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By Elizabeth Howell

From the early days of Northern Electric to current rising stars such as Martello, a new installation inside the Brookstreet Hotel is documenting Kanata’s rich tech history and showcasing the region’s innovation and achievements.

Serial entrepreneur Terry Matthews helped unveil a new mural honouring the past 60 years of Kanata’s tech industry at a ceremony attended by some 75 people in early March.

The multi-panel mural – titled Innovators of Kanata North – stretches
more than 25 feet across the hotel’s main floor, on the way to a Starbucks that companies in the local tech hub often use for meetings.

The mural is broken up by decade between the 1960s and the 2010s, listing milestones of nearly 50 Ottawa tech firms including Mitel, DragonWave-X and Wind River.

Photo by Mark Holleron

The first mural has a single entry about Northern Electric, which would later become Nortel and a central part of Ottawa’s tech ecosystem for decades.

As visitors reach the 2010s, they read milestones achieved by Kanata’s
current generation of tech stars, such as BlackBerry QNX’s 2017 on-road test of an autonomous vehicle – a Canadian first.

The mural is designed to accommodate additional companies in years to come. At the end is space reserved for the 2020s that is currently blank, except for a quote by Matthews that reads:

“Opportunities are through the roof for those who get it right, and if you think that the opportunities have ended, you’d be very much mistaken.”

Photo by Mark Holleron

The aim of the mural is to provide visitors to Kanata a broad sense of the history and diversity of the region’s tech companies.

The story of many of these Kanata tech firms is far from linear. Ownership changes, pivots and M&As are part of Innovators of Kanata North: New mural celebrates local tech history the corporate histories of many of the region’s most well-known tech firms, such as Mitel and Newbridge Networks. Matthews says these are all signs of a healthy tech ecosystem.

“Some (companies) are sold, some combined, some are started up.
The important thing is to keep (the industry) active,” he said.

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