Michael Cowpland

Written by Michael Corcoran


President and CEO, ZIM Technologies International Inc.

Claim to Fame

Founder, Mitel Corp. and Corel Corp.




Sussex, England

Currently residing in

Ottawa, ON

He’s been called everything from high tech titan to one-man tornado. He’s held $3-million Christmas parties and built some of Canada’s most recognized technology businesses. He is frequently credited with helping to create Ottawa’s high tech economy. He is Dr. Michael Cowpland.

Cowpland’s career and rise to success began in 1973 with partner Terry Matthews when the two founded Mitel Networks, a telecommunications startup based on a new technology to convert pulses to digital tones on rotary phones. When they started, they were renowned for working through the night soldering circuit boards, and putting Mitel signs on neighbours’ doors to make themselves look bigger than they really were.

Little did they know that, less than 20 years later, virtually every technology success story to come out of Ottawa would originate from one of two sources: either Bell Northern Research (later Nortel) or Mitel.

Cowpland’s next company, Corel, was one such success. Founded in 1985, Corel quickly became one of Canada’s first international software players thanks to CorelDraw, the company’s flagship graphics program, which became an industry standard in the desktop publishing world. After 15 years at the helm, Cowpland resigned as CEO, leaving in the same whirlwind fashion in which he built the company; he gave notice of the press conference announcing his resignation at 4:23 p.m. on the same day. His words: “Be here in an hour or miss me.”

Today Cowpland heads up Zim Technologies International, an Ottawa wireless technology and software startup he says could be bigger than either Mitel or Corel. Cowpland originally invested in the company as one of its first advisors, but bought a majority stake and became President & CEO less than two months later.

Born in Bexhill, Sussex, England in 1943, Cowpland holds a Ph.D. in engineering from Carleton University and an NSERC Lifetime Achievement Award.

This success story brought to you by The Leaf Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to championing Canadian success and involvement in the New Economy. Michael Corcoran is a co-founder of (, the country’s first online resource dedicated to the Canadian Internet startup company.

© 2001 Michael Corcoran

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