast connectivity the solutions that work,’” he said. speeds and low latency, which will enable Robert Ghiz, the president and companies to explore new industries CEO of the Canadian Wireless such as autonomous vehicles. Speakers Telecommunications Association, and at the 2019 CENGN summit – an Tejas Roa, the managing director and annual conference hosted by the Kanataglobal 5G lead at Accenture, echoed based telecom consortium – spoke Fahmy’s remarks during their presentation enthusiastically about the opportunities on the benefits of 5G in Canada, stating that will be created by 5G, but also that all Canadians should be able to explored the challenge of providing equal experience the future of connectivity. access to these next-generation networks. The two telecom executives shared CENGN chief executive Jean-Charles the results of a study they commissioned Fahmy touched on the immediate need to that explored the positive impact on better Kanata connect rural areas in his opening Publication.qxp_Layout 1 2019-12-16 employment 8:22 AM Pageand 1 GDP that’s expected to
A Strong Voice for Kanata North
Ontario Premier at Blackberry QNX
We live in a very competitive world and it will take a collaborative effort by private sector, government and local residents pulling together to tackle challenges and bring about prosperity for a community…. so that we can create new opportunities and attract new talent, new business, and new investment.
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Ontario Premier with KNBA
- Merrilee Fullerton
CENGN chief executive Jean-Charles Fahmy. be sparked by connected cities and rural high-speed access. “5G could bring as many as 250,000 new jobs and add $40 billion to the country’s GDP. There are unimaginable opportunities,” Ghiz told the audience, adding that Canada is in a great position to adopt 5G as it already has access to some of the fastest LTE internet service in the world. Fahmy also spoke extensively about CENGN’s partnership with a Sudbury
mining company to experiment with smart mines. The team will be installing a testbed – with cellular and Wi-Fi infrastructure inside the mine to prove they are still functional in extreme conditions. “We’re in the process now of deploying that infrastructure because mining is one of those industries particularly wellsuited for a digital transformation,” he said. “There are some very interesting use cases that come from digitizing a mine: inventory tracking, health and safety and of course autonomous vehicles in mines is low-hanging fruit.” Consisting of telecom heavyweights including Bell, Cisco, Telus and other companies, CENGN is at the forefront of telecom R&D, helping to bridge the gaps between innovation and commercialization. It currently hosts four testbed locations across Ontario used by tech companies to trial products and accelerate the go-to-market process. The 2019 summit saw nearly 500 attendees and a diverse lineup of presenters from telecom, academia and government such as Gordon Plunkett, director at Esri Canada, and author Amy Radin.
Advancing the interests of the local high tech sector and greater business community with the
Kanata-Carleton’s High Tech and Business Initiative More information @ www.MerrileeFullerton.ca/News
Treasury Board President at tech roundtable
Ontario Ministers with KNBA
Ontario Premier at Renaissance Repair & Supply
Merrilee Fullerton Your Kanata-Carleton MPP Your voice in the provincial government
PHOTOS BY MARK HOLLERON
Kanata North wins big at Best Ottawa Business Awards
Bruce Linton, co-owner of Ruckify and former CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., was named Newsmaker of the Year.
You.i TV landed awards for Best Business and Best Performance HR.
Crank Software was named #SeriousTechLivesHere Company of the Year.
Evidence Partners received a Best Performance Export award.
Top performers from Canada’s largest tech park honoured
he talent, innovation and diversity of Kanata North’s tech sector were front and centre at this year’s edition of the Best Ottawa Business Awards, which recognized several local companies for their growth and business success. Software developer Magnet Forensics was named the Kanata North Team of the Year – an especially significant honour for Thusha Agampodi, who started to build the Waterloo-based company’s Kanata team some three years ago. Having worked in the tech industry for more than a decade, Agampodi wanted to assemble a team that reflected the diversity of the community, something that was often missing at her previous jobs. “I wanted to make sure that the environment I created was inclusive enough that anyone coming in from an underrepresented group would feel comfortable to share their opinion,” she says. “It just wasn’t enough to hire diversity if the environment wasn’t allowing them to express their thoughts openly.” The digital forensic software company, which assists investigators in retrieving
What’s the favourite out-of-office pastime for the founders of Crank Software?
