Is CTI High-Tech’s Best Kept Secret?

Calgary Technologies Inc. and the Alistar Ross Technology CentreI had lunch on Friday with Kevin Dahl, Manager, Business Networking & Cluster Development, for Calgary Technologies Inc. (CTI) at Jameson’s Restaurant and Bar in Calgary’s Northwest. It’s very close to the Alistar Ross Technology Centre (ARTC) on the University of Calgary campus, which houses CTI (and 110 high-tech companies). Kevin had a chicken wrap, and I enjoyed a clubhouse with sweet potato fries. Mmmmm … sweet potato fries.

Getting back to the title of this post, ok, well, maybe CTI isn’t really Calgary’s high-tech best-kept secret. It is for me, though. As I’ve said a couple times in this blog, I’m posting about my journey as I re-immerse myself back into Calgary’s high-tech scene. Up until last week, though, I had never heard of the organization. Considering the size of the operation, their list of partners (government and private sector) and the accomplishments listed in their 2006 Annual Review, they’re obviously having a big impact on Calgary’s high-tech scene.

In fact, they’re doing so much that’s it’s impossible to go into any depth of detail in this post. I’m going to touch on what I think are there biggest accomplishments, and I invite everyone to surf to their website for (lots) more information.

Founded in 1981, the two main marketing messages that get repeated often by the public sector, not-for-profit CTI are “Accelerating Your Technology Company’s Success” and “Building Calgary’s Hi-Tech Community.” Over 400 clients in 2006 benefited from programs such as Innovation Mentorship, WITEC, Wireless City, Financing Your Vision (FYV), Entrepreneur in Residence, and Entrepreneur Boot-camps. That’s in addition to being a hub to high-tech firms, investors and potential clients to help them network and connect … a huge help to those businesses that participate.

One initiative I really like is the Alberta Deal Generator, a joint venture between CTI and TEC Edmonton. The Alberta Deal Generator helps firms get “investment ready” and then connects them with the largest network of accredited investors in Canada. Henry Kutarna, who has an extremely impressive business, government and leadership pedigree, is now the Southern Alberta Manager, and will be a great asset to Calgary’s tech sector.

As I mentioned, I’m pretty surprised I missed hearing about CTI along the way. Maybe, like many high-tech ventures in Calgary, sales and marketing and P.R. need to do some extra work to get noticed in the sea of oil and gas. Recognizing this, CTI with their co-sponsor Calgary Economic Development and their private sector partner Material Insight have started a joint venture called TechRev … “It’s about raising awareness that Alberta’s advanced technology sector is thriving” … from an article in “Business in Calgary,” January 2008.

I have to admit, though, that they do have a bit of a problem with their websites, which is not something you’d expect from a high-tech sector hub. INFOPORT.ca, for example, which boasts 156,000 visitors annually is surprisingly antiquated (think “Frontpage site, circa 2002”), and some of the information is outdated … for example, the most recent news items on the main page of the “Information Technology Sector” is dated Oct. 23, 2006. And, hey … where’s the RSS feed? Kevin tells me that this is a focus for the passionate team at CTI to improve … which is great news … the opportunity to create a real Web 2.0 social networking type of community for Calgary’s high-tech scene could help expand CTI focus beyond the ARTC campus.

I’m looking forward to meeting more people from this “best-kept secret” in the coming weeks and months … I’ll let you know how it goes.