The Queen of Orange Cones
11 March 2019
As the only woman in the first cohort of the tech program offered at École de l’Entrepreneurship de Beauce (EEB), Caroline Arnouk humbly blazed the trail for others. Nothing stops the founder of OPA Technologies from moving forward, not even orange cones!
Civil engineer, Caroline Arnouk, has always been fascinated by heritage buildings. Every time she walked into one, she imagined that a team had once overseen its construction from A to Z. “I never stopped at the thought of working in a male-dominated industry,” she says. “My dad always told me: there are no limits if you really want something.”
She didn’t stop at civil engineering studies at Polytechnique Montréal and infrastructure management at ETS either, she also received a certificate in law at the University of Montreal and a diploma of entrepreneurship development from MIT.
The idea for a business that developed urban traffic obstruction management software came to her while working for the City of Montreal. As an engineer in the water services department for six years, she regularly found herself around a table with a variety of professionals. “Infrastructural repairs were managed with Excel! With those results: construction sites flowing onto other sites, and an absurd amount of road congestion. I saw a real urgency to find an effective technology.”
In 2015, she left the stability of a large organization to start OPA Technologies. “I wanted a smarter, more enjoyable mobility for a positive impact on the city and the entire urban community,” she explains. “These congestion problems also exist in Toronto or foreign cities that invest in infrastructure.”
Along with programmers and specialists, this 30-year-old invested her own money and two years into developing the first traffic obstruction and road mobility management software the world had ever seen. The application shows real-time road work in progress for any given area.
Other modules, blasting sites and bus routes, were later added. “The City of Quebec, and Infrastructure Canada for the Champlain Bridge and Turcot Interchange projects, were the first clients to put their trust in us.” Brossard and private companies have also started using the OPA software recently.
“I’ve always had a lot of guts!” I’ve never been afraid to challenge the status quo. If there is a need, and the solution doesn’t exist, we have to create it! We didn’t produce the lightbulb by improving the candle!”
Make room for startups!
With OPA Technologies, the “queen of orange cones” wants to improve road mobility and help the private and public sectors save money. “Having a public transit service is essential, however we can do better in terms of smart mobility and innovation. I think young startups have a ton of great ideas, but have a hard time commercializing them. I made myself their spokesperson, so to speak, because I see their potential out in the field. We have to invest in them!”
As she continues to grow her client base in Ontario, the United States and Australia, this techpreneur will continue to break down doors. “I am a woman, I am young and I have to convince seasoned industry veterans that using my software will improve their productivity. At first they were surprised that I was the only shareholder of my company, and I had to prove myself for a year or two before they trusted me. Then, when I succeeded, they asked me if I was a magician. I’m not a magician, I am persevering! “