KANATA NORTH COMPANY OF THE YEAR
again?’” he jokes. “I think we’ve struck a nice balance here.” Both Magnet Forensics and Crank Software attended the awards presentation at the Westin Hotel in November to celebrate their success alongside their fellow BOBs winners.
Magnet Forensics and Crank Software were not alone in representing the Kanata North Community at the Best Ottawa Business Awards. Fellow tech park winners include: Evidence Partners Inc.: Best Performance Export
You.i TV : Best Business Award and Best Performance HR
ProntoForms: Best Performance Marketing
March Networks: Best Performance Sales
Phreesia: Best Performance Customer Experience
Newsmaker of the Year: Bruce Linton
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Edmond, Thomas Fletcher and Jason Clarke – has established itself in the touch-screen graphics space by working with big-name clients such as Coca-Cola, Nintendo and Bosch. Having that brand online evidence in criminal cases, has recognition has benefited the business expanded into a new office with its greatly, says Edmond, adding that continuously growing team Crank doubled its staff of 27 people – 30 to 40 headcount in 2018 and is per cent of which are on track for significant female. Agampodi sales growth in 2019. says she always made “We’re a mature sure to hire from a company – we variety of ethnicities, didn’t just burst ages and educational onto the scene,” says backgrounds to be Fletcher. “We’ve been an example in the constructing this for See page 19 tech community of quite some time, flying what a truly diverse team a bit under the radar, looks like. so to be named company “I think we’re delivering a lot of the year has been really for the company here, and that’s because energizing for us.” of the amazing staff,” she adds. “We are so Edmond also attributes part of the excited, and it means a lot to be recognized company’s success to the group working by the Kanata North community.” together at a previous tech company. This allowed the Crank executive team to incorporate best practices and lessons learned from the start. It was also a banner year for Crank “We looked at what (caused) the Software, named the Kanata North delays and back-and-forth arguments Company of the Year. The user interface at (our) previous jobs and we asked software company – founded by Brian ourselves, ‘How can we never do that
where we work
Lisa Scian, at left, is the vice-president of people and culture at ProntoForms and says the speed at which the company works and the technologies that it uses help the rapidly growing company recruit employees. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON
How Kanata North companies are gaining an edge in the war for talent For some rapidly growing firms, workplace culture starts with giving employees engaging and meaningful projects to tackle
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orkplace culture” can be an abstract concept to define, let alone build. But several Kanata North tech firms are looking beyond funky office designs and traditional team-building initiatives to create companies that are magnets for top-tier talent. Their secret? Offer employees engaging work, provide them with cutting-edge tools to do their job and challenge teams to uncover creative solutions to their customers’ challenges. “We’ll turn down work if it’s not something our employees enjoy doing,” says Richard Deboer, CEO of semiconductor firm Rianta. “(That)
really builds the team’s trust and makes us stronger.” By building their business around tackling interesting and meaningful work, several Kanata North companies are gaining an edge in recruiting and retaining skilled workers as they scale up. Here’s a look at the workplace culture of three rapidly growing Kanata North firms:
ENCOURAGED TO EXPERIMENT
ProntoForms, a software company specializing in mobile forms and data collection, has nearly doubled its headcount in four years by equipping its employees with the newest software
programs to encourage innovation. The office prides itself on using the latest app development platforms to build its paperless information storage technology, such as open source software Redux and NodeJS. “We’re able to attract (a high) calibre of talent because of the speed we work at and technologies that we use,” says Lisa Scian, vice-president of people and culture. “We’re not afraid of trying new things or experimenting with technology to see what will take us to the next level and I think people get excited about that.” With 140 employees, ProntoForms firmly believes that the success of its
business is directly tied to employee retention and productivity. Staff are encouraged to pitch new ideas and advance their careers within the company – which also creates opportunities for new hires. “Every new person brings a little piece of them in and that’s what enhances our culture,” she adds. “We don’t want people to conform to how we do things, we want them to be creative, to challenge ideas and help us grow.” The fast-paced work environment is also attractive to potential employees who are looking to use the latest tools to quickly bring products to market, she says. While a rapidly growing headcount can create challenges for some companies to maintain a cohesive workplace culture, Scian says ProntoForms overcomes this through open communication with its employees and celebrating company milestones such as major contract wins to encourage employees to continue to innovate.
