Hardbacon is making finance accessible to all through innovations

Meet Julien from Hardbacon, an impact-driven fintech startup on the edge of launching an innovative mobile application to invest on the stock market.

From business journalist to entrepreneur

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(c) MTL in Tech

On Monday, during Queen City Fintech Demo Day, Julien must have had thousands of ideas coming to his mind: what an incredible journey, from writing articles on latest finance news at Les Affaires, Quebec top business newspaper, to raising more than 6 times the expected amount on Ulule, and being part of the prestigious accelerator by Bank of American and Wells Fargo in North Carolina.

Indeed, this is a promising success story that emerged from a desire to serve young generations’ financial aspirations and improve online brokerages and robo-advisors, Julien found out that it clearly needed improvements.

He therefore started by offering “Not Another Boring Course About Investment” through the crowdfunding campaign on Ulule: 4 hours of video content with a retail value of $100, offered at $50. Thanks to an efficient network of ambassador and really speaking to Millennials, it was a real success.

The online course was only the first step to a wider project: creating a platform that provides financial information to everyone and that allows to invest on the stock market.

Innovating brokerage  

With a dream team of 2 backend developers, 2 iPhone developers, one designer and one financial analyst, and this initial bundle of money, Hardbacon started working on creating a stock brokerage comparison tool and a mobile app.

“We want to do what Bloomberg did for financial institutions but for random people. Make investment accessible to everyone.”

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Targeting the right public

The Ulule campaign made them realize that contributors were actually around 35-36 years old. Millennials are not yet considering investment as a priority as an initial capital of $5000 is usually needed to invest on the stock market. Instead, contributors and target customers are thinking about ways to better handle their money, thinking about wealth and pension management.

Differentiating

Since the Canadian financial market is highly concentrated, Hardbacon is not considered as a threat by brokers, banks and other financial actors. In fact, Hardbacon is earning money by selling robot-advisors services but it is also providing a unique portfolio analysis to clients.

“We want our clients to manage their portfolio by themselves, thanks to Hardbacon advice”

It’s time to disrupt the US market

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As entrepreneurship is about always targeting new challenges, Julien is now ready to conquer the US market. Because it has similar stock market structures but with different brokers. And because it allows to offer more services to clients than Canada: in the US, Hardbacon can add a financial recommendation dimension by registering to the Security Exchange Commission.

“We want to analyse the market and provide recommendations to our clients. Ideally, the US version of the website will include a chatbot.”

For now, Hardbacon’s app has just launched, and it’s only the beginning.

Innovating hardware projects in Montreal, meet ADI

Startupers start from unique ideas but these young ambitious entrepreneurs do not always have the proper skills to bring these ideas to reality. Montreal is home to a unique accelerator where two magicians, Stephane and Christian, create these innovations.

ADI – that stands for Acceleration Design Innovation – is an accelerator for hardware innovations that supports startups and SMEs to move from prototyping to mini-series and deliver a product that answers real needs.

Christian welcomed Innovation Montreal in his “batcave” – ADI’s production shop on Clark street, where all products are designed and invented, where you can find the first 3D printer in Quebec next to an old-school keyboard and PCBs for new smart products.

The beginnings

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Christian Beaubien

It all started in 2012. Christian and Stephane met during Mtl Mini Maker event. They immediately shared their interest in inventing products and helping new ventures to succeed.

Christian comes from a modest background and is 100% autodidact: a college dropout who loves making his own objects (he created his own version of a Meccano game when he was a kid). He progressively created his own network and became a key influencer in the hardware startups community.

Stephane has a master in engineering who started his first venture back in the 90s called RGB Technologies, a provider of quality software applications for small business that was then sold to Telus.

We complement each other to provide unique solutions to startups.

An accelerator for hardware

The concept is very simple and answers real needs: when startupers have an idea, they get excited but sometimes lack the skills and knowledge to properly design and produce. ADI helps them find the right material and create a cost-effective product. But they go even further: they provide useful advice for mass production and distribution.

“Startups want to go directly to China to produce massively at a lower cost but they need customer development insights”

To benefit from the support of ADI, there is a fixed entrance fee of $2000 for market and development research and risk analysis, which effectively results in producing two prototypes. Then, if you want to move forward, you can get a customized budget to produce a miniseries and a design brief. And then only, you can go to China for mass production.

