Nobody knows the capital I see, nobody knows North Gower

Gazaro%27s%20Red%20Babes209X195.jpgA theory widely circulated has it that the conservative tendencies keeping Canada’s big banks solvent and the envy of other industrialized nations are the very same tendencies that hobble Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs. We’re just too damn restrained, many believe, for the cutting edge of global business and technology. Hobbled, however, is not crippled. Here, as evidence to the contrary, are tales from the capital you never knew.

Not just the capital. Also the exurb of North Gower where Standard Innovation Corporation makes its home. Further west along the corridor Sam Zaid got his BEng at Queen’s in Kingston. But Mr. Zaid, who earlier this month did an impressive pitch in Palm Desert at Demo09, works in Ottawa now with a company called Apption Software . North Gower’s Standard Innovation has made news in the capital by snagging nomination as the most promising start-up at the 2009 OCRI Awards.

Apption specializes in infrastructures using artificial intelligence and service-oriented architecture based solutions, ranks fifth in Profit Magazine’s Hot 50 ranking of Canada’s fastest growing young companies. In California it was presenting its new personalized electronic flyer, Gazaro, the second time the company has been on stage in California in six months. The first time last fall, at TechCrunch50 in San Francisco a kerfuffle ensued when some competitors for attention by the VCs and other Silicon Valley movers and shakers charged that Gazaro was unfairly employing pulchritude in pursuit of some conference prize. It was a tempest in a teapot, but thanks to the diligence of Rob Lewis at Vancouver’s TechVibes and his Web Developer Greg Andrews, the photo up top by Frisco’s Mark Johnson was discovered.

Have to wonder what bank they’re using.

The OCRI Awards are to be presented at a gala evening April 8 where everybody in the capital’s Tequila%2C%20Tila%20%26%20We-Vibe111X198.jpgbusiness, research and academic communities recognizes one another.

I have to allow that I-Peak Networks has the inside track for OCRI’s start-up award. IPeak, which boosts the performance of applications over the internet, was the first graduate of OCRI’s business accelerator program and has been on OCRI’s Top 10 list of tech companies not once but twice. It’s also one of about 50 companies province-wide that managed to draw $500,000 from Ontario’s Investment Accelerator Fund before that loonie-well ran dry. Embotics is also a worthy candidate. The company employs a proprietary control system to reduce the costs, risks and workloads of virtual machines. It raised $4 million in a Series B round in December and was named to Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 as well as a Top 10 company to watch in 2009 by CIO Magazine. No slouch there.

But there are three start-up nominees and I like little-known Standard Innovations. Since releasing its first product less than a year ago, more than 70,000 units have been snatched from shelves, for a value at retail of almost $10 million. That little novelty, called the We-Vibe, is displayed at right by Tila Tequila, who picked hers up in the secret “gifting room” at this year’s Academy Awards. (Click More below for a link to a demo of how it works.) The company’s next release, still in development but coming before the end of this year, will employ “a technology never before used in a sex toy,” according to Standard’s CEO Bruce Murison. Sex toys are Standard’s business, from global headquarters neatly tucked away in a rural Ottawa bedroom community.

Tony Patterson
Scanning OTTORLOOMAP%20168X33.jpg the Ontario Technology Corridor

Standard has been a start-up for seven years or more while Mr. Murison has been designing the We-Vibe , sourcing high end materials such as medical grade but soft, silky smooth silicone, batteries with extra oomph to power a motor with gold contacts (you never see it), and perfecting a seamless hand-moulded casing. The manufacturing process is labour intensive. He travelled to China to inspect factories and select one where he was sure of fair employment and sound environmental practices. There was also the testing of prototypes to be done, at home and by recruiting willing friends, noon & night dancers and sex trade workers to give it a try. Finally, after seven years of R&D, it touched the right places just the right way.

And they were off.

This is Canada, remember. Ontario. It’s happening here. Ottawa. It can happen anywhere.

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Companies in the Ontario Technology Corridor, almost 6,000 of them, spanning the software, photonics, wireless, cleantech, digital media, life sciences, and micro-electronics sectors, employ more than 250,000 people. There are almost 30 universities and colleges along the corridor.

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