DEVELOP ‘THE NEXT BIG THING’
Rianta has seen a similar growth trajectory, expanding from a fourperson team in 2012 to more than 100 staff at the end of 2019. Developing technology used in some of the most exciting emerging tech sectors – think autonomous vehicles and 5G – Rianta has been able to hire entire teams at once. Rianta has previously brought on groups of up to 25 people from companies going through downturns. When laid-off staff evaluated their options and picked their next career move, they chose Rianta because they believed in the products, says Deboer. “We work on the largest switches, the largest multi-core processors, artificial intelligence and machine learning,” he says. “As technology engineers you want to work on the next big thing, and here they get to help build some of the most aggressive semiconductors in the world.” While it may seem like a challenge to create a cohesive culture when a company adds 25 new staff at a time, Deboer says the company has always
Ian MacDonald, site leader at Infinera Ottawa, says the company has a track record of hiring accomplished employees who ‘think about things differently.’ placed value on employee feedback and ensuring they are happy at work. “You can be revenue-driven, shareholder-driven, customer-driven, but we are employee-driven,” he says.
When network provider Infinera is meeting prospective employees, the
company can tell candidates they’ll have a chance to make the internet faster for some of the biggest names in telecom and online content creation. The company builds optical transport networks for clients such as Verizon and Facebook to move large volumes of data and information needed to power their systems. The company currently employs 100 staff and is looking to expand in 2020. “We’re the type of company that’s always looking for a way to solve the problem in a different, more creative manner,” says Ian MacDonald, site leader for Infinera Ottawa. “Because of that, we’re able to attract people who are not only accomplished but who are able to think about things differently.” Infinera recently moved into the disaggregated router space – a more open-source system for internet connectivity, which has piqued the interest of many already looking at the company, he adds. “It’s an attractive space for a lot of software engineers, and we are really pioneering in the field,” says MacDonald. “I think everyone at the company would tell you that we get to work on some pretty cool projects and for us, that means a lot.”
“WE’LL TURN DOWN WORK IF IT’S NOT SOMETHING OUR EMPLOYEES ENJOY DOING.” – Richard Deboer, CEO, Rianta
TEDxKanata 2020 lineup takes shape Organizers of the sixth TEDxKanata have announced the first four speakers for the 2020 edition of the annual event, which centres around the theme “ignite.” The lineup includes Wendy Knight Agard, Nokia’s inclusion and diversity stakeholder
manager, who will discuss shifting perceptions of workplace diversity and what it means to be truly inclusive. Rose Cain, vice-president of business operations at Solace, will challenge attendees to tap into their curiosity. The event will also feature talks from GBatteries CEO Kostyantyn Khomutov and SparkPath founder JP Michel on how their companies are able to ignite change in the community. Tickets are currently on sale for the event – which will take place on March 5 at the Brookstreet Hotel – at https://www.tedxkanata.com.
Mitel announces new CEO One of Kanata’s biggest tech firms has a new chief executive. Mary McDowell brings some 30 years of industry experience, including stints at Nokia and Polycom, to the role. She takes over from Rich McBee, who spent eight years as the company’s CEO. “Mitel has a storied history of innovation, a trusted brand and a unique ability to meet customers wherever they are on their path to the cloud,” McDowell said in a
press release. “I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and eager to work closely with Mitel’s experienced team and network of partners to continue delivering solutions that make communications and collaboration more seamless for our customers.” McDowell’s appointment comes less than a year after Mitel was acquired by California-based Searchlight Capital for US$2 billion.
f l o ra l d e s i g n s
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diefenbunker.ca 3929 Carp Road, Ottawa, Ontario
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what we’re geeking out on
Cutting the (power) cord Drones programmed to land on charging pads when low on power. Charging plates in roads that connect to moving electric vehicles. These futuristic possibilities could become a reality thanks to made-in-Kanata technology.
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Kanata North semiconductor company is working to revolutionize the nascent world of wireless charging by developing technology that would dramatically open new possibilities for electric vehicles, automated drones and even submarines. Wireless charging stations for consumer products such as phones and laptops began hitting the market several years ago. However, Kanata’s GaN Systems has designed a power transistor that is smaller, faster and more energy efficient than the technology currently in use.
