The 2011 OCRI Awards – The Matt Roberts Edition

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Aydin tweeted (or maybe I imagined it) that it’s that time of year, no, not Christmas but the time when OCRI picks local companies for their awards in the new year. And of course yours truly has a particular bunch of startups and companies in mind. Not to leave you all hanging, I’m going to tell you for whom I voted. Because it’s more fun that way and if you disagree you can go sign up and vote for someone else. I should point out I know someone at or have worked with almost each and every company below. Such is the fate of one who has been involved in tech here for so long. I don’t think this has clouded my judgment but probably brought some companies more front and centre.

The category list is here (if you want to read each sections description).

Company of the Year

Past Winners: DragonWave/SiGe/Bridgewater Systems

My Pick: Mitel

Why: Look at that list. With the exception of SiGe all are public companies, (Sige should be listed in the next month or two). Any local company who can pull off a NASDAQ listing in this environment should get a prize. 


Next Generation Executive of the Year 

Past Winners: Jason Flick (YouI Labs)/Rob Woodbridge (Rove Inc.)/John Roese (Nortel)

My Pick: Jim Skillen (WiLAN)

Why: This is a very badly titled award… Jason Flick, John Roese & Rob Woodbridge…  are this generations executives… They(‘ve) all run successful companies! Saying that they’re the next generation is a bit silly when they’ve all had senior positions before their current jobs. Believe me these guys deserve an award but the title sucks. Based on the job description my first vote would have been to Ed Ogonek, President and CEO of Bridgewater systems. He’s turned that company into the roaring success it is today. However he’s been in the position for more than 5 years.  So in under the wire, WiLAN CEO Jim Skillen who has run the company for the past 4 years and taken WiLan on a huge ‘transformative change’ OCRI seems to be looking for.


Strategic Partnership

Past Winners: QNX and Alcatel-Lucent

My Pick: Benbria & Broadsoft (Honorable Mentions: Teldio and Zonith, Shopify & Webgistix, N-able & Mitel)

Why: There’s a bunch of good candidates this year. And I know I left out some. I’m a big believer that a good strategic partner can create a certain inflection point for a startup and that’s what I looked for here. I think both Teldio and Benbria have those in their partnerships. I’m pretty excited to see Shopify & Webgistix from their customers point of view, no inflection point here just a great partner to add customer value and drive sales. It was a hard call on this one.


Most Promising Start-up

Past winners: Telepin/Embotics/Menova Energy Inc.

My Pick: Teldio or Swix (too close to call)  (Honorable Mentions: Gazaroo, Select Start Studios, and GaN Systems)

Why: They must have been in operations for less than three years, which makes this a bit more difficult to pick for example this nicks Benbria. Teldio and Swix meets this and all OCRI’s criteria “excellence in innovation and a commitment to the knowledge-based sector while increasing profitability, community involvement and embracing sound business fundamentals”.  Network Hippo & Gazarro are a great companies while Select Start Studios might win next year if things move right for them. GaN Systems is my dad’s startup and I’m advising there now – so a bit self serving – but the progress since they won the ’09 CIX most Innovative CleanTech company has been extraordinary, and all these companies are under 3 years old. 


Product of the Year

Past Winners: Neptec/Pika/Ross Video Limited

My Pick SelectStart Studio’s EMR Client (Honorable mention: DNA11/CanvasPop, Mercury Grove/ NetworkHippo, dualcode/slide-casts

Why: This was harder than I thought it would be. I would have chosen Canvaspop as a promising Startup – but I think it would be disingenuous calling them a startup as they’re an extension of successful DNA11 and sadly they ‘officially launched’ on Oct 1 -2009. And Network Hippo should be given some due again a launch in 2009. Launching the EMR Client for SelectStart was their big deal. And I think it’s a pretty compelling product that can be rebranded and used at multiple hospital sites. I think we’ll see this item extended throughout the healthcare system. 


Solution of the Year Award

Past Winners: None – its new.

My Pick: Magor / HD Videoconferencing and collaboration system. 

Why: OCRI is looking for an “application or solution that significantly enhances and/or improves the functionality, productivity, business process, operations, sales, marketing, supply chain management, customer service, communications, competitiveness or business relationship for its customers/clients.” The Magor product does a pretty much most of these things. 


OCRI Futures Award: Student Entrepreneur

Past Winners: Muhammad Arsalan and Atif Shamim

My Pick: Matthew Espinet, Brennan Loh & Daniel Beauchamp (Avitu)

Why: Still in school at Ottawa U – Matt, Brennan and Daniel are the team behind Avitu a startup aimed at helping website owners make money by selling ad space locally. Good Concept. And I owe matt an email – which I should get to. 


The rest of the awards are outside the scope of my world. I’m sure some googling might have turned up an answer or sparked a thought but nothing comes quickly mind which is always a bad sign. 



The Author

Hi. My name is Matt Roberts, you can find me at


  1. Local Gadfly says

    Mitel as Company of the year – you’re kidding. Stock price is in half since IPO, 1/18th since friends and family round in 2002. Listing does not equate to value. Where’s the beef!

  2. Anonymous says

    1/18th? Nope. Liquidity does equate to value, its actually a central tenant of the value thesis of a stock. Every other startup thats won the award that is listed went through similar dilution period and/or stock languishing declines. Dragonwave and Bridgewater halved after the IPO – before bouncing back. While all the winners (SIGE included) have gone through dilution in order to survive. Even if your 1/18th was true (which it isn’t), surviving through the meltdown wasn’t easy. Nortel couldn’t.Its the nature of the beast, angel investing isn’t for everyone.

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