Mitel faces ‘challenging’ fight on IPO anniversary

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
May 2, 2011 (May 6 on

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Year since public debut fraught with stock price drops, but some upside remains

In the 12 months since Mitel Networks’s initial public offering on the Nasdaq, there’s no denying the company’s stock has had a rough ride.

From its inauspicious opening on April 22, 2010 at $12.75 – which was down $1.25 from its announced price of $14 and significantly less than an earlier stated goal of $18 to $20 – to its nadir of $4.01 in late March of this year, the telecom systems maker’s first anniversary as a public company marks the end of a year characterized by downward movement and analyst concern.

(Click here to view a one-year timeline and stock chart for Mitel.)

While Mitel was unable to provide comment as it’s in a quiet period, observers note much of the problem centres on the first impressions Mitel has been making on investors who don’t know its nearly four-decade-long history.

“The first thing to keep in mind is that Mitel’s just become Continue reading →

Rentals may stave off Gladstone Theatre sale

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
May 2, 2011 (May 3 on

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Theatre to stay for-profit; owners hope to produce shows again eventually

The Gladstone is one of the few for-profit theatres in the country.
Photo by PETER KOVESSY for the
Ottawa Business Journal.

Not only is “Rent” the title of a hit Broadway musical, but appropriately, it may also be what keeps The Gladstone theatre in business.

Half a year after putting the quaint property at 910 Gladstone Ave. up for sale with a $1.5-million asking price, owners Steve Martin and Marilisa Granzotto are contemplating the possibility of taking the building off the market due to the success they’ve had with renting out the space.

“We’re probably not going to renew with the realtor,” says Ms. Granzotto, noting the arrangement expires in roughly 60 days. “Or we’ll renew one more time and let the fall season that’s being developed right now be completed. Any pending sale will be conditional on that and happen after the fall season.”

Ms. Granzotto says she and Mr. Martin are putting the finishing touches on agreements with local theatre groups such as Plosive Productions and SevenThirty Productions that want to use the Gladstone to produce their work for an entire season, bringing in a steady stream of income for the two owners.

The pair has also taken rentals from church groups, musical acts, schools, comedians and bands in search of rehearsal space – all of which is helping them gradually pay down their debts.

“We’ve stopped the bleeding,” Ms. Granzotto says. “We’re not incurring greater debt; we have past debt but it’s not increasing.”

As one of the few for-profit theatres in the country, the Gladstone faced an uphill battle in its struggle to balance production and operational costs with ticket prices and sales, and the limits of the building’s capacity. Unlike groups and venues such as Arts Court, the Shenkman Arts Centre, and the Great Canadian Theatre Co. – which itself occupied 910 Gladstone Ave. for 25 years – the Gladstone took no Continue reading →

Dance master

Published in the May 2011 issue of Ottawa Magazine.
(May 13 on the Ottawa Magazine website)

Click here to view this article on (Published as: “FROM THE PRINT EDITION: Dance instructor Raza Moghal struts his stuff at the Tulip Festival).

Raza Moghal and France Trottier
Instructor Raza Moghal with dance partner France Trottier.
Ottawa Magazine.

Meet Raza Moghal of Salsa Connectica, a dance class that includes lessons on social etiquette, understanding body language, and other tips on how to make an impression on the dance floor. After a successful nine-month run at Mambo Nuevo Latino and a series at Ashbury College, the charismatic Toronto native talks about bringing his unique brand of social innovation to the Canadian Tulip Festival.

You’re trained in business and urban planning; how does dance fit in?
I did a graduate diploma in green and socially responsible business, and fundamentally it’s about creating value, allowing you to reach fresh markets. Since I’m new to the city, I asked, “How do I offer something new and get people’s attention?” My value proposition is, essentially, trying to help people connect.

How is Salsa Connectica different from other dance classes?
It’s still mostly a dance class, but it’s about 10 per cent etiquette and 10 per cent social awareness theory. I’m making the implicit explicit. I’m talking about building chemistry and rapport and how to create the connection that’s beyond the physical. I use dance as a forum for that.

How does social dance compare with the dancing people are already doing?
Latin music is romantic and lets us connect with Continue reading →

First Air holds its own against Air Canada on Ottawa-Iqaluit route

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
April 18, 2011 (April 21 on

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Northern airline continues to battle competition in tight market

First Air says it lost ‘minimal’ market share since Air Canada entered the Ottawa-Iqaluit route.
Photo by ETIENNE RANGER for the
Ottawa Business Journal.

