Feature – Five Ottawa Companies Making Their Mark in the World
By Barbara Balfour
IT’S NO LONGER a secret: Ottawa is a hotbed of talent, birthplace of great ideas and home to a burgeoning tech industry that’s making significant global contributions. We talked to five local companies who are putting our city on the map in a very big way.
Robert Wang has perfected the art form of making the perfect soft-boiled egg. That’s his daughter’s favourite breakfast food and one that requires precise timing down to the second. Luckily for her, Wang has not one, but three Instant Pots at home—a seven-in-one kitchen appliance he just happened to invent in 2009.
The serial entrepreneur and company CEO designed the device—a combined pressure cooker and slow cooker—to bring innovation to a space where there had been none for decades. “The slow cooker was first patented in 1937. Crockpots were introduced in 1971. Since then, there hasn’t been much else,” says Wang, who holds a PhD in computer science and specializes in artificial intelligence. “We wanted to introduce something that caters to today’s generation, which suffers from lack of time and would rather spend it with friends and family than standing beside the stove, cooking.”
Today the Instant Pot is the number one cooker brand and among the top five small kitchen appliance brands in North America. For the past three years, during Amazon Prime Day, it has been the highest-selling non-Amazon-made product on the continent—a feat no other brand has achieved, Wang points out.
The 80-employee company is growing fast—and with more than 20 openings right now, snapping up talent like hotcakes.
As an international leader in video production technology, Ross Video could have located their headquarters anywhere in the world. After all, their products are already used in more than 140 countries. But for CEO David Ross, Ottawa is not just home but the community that made his company’s success possible.
“We’ve enjoyed 27 consecutive years of record sales, at a consistent average of 17 per cent growth per year. Ottawa has been a big part of that, with its incredible talent pool and all its economic advantages,” says Ross, whose father, John, founded the company in his basement in 1974.
Today Ross Video is a half-billion-dollar organization. Their dynamic client base ranges from the world’s largest broadcasters and sports stadiums to celebrity rock bands, internet providers and government organizations.
“Ottawa has been good to us and, looking forward, we see no end in sight,” says Ross. “Even though we now employ almost 700 people, we expect this annual growth to continue and we’re looking for the people that will help take us into a very exciting future.”
If you’ve ever taken the plunge down a water slide, chances are you’ve experienced the innovations of a leading water park design firm called ProSlide.
Headquartered in Ottawa with offices in Shanghai, Amsterdam, Beijing and Seoul, ProSlide designs and manufactures water slides for top resorts around the world—think Disney, Six Flags and Seaworld. It’s the only company to ever win the industry’s highest honour—the IAAPA Impact Award—three times. Over the past 30 years, it has also won more Best Water Ride awards than all other water slide manufacturers combined.
It’s no coincidence that the steep grades and gut-twisting drops of their water rides, each one more gleefully terrifying than the last, mirror those of the ski slopes—the company was founded by a former national ski team racer, Rick Hunter, in 1986. His partnership with one of Canada’s largest sailboat manufacturers brought the highest-quality fiberglass to the industry. To this day, ProSlide rides are known for superior ride performance and premium quality.
In 2019, more than a dozen new rides and innovations will be unveiled, says Hunter. “We’re going to continue to take ride performance to an even higher level. The sky’s the limit.”
Most people don’t associate their ability to shop online with the e-commerce giant first started by two Ottawa entrepreneurs in 2006. Today, Shopify has more than 3,000 employees around the world and has exceeded $72 billion in sales on its cloud-based commerce platform, where businesses of all sizes can design, set up, and manage their stores across multiple sales channels.
Shopify currently powers over 600,000 businesses in approximately 175 countries, offering options such as tap and chip payment readers, same-day delivery, and multi-channel return, and exchange options. Its CEO, Tobias Lütke, was named The Globe and Mail’s CEO of the Year in 2014, while the company itself has been included on numerous lists of most innovative companies in the world.
The platform has gained the trust of not only billion-dollar brands like Red Bull, Nestle, and Kylie Cosmetics but also several Canadian provinces using it to run e-commerce operations. Having already signed deals with local marijuana companies, Shopify is also tapping into the vast revenue potential of legal recreational cannabis in Canada.
In addition to its Ottawa headquarters, Shopify’s other offices are located in Montreal, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, and San Francisco.
GUSTO WORLDWIDE MEDIA
Canada’s most innovative food TV channel is barely five years old but is already being watched in more than 170 countries.
Founded by industry veteran Chris Knight, Gusto TV sold the Canadian rights to its brand to Bell Media in 2016 and is now known as Gusto Worldwide Media. The partnership enabled a significant expansion in their operations, including a workforce that has since tripled in size, and a new 13,000 square-foot TV studio complete with soundstage, commercial kitchen and post-production services.
The new space serves as the production hub for Gusto’s numerous award-winning food and cooking series and is also available for lease to external producers. As one of Bell Media’s four specialty channels, Gusto TV is now being rebranded under the CTV banner as CTV Life.
Knight’s ultimate plan? To launch Gusto globally as an international channel, with a particular focus on the U.S., China, the U.K., and Germany; its first overseas linear channel was launched in Singapore in August.
Made in Ottawa – Beer –
According to the Ontario Beverage Network, Ottawa is home to 21 independent craft breweries!
Beyond the Pale Brewing Co.
Bicycle Craft Brewery
Big Rig Brewery East & West
Broadhead Brewing Co.
Clock Tower Brewpub
Conspiracy Theory Brewing Co.
Covered Bridge Brewing Co.
Dominion City Brewing Co.
Evergreen Craft Ales
Flora Hall Brewing
Kichesippi Beer Co.
Nita Beer Co.
Overflow Brewing Co.
Small Pony Barrel Works
Stray Dog Brewing Co.
Tooth and Nail Brewing Co.
Vimy Brewing Co.
Waller Street Brewing Co.
Whiprsnapr Brewing Co.
Visit ontariobev.net/ottawa-brewers-directory/ where you can learn if the brewery also serves food or if they offer mail delivery. Cheers!