Ariz Bhimani is a cancer survivor turned entrepreneur on a mission. Diagnosed at 20, he faced surgery, chemotherapy, and the challenge of recurrent cancer. Through all of this, Bhimani discovered his purpose: BRFZY. Driven by his own journey post-right orchiectomy, Bhimani used his engineering background to create recovery underwear. His vision is to get this solution directly into the hands of patients across Ontario.

As BRFZY gears up for launch, Bhimani’s heart remains in the province, where his medical journey unfolded. This is where his story began and it's where he's determined to make a difference, one patient at a time.

“It was this province’s health-care system that helped me,” said Bhimani. “So I really want to launch in this community first before going anywhere else.”

Effective April 1, a new regulation under the Building Ontario Businesses Initiative Act (BOBIA) gives businesses in the province access to more government and public sector procurement opportunities. The regulation mandates that the province’s public sector prioritize Ontario-based businesses when procuring goods and services.

The new rules define what counts as an Ontario business and what the government can buy from them. It's meant to help local businesses and encourage new ideas from Ontario. The regulation applies to procurements below $121,000 for goods and services. The government anticipates at least $3 million in contract awards will be targeted to Ontario businesses through to 2026.

“Ontario businesses should benefit from the investments of its own government,” said Minister Caroline Mulroney, President of the Treasury board in a news release. “Prioritizing Ontario-made products and services will help protect the supply chain, create good paying jobs and rebuild the province’s economy.”

The Ontario Public Service and Broader Public Sector spend about $29 billion on goods and services every year. The BOBI Act is a key part of the Ontario government’s procurement process.

“It’s great that the government is showing it stands behind the businesses and people it’s here to serve,” said Bhimani. “Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, it’s really a breath of fresh air.”

Bhimani is hopeful that the BOBI Act will enable startups like his to put money back into the provincial economy, and give him confidence as he’s developing his business that he won’t be overlooked when seeking opportunities to secure government contracts.

“It’s giving me a better chance at winning contracts and getting my product out there to as many people as possible, which is really going to make a difference,” said Bhimani.

Through a combination of funding opportunities, business development services, and specialized initiatives, BOBI seeks to fuel innovation, improve economic growth, and create jobs in Ontario’s diverse communities. Whether it’s offering financial assistance to kickstart a new business idea or providing mentorship and training programs to help businesses scale, BOBI was introduced to support the next generation of Ontario’s tech-driven economy.

According to the provincial government, BOBI offers funding options tailored to the unique needs of tech startups in Ontario, including innovation grants to support research and development initiatives, allowing entrepreneurs to explore new ideas, develop prototypes, and conduct feasibility studies. Tech startups can also access low-interest loans through BOBI to bring their products or services to market. These loans help cover the costs associated with product development, manufacturing and marketing. BOBI offers financial help for tech startups looking to expand their reach beyond Ontario’s borders. This funding can be used to support international marketing efforts, trade missions, and participation in global industry events. BOBI also offers access to specialized mentorship and networking opportunities, connecting tech startups with industry experts, investors, and potential collaborators.

“BOBI is making it easier for government employees to interact with smaller companies in Ontario to gauge their thoughts and help them get insights on what’s possible,” said Graeme Brown, co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of QReserve, a business services company that provides scheduling and resource management software solutions to help companies streamline their operations.

Brown says QReserve is not at the stage of selling to the government at enterprise level, but as a tech startup founder in Ontario, Brown believes in the importance of giving public servants access to technology companies and opportunities to discuss ideas and gather opinions. He sees BOBI as a mechanism to engage local companies to really understand their offerings so that those responsible for determining specifications for potential multi-million dollar opportunities are informed.  Since BOBI was introduced in 2022, Brown believes it’s still too early to expect to see any tangible rewards or results.

“Creating that requirement to consider those potential vendors, the smaller companies, I think it’s a good start,” said Brown. “I see a possible future where Canadian tech startups and scale-ups have easier access to tech deployment opportunities in the government, with opportunities that have been scoped appropriately, and where they have a pathway to a faster maturity and to understanding what those customers need, what they value, and naturally having access to revenue and the experience from doing that.”

Brown believes there is a need to keep creating pathways for startups to find a runway to push their engine, where they can put their foot down on the gas pedal and go.

“We’re in hockey country. Where’s the AHL, the CHL, the OHL?,” said Brown. “Where are the opportunities for those developing talents to cut their teeth and do complex things with some relative safety before they enter the NHL?”

BOBI’s broader impact on Canada’s tech ecosystem extends beyond financial support. It supports a “buy Canadian” mentality and strengthens a culture of retaining homegrown talent on home soil. By providing funding and resources to tech startups, BOBI encourages the development and growth of homegrown businesses, reducing reliance on foreign technology and fostering a sense of national price. By investing in local innovation, BOBI is meant to help create job opportunities in the tech sector, drive economic growth and contribute to the sustainability of Canada’s workforce.

Kitchener-based Miovision, which provides traffic management solutions and software to help municipalities optimize their transportation networks, unveiled what it called the ‘world’s smartest intersection’ in Detroit in 2018, before its technology was used in Canada by the Region of Waterloo and Stratford.

“[The U.S.] doesn’t say ‘you have to buy from Miovision,” said McBride. “They say, ‘hey Miovision, how would you build a smart intersection? What would the standards be? How do we set up our procurements to ensure we’re doing that?’ When procurement happens, Miovision’s intellectual property went into setting the standards and regulations. We help write the rules.”

Miovision now has over 600 customers in 50 countries. McBride says there’s a need for continued support and investment in the ecosystem in order to compete on a global scale.

“We spend our tax dollars to create some of the smartest, most talented engineers in the world and we should be proud of that,” said McBride. “We need an economy that makes them want to stay.”

“We need to think big,” said Kurtis McBride, CEO of Miovision,. “BOBI is a great step, but it’s a tactic. We need a vision and a strategy for this country. Let’s start local.”