Its efficiencies have enabled the Kanata North company to tackle sectors beyond consumer goods, bringing wireless charging to a range of new industries including industrial and automotive. “The only thing that was sent wirelessly in the past was information,” says Peter Di Maso, director of product line management at GaN Systems. “Now we’re sending power.”
A WIRELESS WORLD
For a society that’s long been accustomed to regularly plugging in portable electronics, wireless charging can
“IF (AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES) DON’T HAVE DRIVERS TO FUEL THEM UP, THEY WILL SIMPLY HAVE TO GET RECHARGED ON THEIR OWN.” – Barrie Kirk, executive director, Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence
Peter Di Maso is the director of product line management at GaN Systems. PHOTOS BY MARK HOLLERON
NEW WIRELESS OPPORTUNITIES
In December, GaN announced an investment from SPARX Group’s Mirai Fund, which counts Toyota among its investors and looks to place capital in autonomous vehicle companies. That follows investments from both BMW i Ventures – the investment arm of the German automotive company – and Delta, which specializes in automotive power systems, to help GaN accelerate innovation and expand the company’s sales reach in the automotive sector. GaN is playing a significant role in powering electric vehicles, from recharging cars themselves to providing wireless charging in cup holders or dashboard consoles. While wireless charging inside vehicles is an added luxury for drivers, there is a highly practical use case for the technology in autonomous vehicles, says Barrie Kirk, the executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence. “There is going to be a trend in the 2020s towards driverless taxis, and I can see a real benefit of having wireless charging technology in them,” he says. “They will know where the charging
points are and will be able to go park there and get the batteries topped up when they aren’t busy.” There are also tests underway to experiment with charging on the move, which could see charging plates installed in roadways to allow autonomous and electric vehicles to charge while they drive. “The technology is in its very early days,” says Kirk. “While technically it could be a great system … the cost may just be too high.” While driverless taxis that are
charged wirelessly might materialize in the coming years, Kirk says he sees the future of automation rooted in all kinds of public transportation. The technology coming out of the AV sector is opening endless opportunities rooted in wireless charging, he adds. “That family of AI technology can support a wide range of vehicles from cars, transport trucks and farm equipment,” he says. “If they don’t have drivers to fuel them up, they will simply have to get recharged on their own.”
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seem like a radical innovation. But the technology powering the first generation of wireless charging technology isn’t that much different than what’s found within traditional charging cords. Both systems integrate the same transistor technology that converts the AC power coming from the outlet to DC power to charge a device. In the case of a charging cord, the unit simply acts as a pathway to transfer the energy. Wireless charging removes the need for a cord by integrating a receiver right into the device, or attaching one to allow it to connect to a charging pad. It also uses silicon semiconductors and inductive charging to convert the AC power output, which causes the energy to transfer at a much lower frequency, making the process slower. “The old wireless charging was very location-based,” says Di Maso. “You would have to take your phone, line it up exactly on the charging pad and, if it moved a little, all of a sudden you weren’t charging anymore.” GaN is not the only Kanata North company working to find better solutions for wireless charging. Semtech, for example, has created its own consumer system that provides power to phones and computers. Its LinkChargeCT is an out-of-box inductive charging unit that provides high enough frequency levels to power through a desk. GaN, which was founded in 2008 and now features a team of 38 employees, uses gallium nitrate in its semiconductors. This allows its transistors to convert energy at much faster speeds than older units, resulting in less energy loss. Transferring energy at a much higher frequency also allows users to charge multiple devices at once, and from a greater distance. Charging can even take place through walls or floors – opening up opportunities for larger systems to be repowered, says Jennifer Ajersch, product and marketing manager at GaN. “We have drones that are fully self-sufficient. (The devices) know when they’re low on battery, land on a charging pad and recharge,” says Ajersch, adding that a similar system can be installed in a garage floor to recharge an electric car or bike. “It can even work with underwater vessels because no one has to be there to plug anything in.”
