Ottawa companies are showing some SaaS these days — Software as a Service.
The growing niche is transforming our telecom town into a software city, and there was plenty of evidence on display at the first-ever SaaS North Conference at Shaw Centre this week.
"We're about to enter a very big up-cycle," predicted Terry Matthews, serial entrepreneur with four decades' experience developing more than 100 companies, including Ottawa's Mitel, Newbridge and March Networks. "It's one of those things in life, if you've been in a business for a long, long time, as I have, you can feel the trends, almost like a gut feel."
While Canada's Shopify, OpenText and Halogen Software are all good examples of SaaS companies, thousands of emerging startups across the country are concentrating on developing software and apps.
Tobias Lutke, Shopify CEO and a conference speaker, said in an interview that he loves that he didn't have to travel outside the country to rub shoulders with other software innovators.
800 execs, investors
The conference — Canada's first — hit Ottawa Wednesday and Thursday, helping connect about 800 executives and investors from across North America.
'I really do think Ottawa, specifically — but Canada in general — could very well be the best place in the world to create SaaS companies.' - Tobias Lutke, Shopify
"I really do think Ottawa, specifically — but Canada in general — could very well be the best place in the world to create SaaS companies," said Lutke.
"They require a lot of very in-depth knowledge, which is not the kind of thing you can do in a market where people change jobs every 12 months."
Mike McCarthy and Erik Hobbins from Kanata's fusebill, a subscription billing software firm that helps companies automate billing and invoicing, set up a booth at the conference with the intention of meeting potential customers from far and wide.
Flashy orange suits
The sales team dressed up in flashy orange suits which drew stares at first, then attention to their pitch. But according to Hobbins, despite the diverse crowd at the conference, they ended up resonating most with other Kanata startups.
"We got to meet the neighbours," said Hobbins, an account executive at fusebill. "You drive by them every day, so it's nice to actually get to meet some of them and understand their needs. That's a big one. There's four or five that are literally down the street from our office in Kanata that we're going to help."
Terry Matthews's own Mitel pivoted from hardware to software in recent years, and as an investor, he continues to put his money into SaaS.
"The world of SAAS has just started and Canada is in a great spot because of the expertise embedded in the society," said Matthews. "We're going through a positive phase. It's great."