By Nathan Rudyk
There is such as thing as "creative destruction" – the economic theory of innovation and progress popularized by the Austrian School economist Joseph Schumpeter – and Ottawa's wireless sector is proof positive.
This evening Mike Darch, OCRI's Executive Director of Global Marketing, spelled it out in his "live from Barcelona" interview with CFRA's Business@Night host Greg Hebert from the site of Mobile World Congress. Mike's job is to traverse the globe and engage in conversations with trade commissioners, entrepreneurs and investors who often have no idea tech Ottawa exists, and turn them on to our possibility.
Talking with Greg, Mike said Ottawa is fighting back against "the Nortel situation, the downturn in the economy, et cetera, that has created a lot of people who wonder if Ottawa's time has come to an end."
Mike went on to emphatically state that Ottawa's successfully reinvented itself in the past, and is doing so again. He pointed to Ottawa-base wireless infrastructure firms like DragonWave and Bridgewater, applications companies like March Networks, and a slew of innovative mobile applications studios like Magmic and Fuel Industries that today employ some 18,000 people across almost 200 companies.
To contrast, let's go back in time to tech Ottawa's huge (talk about an unbalanced portfolio!) telecom sector concentration in the 90s. Then, a mere four companies (JDS, Mitel, Nortel and Newbridge) employed almost 40,000, or half the tech workers in Ottawa. You can see that a mere decade later, we've got a sturdy new crop of innovators. Wireless is one great sector. Cleantech is another among a total of some 13 unique ones.
Yes, we could have more VC money for them. Yes, we could have more government support and more effective/enlightened science policy. And OCRI among other national and regional tech organizations is tirelessly working those agendas. And yet ... the reinvention HAS occured. The Ottawa telecom supernova exploded into a series of new wireless stars.
What's the bottom line? Try this one from DragonWave's most recent quarterly results. DragonWave, the Wi-Fi infrastructure star with founders from Newbridge and a Nortel-trained CEO who earned his stripes at another start-up, reported CDN$107.3 million of revenue for the first nine months of fiscal year 2010, an increase of 235 per cent compared with $32.0 million for the same period the previous year. DragonWave also expects revenue of approximately $170 million in fiscal year 2010. The company started precisely one decade ago. There are more like it in Ottawa, and there are more coming.
Just ask Mike.