By Nathan Rudyk
On Sept. 30th I wrote that Bruce Lazenby is "the most important CEO in Ottawa right now because he's committed like no one I've met to tear down the little walls and moats that have been building up for several years now to delay what is ours for the taking: To be the best place in Canada to start and grow a knowledge-based business."
Today's launch of Ottawa Entrepreneur Week is solid confirmation of this faith in OCRI's new CEO and his very capable, experienced colleagues. As I write this, registrations for the launch party (register here to join us!) at the Heart & Crown Preston Street have OCRI event coordinators scrambling for overflow space and extra audio support.
Bruce spent most of his morning on a media blitz of drive-in/drive-home and afternoon radio and TV shows waking up the neighbours to fact that Ottawa's entrepreneurs rank with the world's best. He also explained how the city and the entire Eastern Ontario region needs to support them even better to help our companies realize their wealth/jobs/innovation potential.
This all began innocently enough, with an email I sent to Bruce and his OCRI team on Oct. 27th with a subject line that read: "Global Entrepreneurship Week is Nov. 14-18/Ottawa Entrepreneur Week anyone?"
That team, starting with Stephen Daze and Michael Burnatowski from the OCRI Entrepreneurship Centre, immediately sprang into action with their support for the idea, and compiled a list of nine seminars and workshops in their orbit. The events and marketing team of Kathy Mahoney, Alex Pugh, Patricia Ward, Jeff Elyea, Walter Noble, and Terry D’Angelo got busy on logistics. I contacted Global Entrepreneurship Week's Canadian arm, Canadian Youth Business Foundation, to get permission to co-brand/co-promote with them. They instantly agreed.
By the time I met with Bruce Nov. 1 (less than a week after email #1) at OCRI's offices to get his formal "Good to go", he'd already reached out to Gerry Nott, Publisher of the Ottawa Citizen, and his Chair, Jeff Westiende, had a meeting with the Ottawa Business Journal's Mark Sutcliffe. Both publishers pledged important media sponsorship and agreement to proflile some of our best and brightest companies throughout Ottawa Entrepreneur Week. In other words, we weren't good to go, we were going! And Bruce's EA Cindy Babcock ensured we all connected where and when we needed to.
Imagine the car-bots in Transformers 3 assembling in real time at 250 kph, and you'll get the idea of how fast we were executing on what was nothing more than an idea a few days earlier.
Michelle Scarborough's team at the Regional Innovation Centre for Ottawa and Eastern Ontario lined up a launch-party roster of their Portolio Rising Stars – the "ones to watch" companies and entrepreneurs that represent a selection of the 132 companies that have flowed through the Centre's mentorship engine so far in 2011. That team includes Marco Fiori, Scott Runte, Bob Huggins, and Peter Becke – all of whom pitched in along with CEOs from their portfolio companies to make the first annual Ottawa Entrepreneur Week happen.
Manu Sharma, from OCRI TalentBridge, signed on as our social media "Buzzmaster" to rally 20-something TalentBridge volunteers including Ashima Kudaisya, Kyle Sergeant, and Tuhin Das to pump "#OEWeek" on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Manu's in charge of Ottawa Entrepreneur Week's last "feature event", the Ottawa Community Challenge on Social Entreprenurship that's going on this weekend.
My market2world colleagues Paul Brent, Hasi Eldib, and Jill McCubbin have also been giving their all the last couple of weeks organizing PR and video production that Manu's team can propel into more conversations on social networks.
All the while Bruce Lazenby was on a grueling travel and first-month-on-the job meeting schedule. Yet he found the time to send out team emails like "OUTSTANDING. This is beautiful. Really great!" along with rapid-fire thoughts on how we could make it bigger, make it more, make it better, just like he wants Ottawa to be bigger/more/better on economic development. And it's going to be. No walls. No moats.
Every single one of what are now some 35 listed events on the Ottawa Entrepreneur Week Web site are feature events in their own way. Business, academic and municipal organizations right across the city and beyond have worked with us to build momentum. It's thrilling. It's humbling. And it's about leadership, and execution, in a spirit of collaboration, with the imperative of speed. Just ... like ... a start-up.
Promise me, this week, find an event that's right for you, and get involved. And if you don't have time, that's OK, because you're probably in the midst of starting a company! But if you're thinking of starting one, dive in DEEP this week. You'll learn, find mentors and most important, the inspiration to turn your dream for a company into an entrepreneurial success story.
Go Ottawa entrepreneurs! If we don't see you this year, we're going to see you next year for sure at Ottawa Entrepreneur Week 2012!