where we live
Calling Kanata North home Ample recreation opportunities, short commute draws tech workers to Kanata’s residential communities
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anata North may be best known as Canada’s largest technology park, but it’s also home to several thriving residential communities that provide tech workers with short commutes, plenty of green space and abundant amenities. Morgan’s Grant, Kanata Lakes and Beaverbrook are home to thousands of families and professionals attracted by the variety of housing types, easy access to woodlands as well as schools, a library, community centre and new recreational complex. The convenience of living and working in the same community makes Kanata North a no-brainer for many tech workers. For Beaverbrook resident Bojana Kolbah – who’s worked at Nokia for some 20 years – this means she and her husband can leave their car at home when they head out for work. “Compared
LEFT: Bojana Kolbah, her husband Chris Berry and sons, from left, Owen, Trevor and Markus walk through Beaverbrook Park in mid-December.
The Beaverbrook branch of the Ottawa Public Library is a valued amenity for many Kanata North residents.
can be a great stress reliever for any busy tech worker, she adds. “There’s an area right next to the business park that is maintained by a mountain biking club, and at any point in the summer a lot of tech workers will actually go out and mountain bike on their lunch breaks,” says Kolbah.
SOUND REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT
Dave Patterson is another tech worker familiar with physically active forms of transportation in Kanata North. “I know people that cross-country ski to work in the winter – they cut across the golf course – and lots of people walk to work in the tech park. It’s a very short
Snyk opens new Kanata North office Tenants working in 515 Leggett Dr. have a new neighbour: open-source security management company Snyk. The team moved into the central tech park building in October and hosted an open house to introduce itself to the community and scout for talent to fill the remaining open positions at its new location. The international tech firm helps its clients find and fix known vulnerabilities in open-source systems with its security software. The online security management company has offices in Boston, London and Tel Aviv, and is already building relationships in the park through a partnership with fellow Kanata North tech firm Trend Micro. The two companies are working to help developers protect their projects quicker by combining Trend’s cloud system shield technology and Snyk’s knowledge of open-source security threats.
Trend Micro raises $64K for Candlelighters Trend Micro wrapped up its annual Give and Match program, raising more than $64,000 for Candlelighters, a local charity that helps the families of children diagnosed with cancer. This year’s initiative was spearheaded by Ottawa’s Leah MacMillan and Steve Neville, both of whom have children who are cancer survivors. More than 300 employees took part in the fundraiser, giving back to the nearly 70 Ottawa families with children who are diagnosed with cancer each year. Candlelighters supports the families by hosting support groups and family outings as well as purchasing iPads for the young patients to stay connected to friends and family.
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to your usual suburb, it’s very walkable here,” says Kolbah. “My husband and I are able to have just one car and neither of us use it to get to work, which is amazing for the Ottawa area.” Kolbah bicycles to work every day, even in winter. She finds it more comfortable than trying to drive a car on icy roads. The series of connected bike paths that run through Kanata North makes cycling an easy and carefree activity for residents, and Kolbah says she and her family can bike all the way from their home to downtown Ottawa without having to use any roads. Spending some time on two wheels
commute,” he says. Patterson is a customer success team manager at Solace, where he’s worked for the past 13 years, and previously spent time at Alcatel. He spent the first few years living in Morgan’s Grant, a fairly new community, but was eventually drawn to his home in Kanata Lakes for the natural beauty. “We moved to Kanata Lakes for the greenspace and the mature trees. There are lots of wooded areas and paths here (as well as) very quiet streets,” says Patterson. Ottawa real estate agent Ian Charlebois knows Kanata North as a “must-be” location for tech businesses. He says the location also helps them hire top talent, as their employees can enjoy a home life of convenience and social activities. The skyrocketing prices of homes in Ottawa’s urban core make the community even more enticing for young families. With a good stock of large, single-detached homes that hold a very stable property value, Kanata North is a sound real estate investment. “Traditionally, and a fact that still holds true today, the neighbourhood draws in young families who want to live with everything a big city offers at their doorstep,” says Charlebois. “These well-off, middle-age, dual-income families move in with the intention of not having to leave the area much between Monday and Friday and respect the prestige they share with the neighbours in calling the community home.” Both Kolbah and Patterson have happily raised their families in the community, with great schools, resources and enough safety to let their children get out in the world and explore. “Both of my kids walk to school, walk to the library, they bike to their friends’ houses – it’s very much a little town within a suburb,” says Kolbah. “The last time we had a snow day, I just put snowshoes on my kids and sent them out to play with the kids on the street. It’s a very livable community.” ‑ Photos and reporting by Ted Simpson
Optician tackles contact lens waste A Kanata-based optical office is partnering with some of the biggest names in the eye health industry to reduce the volume of waste generated by contact lenses. EyeDOCS is joining Bausch + Lomb and Terracycle on the Every Contact Counts initiative, giving residents the opportunity to recycle their discarded contact lenses and blister packs at all three of its Ottawa locations. Contact lenses are one of the industry’s biggest sources of waste. In Canada, more than 290 million contact lenses end up in Canadian landfills. These contact lenses become microplastic that can pollute wastewater.