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From the PCB to the final product

Smart objects for a smarter consumption

It is fascinating to learn how the most simple objects are made and to discover the inventions of the ADI team:

breatheThe Breathe 2 lamp (available at Neoshop, Quartier de l’Innovation) was first designed for yoga professionals. It is a smart lamp that helps regulate breathing through light variations. After testing the first version with early adopters and influencers, the team realized that there was a stronger demand for a simple meditation tool from the general public. Breathe 2 was accordingly redesigned.

img_0192.jpgPicGlu is a transparent adhesive membrane that allows smartphones to temporarily stick to pretty much all flat surfaces. You can then take hands-free selfies or film videos from a distance. This first version was created in 2015 but a few months ago, the ADI team started working on a new version called PicGlu Audio Stand. It provides a physical support to stick your mobile phone and to use for hand-free audio or video conversations. While the first PicGlu tool was for entertaining purposes, the new one answers more professional needs.

What’s next?

The ADI team is currently working with a regular customer portfolio of startups and SMEs from Montreal. Ideally, then would love to improve the distribution part of their support and help these entrepreneurs go international, providing them with the most efficient support.

 

An urban backpack to innovate your daily life

Montreal might be known for its long white winters but it can rain a lot too. Montrealers tend to wear several layers of garments and especially young generations that walk and bike are in search for waterproof yet ergonomic and stylish accessories to “pimp their style”. The Animus backpack from Aeer is exactly designed for them.

 

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With its anti-pickpocket design and removable hood, the Animus is adapted to the needs of the new generation and of its founder, Marc-Antoine Rivet.

Designing new ideas

At only 22 years old, this self-educated young entrepreneur is launching his second venture, Aeer bags, all by himself.

“The idea came to myself when I was in CEGEP and needed a practical object, I kept losing my things.”

Indeed, Marc-Antoine was a busy teenager, he launched his first venture when he was 15 to pay for his driving lessons. He started buying paintball equipment and selling it back and one thing after another, he progressively built a paintball company.

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What makes Aeer bag different from other innovations is its removable water-resistant hood with adjustable sizing, which helps to protect users from the rain and its ergonomic design that helps balance the weight and minimize back pain.

Raising awareness

Aeer bags have already raised interest from Canadian sport stores like Sport Experts and  outside Montreal, in Toronto and in the US. The entrepreneurship community in Montreal is very supportive, especially when working on similar projects (It is in fact through John from Kinesix heating jacket that we have discovered Marc-Antoine).

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Last week, Aeer launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter after several months of preparation and hard work. It is exactly the kind of products that make the Montreal entrepreneurs community so unique – it is realistic, innovative and affordable.

Engineers are innovating the wine experience in Montreal

More and more studies of drinking patterns in Canada show that consumers are moving toward premium beverages and especially towards wine. Following this trend, two young engineers have decided to create the first mobile application that makes wine more accessible to the general public.

Techies that love wine

The seed was planted back in 2011 when a trip to Napa Valley sparked Terence Kao’s passion for wine. Upon his return, he found conventional channels of wine education, such as internet, books and tasting classes, too costly, time consuming and hard to understand. To combine his passion for wine and expertise in mobile, Terence enrolled into an entrepreneurship program at ÉTS, where he met his associate, Jérôme Combet-Blanc. Both came from engineering backgrounds and had a common objective: to democratize access to wine.

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This is where Jessica Harnois comes in the story – indeed, to become a reality, the project required a wine expert and Jessica, a renown sommelier, was looking for a technical partner to develop her idea of a wine tasting game. Chance allowed them to meet and the team was born.

With a starting grant from the BDC in 2016 and support from organizations such as Centech, SAJE and Fondation Montréal inc., the Vegas Tasting mobile application was born.

A blind tasting game and much more!

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Launched in December 2016, Vegas Tasting is the first mobile application focused on making wine tasting more accessible to the public through a game. The app is divided into two parts.  In the first part, the user learns to taste like a pro in 3 simple steps while blind tasting a wine: 1) visual analysis 2) olfactory analysis 3) gustatory analysis.  In the second part, the user starts with 50 tokens and is invited to bet on the characteristics of the wine, such as the grape variety, country and vintage.  This interactive game is the funnier part of the app. To complement this app, Jessica made instructive videos to help players improve their tasting techniques.

A marketplace for tasting products

Wineout is relying on a very smart and innovative business model by offering Vegas Tasting as a tool for wine and beer companies to promote their products and educate their customers.  Considering the very restrictive and regulatory environment that governs the sale of alcoholic beverages, it is indeed an innovative way to disrupt the industry.

