By Nathan Rudyk

The most recent issue National Capital SCAN, Ottawa's excellent tech business newspaper of record, carries the photo below of Dr. Michael Caughey in association with a story by Karen Secord on market2world's home town of Almonte, Ontario.

mike%20caughey.gifIt's great to see Mike recognized not just for what he's done to attract knowledge-based businesses to our vital community of artisans, entrepreneurs, musicians and thinkers, but also for his much wider contributions as a human catalyst for a tech sector that now employs close to 70,000 people throughout the Ottawa Valley and exports products and services around the world.

Mike co-founded the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) and served as its first President, and founded the Technology Venture Dinners that in the late 90s helped attract billions of dollars of VC deals to Ottawa. A man who understands that breaking bread makes for good business, Mike also founded the Technology Executive Breakfasts (TEB) that are a mainstay of the OCRI events calendar to this day.

Mike was the first person I met in high tech Ottawa. With two toddlers in tow, my wife Glenna and I moved from Toronto to the Ottawa Valley in 1993 to wash the "TO tech subsidiary think" out of my hair - my clients in those days were Microsoft Canada, Xerox Canada, EDS Canada, Steelcase Canada, Acco Canada, IBM Canada and Dell Canada.

Rather than continuing to make a decimal point of difference to the bottom lines of billion-dollar behemoths, I wanted to help build made-in-Canada entrepreneurial companies with global ambition. I had an inkling that the Internet would play a big role in shrinking the world for those companies, but I didn't know a soul.

Talk about right place, right time. Mike, who takes pride in knowing when to fire himself from his creations to make room for a new generation of leadership, had done so at OCRI as well as founder of Cadence Computer Corp., was seconded back to OCRI as Entrepreneur in Residence, and agreed to a lunch.

Mike can be a bit inscrutable when he meets new people, and I was aware I was gently being investigated. Midway through the lunch, he decided I checked out, the tone changed, and Mike was firing off names of people I needed to know. People who all got back to me, because Mike recommended them.

He also directed me to an OCRI-sponsored seminar on Internet marketing by University of Ottawa online guru Michael Strangelove.

Strangelove had self-published a book, How to Advertise on the Internet: An Introduction to Internet-Facilitated Marketing and Advertising, that led to an all-nighter of surfing (in those nasty dial-up days, most in-depth surfing was done in the middle of the night) and thinking. Eventually, Mike's pointer led to an online marketing company called digIT Interactive that I founded in 1996, and sold to Quebecor's global online ad agency Nurun in 2000.

Mike and I have grown to be great friends since, sharing many ideas and dreams about the future of the tech business as well as many special family moments.

When I decided to leave Nurun and join a VC-backed software start-up called Databeacon in 2001 (sold to Cognos in 2005), even though I knew several of the board members, I checked in with Mike first before taking the VP Marketing job there. When I was interviewing with Cognos after Databeacon's sale, it was Mike who pointed out why I'd come to tech Ottawa, encouraged me to set up a new PR and product launch company, and then pointed me to our first client, a Mac-based telephony company called Parliant.

I also felt Mike's gentle hand at work when I pitched OCRI with the idea of the tech business podcast, a channel that's still going strong in its third season.

The important thing to understand is, I'm not unique. I know for a fact Mike Caughey has done all this and more for dozens - more likely, hundreds - of technology executives now spread across North America and Europe.

Mike in his 70s is as vital as most people ever will be in their 40s. He moved to Almonte (with a little urging from a friend of his!) six years ago and dove into economic development for the town, attracting both money and talent. He serves on the Board of the amazing Almonte-based power metering company Triacta, and has also co-developed a patent for the Internet lock company LochIsle with that company's founder and CEO, Gavin McLintock.

So thanks Mike! And keep it going! SCAN's founder and Publisher Tony Patterson must be commended for the fine article in his publication, but there are many others to be written.

If you've got a Mike Caughey story you want to share, I invite you to post a comment.

(Nathan Rudyk is President and CEO with market2world communications inc., Canada's tech PR and product launch agency.)