You.i TV stands out at international media conference You.i TV, which develops software for smart TVs and video streaming services, made a colourful appearance this fall in the Netherlands at the IBC show – one of the world’s largest gatherings of media and entertainment technology companies. The Kanata North company teamed up with local street artists in Amsterdam to outfit the company’s booth with a series of graffiti drawings including the
tech firm’s red logo, and the phrase “tame the fragmentation beast,” referring to the increased difficulty in reaching target audiences due to the abundance of media channels. The project attracted attention to the booth and paid homage to the vibrant street art scene that exists in the city. You.i TV was among 1,700 other exhibitors at the event, which saw more than 56,000 attendees at the multi-day conference.
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Ruckify acquires Alberta firm Online rental marketplace Ruckify has purchased a company that calls itself the “Airbnb of RVs” in a move that dramatically increases its product lineup. The acquisition of Calgary-based Wheel Estate – which specializes in connecting RV owners with individuals interested in short-term rentals – will diversify Ruckify’s services. The Kanata company says it’s adding tens of thousands of new products to its site every week, and this partnership offers them the opportunity to reach new customers.
BluWave-ai goes global Technology developed by Kanatabased startup BluWave-ai has made the journey across the Pacific for its first major round of testing in an international market. The company’s artificial intelligence software predicts how much energy a utility’s power grid will need to meet market demand. The two-year-old company didn’t exactly ease into the international waters; instead, it brought its technology to Mumbai, one of the most heavily populated cities in the world with nearly 25 million residents. The technology will be particularly helpful in cases of spikes in power use, such as during heat waves when air conditioners are running full-tilt. BluWave’s system could potentially save companies millions of dollars by avoiding the penalty charge for over or under ordering power. The company is hoping to continue to grow its overseas presence by adopting the technology in other fast-growing metropolitan areas.
Evidence Partners expands Kanata presence Literature reviewing software developer Evidence Partners had much to celebrate in December as it unveiled an office expansion to accommodate its growing team. The company officially opened its 9,000-square-foot space at 505 March Rd., a building it originally moved into in 2018. The team is on a path to reach 45 employees by the end of the year, which was a catalyst for the expansion. Evidence Partners CEO Peter O’Blenis celebrated the company’s success with a ribbon cutting alongside KNBA’s Jamie Petten and city councillor Jenna Sudds. O’Blenis highlighted several milestones the company hit in 2019, including a recordbreaking quarter in a recordbreaking year. “I think we’re just so incredibly fortunate here to have such technical expertise in Canada’s largest technology park, which you now have a bigger piece of,” Sudds told O’Blenis in her congratulatory speech. “It’s incredible just to see the continued growth, and I wonder what record you’ll break next.” The tech firm is expecting more growth in the near future, O’Blenis said, noting the company recently hired Walter Capitani as vice-president of marketing and business. “OK, next ribbon cutting in eight months,” he joked at the end of the celebration.
