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Ottawa’s largest learn-to-code day, HTML150, gives a big boost to the city’s startup tech sector

By Jordan Duff on March 13, 2017


Photos provided by Invest Ottawa.

Earlier this month, sandwiched between the Friday and Saturday night Red Bull Crashed Ice circus, 150 Ottawans received a crash course in coding.

HTML150, an initiative led by Lighthouse Labs and presented by Invest Ottawa, provided a free one day session where non-developers were given the basics of how to code. Lighthouse Labs, a boot camp that trains web developers and iOS development, launched this program in 2014 with the goal of empowering students with the skill of coding.

“Because coding democratizes creation, coding gives us the power to create things that can be shared with the world in an unprecedented way,” says Jeremy Shaki, Co-founder, Lighthouse Labs. “This is why we created the HTML500 and why this year with the help of partners like Invest Ottawa we are taking it across Canada with the HTML150.”

This was the first time the event took place in Ottawa and it was Invest Ottawa’s first official event at their new home, the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards (ICBY).

Perhaps a good example of Ottawa as an innovative community, there were hundreds of applicants for the 150 openings and spots were distributed by random selection. Those lucky enough to participate were broken up into tables of ten with each table having a mentor: someone with a background in web development that could help guide the rookie coders through the session. Organizers had no difficulty finding mentors that were willing to share their expertise on a Saturday afternoon, again speaking to Ottawa’s tech culture.

“Because coding democratizes creation, coding gives us the power to create things that can be shared with the world in an unprecedented way.”

“HTML150 is an opportunity to share the tremendous knowledge, possibilities and impact of Ottawa’s strong and thriving technology sector with our entire community. Through such events, we are helping to spark new ideas, and develop, attract and retain top technology talent that will help our city to compete with anyone in the world,” says Mike Tremblay, President and CEO of Invest Ottawa

The day kicked off with morning coffee and opening remarks from Lighthouse Labs, Invest Ottawa and event partners including Machine, Telus, Algonquin College, and the City of Ottawa. Councillor Jeff Leiper praised the event and its hosts: “Community learning and engagement opportunities such as HTML150 directly support our vision for the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards, a dynamic one-stop business acceleration shop.” Participants were then given a crash course in HTML and CSS coding by instructors Maggie Moss and Nick Petryna, CTO of local Welbi.

The instructors discussed the importance of coding in our tech-focused world, misconceptions of programmers (including a great Independence Day reference), cat videos and moustache brackets. The takeaway: “coding is the art of solving a problem with steps so simple that even a computer can do them.”

As newbie-coders chewed on the knowledge imparted by their instructors, Krackers Katering boxed-lunch was served. The task given to attendees was to create a landing page for a duck, Mr. Larry Ducksworth. Don’t let my shabby attempt misrepresent the great program.

The program wasn’t intended to create expert coders in a couple hours, instead it was a fun opportunity for non-techies to better understand the language that is underpinning the apps and websites we use everyday. Hats off to all those behind the event on and to all the local developers that volunteered!

HTML150 is a special Ottawa edition of HTML500, a national initiative to teach thousands of Canadians to code. Visit to learn more about the project.