The sudden closure of offices across the city left many companies scrambling to set up employees to work remotely, preserve cash flow and maintain their growth trajectory.
But it’s also sparked a wave of innovation as several of Kanata North’s leading firms and startups turn to e-commerce and other technology tools to develop creative new ways of supporting their customers, partners and the broader community.
Despite the uncertain economic climate, several startups at L-SPARK are offering discounts and programs for customers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
EssayJack, an online writing software tool, is offering extended free access to its users, as is fellow startup Heydey, which supplies e-commerce chat software for retailers – an increasingly necessary tool for businesses making the switch to online sales.
“The business of innovation does not stop,” says Leo Lax, L-SPARK’s executive managing director. “It’s amazing to see these startups, who are still early days, continue to support their existing customers and open their capabilities to offer further assistance.”
Elsewhere, the team behind Buchipop Kombucha Soda has launched the Burrow Shop, an online grocery store that features locally made products from vendors such as Nat’s Bread Company, Mariposa Farms and recent Bootstrap award winner Backcountry Wok, which can all be purchased through the site and delivered straight to the consumer.
In a similar move, software company InitLive has offered up its volunteer management tool to assist organizations such as the United Way in mobilizing members to aid in COVID-19 relief efforts. The platform can help replace dated tools such as spreadsheets to ensure teams are staying safe and connected.
“This crisis is negatively impacting each and every one of us, however, we must all act swiftly to do our part to help,” InitLive CEO Chris Courneya says. “Our goal is to provide the tools these groups need to quickly mobilize temporary workforces in their communities, and we will be working with each organization to address their unique challenges.”
In times of crisis, it’s imperative for communities to band together and support one another – something that’s clearly happening in Kanata North, says Lax. He adds that technology companies are uniquely positioned to offer assistance given the new reality of virtual work.
“That’s another way people and businesses are stepping up,” he adds. “They are putting forward a variety of statements, activities and tips on how to work from home, which can be of invaluable help.”
At BlackBerry’s Kanata North campus, employees are busy trying to keep up with demand from customers for secure ways to connect with their teams. BlackBerry works closely with governments and private-sector companies that rely on secure networks to protect private information. Given the speed at which businesses have been forced to adapt to remote work, the company made the decision to offer secure communication solutions to customers free of charge for 60 days.
“This is a crisis and our main goal is to help our customers,” says Nigel Thompson, vice-president of product marketing. “We want our customers to continue working, to be safe physically, be safe from a security standpoint and remain productive.”
With so many employees now working on personal computers, online threats are increasing at an exponential rate, so protecting confidential information is more important than ever, explains Thompson, noting there’s been a rise in coronavirus-related phishing attacks in recent weeks.
“We’ll be working really hard with governments and our customers to make sure that all those people that couldn’t connect, can now connect and that they can do it in a secure way that meets the business requirements.”
Other members of the tech park are focused on giving back to the community. Software manufacturer Solace , for example, was recently recognized for its $5,000 donation to the Kanata North Food Cupboard, and the team at the University of Ottawa’s Kanata North campus also made news for their work in creating medical masks for frontline workers.
In an effort to highlight the amazing work happening within the tech park, the Kanata North Business Association is encouraging other local innovators to come forward and share how their companies are lending a helping hand during these difficult times.
“There is a sincere sense of pride to see our companies want to make an impact,” Jamie Petten, president and executive director of the KNBA, said recently in a Facebook Live update. “Our talent has endured and weathered storms in the past, and will continue to do so.”