By Graham Lanktree
China is betting $10 million on Ottawa’s tech firms as state-owned business incubator Zhongguancun Development Group set up at entrepreneurial booster Invest Ottawa’s offices Tuesday.
“We grabbed them by the hand and dragged them here,” said Bruce Lazenby, CEO of Invest Ottawa. “I used to think that when a company established itself in Ottawa that it was serendipitous, but this is a hotly contested market.”
With a capital base of $1.5 billion, ZDG set up a similar incubator in California’s Silicon Valley last year and the new location marks the second spot in North America. The aim of the company is to pave the way for Canadian businesses to enter the Chinese market.
“By 2018, you could say China is the biggest consumer of blank, insert any word and it would be a true statement,” said Lazenby. “The $10 million is basically money that will be available to Ottawa companies for their development in China.”
If Ottawa firms want to do localized market research or product development overseas, the fund from the ZDG Otawa International Incubation Centre will help get them there.
Lazenby said there is no shortage of tech talent in the city, be it building the next best mobile app or a connector component for solar cells. “Sometimes it disappears in the shadow of the peace tower,” he said, “But there are 2,000 companies with 75,000 people producing terrific stuff.”
A number of new technology startups have budded in Ottawa and Lazenby is hopeful some of them will find themselves drawn to the vast Chinese market.
“Ottawa companies have always known that they have to be global. China is difficult to approach,” he said. “Here we have an extraordinailly well respected partner that can hand hold them right to the end market.”