It’s been almost a year since Air Canada launched its Ottawa-Iqaluit route, putting the country’s national carrier in direct competition with two northern airlines, including locally headquartered First Air.

While fares were immediately forced down, and have yet to fully recover, the aftermath hasn’t been as bad as some had expected.

“We lost minimal market share,” said Christopher Ferris, First Air’s vice-president of sales and marketing. Passenger revenues are down by a “single-digit percentage,” and yield is now back to virtually where it was before Air Canada launched service, he said.

The lower fares have encouraged northern passengers to fly south more, observed independent aviation analyst Rick Erickson, although the carriers aren’t making anywhere near as much as they used to on the routes.

Fares fell sharply following the introduction of Air Canada’s Ottawa-to-Iqaluit flight, and while the numbers are not perfectly comparable due to the difference in travelling season, it appears that prices have stayed low since a year earlier.

For flights on and around June 16, a search last week indicated one-way fares starting at Continue reading →

Ottawa developers playing by the ’Book

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
April 18, 2011

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RIM tablet’s Android, Flash capabilities creating opportunities for high-tech players

Adam McNamara.
Adam McNamara, co-founder of Select Start Studios.
Photo by MARK HOLLERON for the
Ottawa Business Journal.

On the eve of the launch of Research In Motion’s PlayBook device, the buzz is palpable among local developers about the potential in the tablet computing space.

“There’s been some genuine interest … enterprise customers are asking about it and want more information,” says Adam McNamara, co-founder of Select Start Studios. “(The PlayBook) is attractive for business since it’s nice and small and RIM has a history of enterprise deployment. And our company is more business-oriented, so it’s interesting.”

His firm, which develops mobile products for markets such as the health-care and finance sectors, currently only gets about 10 per cent of its business for technology related to RIM’s BlackBerry smartphone platform, and he notes he isn’t sure how the PlayBook will affect Select Start’s bottom line.

But the addition of capabilities for the popular open-source Android system on the PlayBook is something that intrigues Mr. McNamara.

“Android has the biggest growth in market share in the U.S.; businesses are finally accepting it as a healthy alternative to the Apple platform and are asking for it by name,” he says, adding that means more options for Select Start.

The company is also watching the development of the PlayBook’s native software development kit closely, since it represents Continue reading →

BTI eyes portfolio expansion with $23M financing

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
April 12, 2011 on (April 18 in the paper edition)

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No IPO in the works

Networking equipment maker BTI Systems has received $23 million in fresh funds, marking one of the largest local venture financings seen in recent years.

“In the last four to six months, we’ve really been evolving our business in terms of our ability to be a sustainable company in the market we operate in. We wanted to move forward and continue our growth, which is becoming fairly accelerated growth, and there’s a capital requirement for that growth,” says chief executive Steven Waszak.

The new funding round, which was led by a new, unnamed investor, follows a productive 2010 for BTI, including an $11-million financing in November.

Mr. Waszak says BTI saw positive earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization and from a cash flow perspective during the year. The company also achieved record annual revenues as it passed the $52-million threshold, representing growth of 40 per cent year-over-year, and sales for its most recent quarter ended March 31, 2011 rose by about 80 per cent from the same period a year earlier, he says.

BTI now expects to be Continue reading →

Testing tech in government departments

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
April 4, 2011 (April 6 on

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New federal innovation program a step forward, but much work remains

Monica Preston.
AMITA president Monica Preston.
Photo by MARK HOLLERON for the
Ottawa Business Journal.

Local high-tech industry players say they’re pleased with the federal government’s new program to allow innovative products to be tested within the civil service, but there’s plenty of work still to be done on the part of the applying companies – and the organizations that support them.

Public Works in early March announced it had prequalified 19 companies, including three Ottawa-area firms, for the first of four rounds in the $40-million Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program. The initiative streamlines the procurement process for companies with highly innovative technology and sees Public Works working with the firms to find the appropriate government departments to try out their products and services.

If a match is found, CICP will negotiate contracts for the trials and disburse funds to procure the innovations, reducing the risk and budgetary constraints for the acquiring departments.

For AMITA Corp. – which prequalified for CICP with its MedPost public health information sharing software – the program is Continue reading →

‘Revisiting’ the Ontario Venture Summit model

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
April 4, 2011

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OCRI moves towards smaller, more targeted events

Michelle Scarborough.
OCRI’s Michelle Scarborough.
Ottawa Business Journal
file photo.

