YOU i Labs is an Ottawa software company that's landed in a technology sweet spot.

They help companies improve the "user interface" or UI. Translation: That's how you and I operate devices such as phones, gaming and GPS units. Usually that means a touch-sensitive screen. YOU i's co-founder and president Jason Flick says a half a billion devices already use their software.

Recently YOU i received a half-million-dollar grant from the Ontario government.

"The money makes all the difference in the world and will keep us in Ottawa," Flick says. "We can leverage it into $1.4 million with other investments." Last week Flick met 15 potential investors who are now interested because he has customers and government support.

Next month he tours three European nations on a federal trade mission. In January he says he'll unveil a "game changer" product for a major U.S. cell phone maker at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. A new opportunity for YOU i is providing a software solution to those who need their device to run faster and use less power.

As a marketing ploy YOU i sent out View-Master machines ‹ the original 3D viewer developed 70 years ago. The low-tech unit was loaded with their corporate pitch. Flick said 60% of those sent the View-Master responded.

The government money will allow him to pursue those potential customers.

"Ottawa was hit a lot harder than other communities in losing investment money. Companies have learned how to stretch money. I think others realize the software talent we have here and will start coming to us."

Website of the week:
This Nova Scotia-based site provides meal plans, grocery shopping list and advice on food consumption for a $20 monthly fee.

This Sunday on TECH NOW: An Ottawa firm helps thousands of companies use e-commerce.