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Tech talent descends on Kanata North at Startup Open House New central location at 555 Legget brings growing tech firms together
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ech firms big and small set up shop in the heart of Kanata North for one evening this fall during Startup Open House, an annual opportunity for members of the broader community to meet the city’s top tech firms. More than 25 tech companies took part in the mid-November event in Kanata this year, either setting up booths in the lobby of 555 Legget Dr. or opening the doors of their offices elsewhere in the tech park. Armed with pamphlets, merchandise and information on career opportunities, the main floor of the building quickly filled up with visitors walking from booth to booth, learning more about the various industries. The Kanata North Business Association, in partnership with L-Spark and Invest Ottawa, helped organize the area’s participation in Startup Open House and arranged for shuttle buses to bring attendees from the city’s colleges and universities to Kanata North. The city’s post-secondary institutions are an important source of talent for the tech sector, said first-time attendee Andy Scott of telecommunications company Infinera. “We are looking to (bring) some younger people into the company,” he said, adding that the event was the perfect place to try and recruit the talent the company is targeting. The open house drew representatives from a range of sectors, reflecting the diverse nature of the Kanata North community. Software company Wind River was hoping to recruit new developers and engineers to join its team – which currently stands at nearly 200 employees – to help
“WE ALL START FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS; YOU JUST NEVER KNOW HOW BIG YOU’LL GET.” – Sergei Zadoyan, business development specialist, Message Hopper. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON with the design and construction of its operating systems technologies. “It’s our first time at an event like this, so we’re hoping to meet a star,” said Vicki Carver, a senior recruitment specialist at Wind River. “Gatherings like this show just how supportive the Kanata North community is of its businesses.” Alongside the strong sense of community, there was also an underlying
buzz surrounding the sheer number of successful startups in the tech park. Seeing so many companies come out and say, “We can’t hire people fast enough,” speaks volumes to the success that can be built in Kanata North, says Meghan Jervis, an HR representative from Sanmina. “It’s a competitive market out there, and recruiting can be hard. So we really need opportunities like this,” she said.
While Sanmina may not be a startup, she said the high-tech manufacturing company is still looking to grow its 450-person team to keep pace with growing demand. Besides giving tech workers direct access to some of the city’s top companies, Startup Open House also connected businesses in the park to share their success stories and learn from one another, said Sergei Zadoyan, a business development specialist at Message Hopper, a text-to-landline software company that currently employs 10 staff at its base in L-Spark’s offices. “This event really highlights the startups who are the heart of this community,” he added. “We all start from humble beginnings; you just never know how big you’ll get.”
out of office
Gearing up for big business Kanata-based Crank Software’s founders find success in talking shop on the bike trails
the middle of the night trying to read a compass with them, you probably have some ability to go through hard times inside a business,” he adds. “We’ve been at our best and our worst together before we even started the company.” The group has incorporated biking into their careers, participating in a range of races and even naming their user interface software company – which launched in 2007 – after a crankset on a bicycle. During Crank’s first year of business, the trio participated in the BC Bike Race, a seven-day excursion through the Rocky
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sk the founders of Crank Software why they work so well as a team, and you’ll likely hear a story about the rapport built while standing in a swamp together at four in the morning. Brian Edmond, Thomas Fletcher and Jason Clarke met while working at QNX and quickly bonded over their shared love of mountain biking. What started as a fun weekend activity quickly turned into a series of adventure race excursions, which Clarke says helped them realize how well they worked together. “If you can be out in the woods in
Mountains from Victoria to Whistler that’s dubbed “The most epic bike competition in North America.” The team spent between four and seven hours cycling each day, sleeping in tents at night. Fletcher says the physically taxing competition strengthened the foundation of trust within the team, much to the benefit of the company. “With three people steering the ship, you have to have a lot of communication and trust that you’re all working towards the same goal,” he says. “A lot of that for us comes from those early races where we were diving into swamps and stumbling around with a map in the dark trying to succeed.” Business aside, Edmond, Fletcher and Clarke say that getting out on the bikes also offers them clarity and puts work
issues into perspective. The group actively encourages their employees to do the same, says Edmond, adding that it isn’t uncommon for their team to be out biking or playing volleyball during lunch. “Getting outside gives you a fresh view on a problem. You can sit and stare at a business problem, a technical problem or what have you, and not make any progress. But (if) you take off for a run or bike ride for a while, you will come back with a fresh outlook,” he says. Despite the cold winter weather taking hold across the region, the Crank founders are still out on the Kanata North trails with their “fat bikes,” which are equipped with large tires, having a laugh and talking business. “There are constantly management meetings on the bikes, especially in the summer,” says Clarke. “It’s good for our stress levels, our clarity and our thinking. We’ve done it throughout our careers and it’s definitely something that we will continue.”
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