Local tech companies looking for money and mentoring this year will be meeting at leaner, meaner events instead of at the Ontario Venture Summit, which is taking a bow after nearly a decade and a half on Silicon Valley North’s calendar.

Beginning this year, the annual event – originally known as the Ontario Venture and Technology Summit and inaugurated in 1997 during the height of the tech boom – will be replaced with smaller gatherings that are specific to a company’s sector or life stage, says OCRI’s Michelle Scarborough.

“We’d like to connect (the investment community) with growing and emerging companies in ways that are a bit more fluid, and it’ll be less about a big summit,” says Ms. Scarborough, who’s vice-president of OCRI’s investment and commercialization group, which includes the OVS.

In an open house last week, OCRI highlighted the fact that its new Regional Innovation Centre – which will serve as the outlet for the investment and commercialization group’s expanded mission and vision – will receive a minimum of $2.25 million in funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation over the next three years.

The centre will be at the heart of the group’s new mandate to serve entrepreneurs in the eastern Ontario region, Ms. Scarborough says. The organization will also focus on leveraging relationships with angel investors such as the Capital Angel Network, as well as with programs such as Toronto’s Canadian Innovation Exchange and the Tremblant Venture Summit.

The buzz from the business community, she says, has been clear: companies want more opportunities for strategic conversations, rather than big meet-and-greets like the OVS.

“The feedback across North America and Europe is, ‘If (the events) were a bit Continue reading →

Building the iTourism experience

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
March 21, 2011 (March 23 on

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The Discover Ottawa iPhone app.
The Discover Ottawa iPhone app.
Image courtesy of Purple Forge.

A new crop of locally developed smartphone apps is bringing a fresh dynamic to a tourism industry that’s long past the days of having a visitor information stand on the side of the road leading into town, but still feels the acute need for details on a destination’s attractions and amenities.

The recent launch of the city of Ottawa’s official application, Discover Ottawa, is a shining example of this: within the first 36 hours of launching, the app had a five-star rating on the iTunes store, attracted more than 2,000 downloads, and was ranked the eighth-most-downloaded social networking app and the 128th overall in Canada, according to Brian Hurley, CEO of Purple Forge, which developed Discover Ottawa.

“It’s helping to develop Ottawa in terms of visibility and attractiveness … the app helps improve the effectiveness and reach of existing programs,” says Mr. Hurley, who notes the bilingual app will be integrated into existing tourism communications and info packages for people interested in doing conferences in the city. It will also be promoted in the Ottawa International Airport’s digital signage.

Discover Ottawa – which was developed with the help of $40,000 in funding from the city’s economic development budget – provides information from many of the city’s tourism-related parties, including the City of Ottawa itself, Ottawa Tourism, the Ottawa International Airport Authority, local business improvement areas and major shopping malls.

The app includes a wide range of data, from up-to-the-minute flight details, to restaurant, entertainment and activity listings, to social networking features such as the ability to post a virtual “postcard” – adorned with photos of Ottawa – to Facebook or Twitter.

“There’s a basic change going on out in the world in how people are accessing information … and for travellers, the smartphone is becoming the primary way of gaining information about a destination,” says Mr. Hurley. “So cities and tourism organizations are matching communications to the vehicle and end user.” Continue reading →

Plasco secures $140M in fresh equity financing

Published on the Ottawa Business Journal website.
March 22, 2011

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Rod Bryden.
Rod Bryden.
Ottawa Business Journal file photo.

Plasco Energy Group Inc. has brought in another $140 million in equity financing to fund its waste-to-energy projects in six regions, the Ottawa-based company announced Tuesday.

The firm, whose plasma gasification technology processes household garbage and turns it into green energy, said it’s secured a new financing round led by Soros Fund Management LLC.

The proceeds will be used to fund commercial projects in development in Canada, California, the United Kingdom, Poland, the Caribbean and China, Plasco said.

“The new round of capital bolsters our balance sheet and puts us in a position to execute on multiple projects that have emerged since our last round of financing,” said Plasco CEO Rod Bryden in a statement. “The performance of the company’s existing Ottawa plant and a strong pipeline of contract opportunities have allowed us to demonstrate to investors that our technology is proven and ready for commercial delivery.”

The funding follows on from a $110-million equity financing led by Ares Management LLC in July 2010, and brings the total amount of money Plasco has received to more than $350 million.

In an interview with OBJ, Mr. Bryden said the new dollars will go towards Continue reading →