Growing the business

biere.jpgWineout has started to think of ways to expand and added a beer tasting game to the app, which received much positive feedback at Mondial de la bière 2017. They are also exploring partnering opportunities to add other beverages such as coffee, spirits, and tea.

In addition, Wineout is also collaborating with Professor Jeremy Cooperstock from McGill University to create an artificial intelligence to provide users with personalized recommendations based on their taste preferences.

Stay tuned for their next monthly event on 1st November 2017 at Wework. They will be presenting Vegas Tasting for an exciting wine and beer tasting event.

Potloc: innovating marketing research while serving local communities

You have been looking at this empty store on your street for weeks and dreaming that a bakery opened there so you could get your daily fresh baguette… what if you could turn your dream into reality? Potloc might be the new innovation to help you do this, in Montreal and throughout the world!

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It all started when Rodolphe Barrere and Louis Delaoustre, two French buddies studying at HEC Montréal walked in their neighborhood (the not so original but oh so picturesque Plateau Mont Royal) and started betting how long a new shop would last in that street and how long before they would go under bankruptcy and they were usually not wrong.

They had pinpointed the problem: desertification of retail. Now, they wondered how they could find a solution.

Tackling a concrete problem

Rodolphe and Louis started questioning people in the streets of Plateau Mont Royal about the kind of businesses they would like to see in their district and progressively, in a year, they collected 5000 answers throughout the city. This was a unique bundle of qualified information. They had created a local collective intelligence.

The social innovation orientation of the startup was clear from the beginning – using crowdsourcing to create smart neighborhoods and involving citizens in the selection of retailers – but it also had to become profit-driven.

Finding a business solution

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Now that they knew what the community needs were, they had to find the right entrepreneurs to answer these needs and this is how Potloc became a unique B2B tool for retailers to find the ideal location for their business. In other words, Potloc is selling location-based data and exclusive market research. Using social media, the team mobilizes residents of a specific district to vote on which stores they would like to see open. Through a home-made algorithm, the team is able to understand customer intents and to analyse the positive feeling under comments.

Growing by expanding throughout the world

“We offer services worldwide – although I have never been to Chicago, I can help a client find out if opening a sauna in a specific street is worthy or not. It works just like Airbnb”

If Rodolphe does not need to live in Chicago to offer services there, the company has already grown by opening a second office in Lille, in the north of France. The city was chosen instead of Paris because it is the capital of retail, where most clients are and in the future, Potloc is planning on opening offices in Toronto and in the US.

What Potloc is now doing is very simple: it serves as an intermediary between citizens, retailers and property developers. Revitalizing local retail is a real problem in Montreal and its suburbs. It is more and more difficult for retailers to survive and it is with a renewed optimism that Innovation Montreal tells the story of Potloc and Moose, two innovative startups that decided to tackle that issue with different means.

Moose is bringing innovation to retailers

Sometimes you don’t need to launch new objects to be called an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is about connecting people together through various means, that is exactly what Baptiste is doing in Montreal with Moose.

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This French engineer arrived less than 2 years ago in Montreal to work for a promising startup, OctHuber, as their Lead Software Engineer. Developing innovative solutions for marketing purposes, their main product today is Moose, a marketing tool dedicated to connecting local retailers with communities through store cards.

Affordable marketing tools for all

Think of your local neighborhood shop that sells leather bags that you cannot find anywhere else, or that independent vegan cafe that makes the best matcha latte. these boutique retailers might not have a digital showcase where you can find out about exciting sales or special offers. Moose is bringing this tool to them. The focus is currently on cards – Moose is offering an exclusive tool to retailers to create their store cards.

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(c) Michael Litvack

“The concept is a hybrid between a gift card and a loyalty card, very similar to Starbucks cards, where you buy it once and then reload it whenever you like and gather loyalty points”

Retailers can design their own card and sell it online and offline so they really have a lead on the project while Moose provide them with the technology. It allows small businesses to provide their clients with quality services that they would have found at large businesses. Indeed, more and more Montrealers are going to small cafes instead of Starbucks and supporting new and innovative shops, but they are also expecting the customer service that they would find anywhere else.

Current needs and future projects

When discussing earlier this year with Baptiste, during Startupfest 2017, he was thinking of launching a central app for retailers to be registered by location. However, the app did not fit with what retailers currently need.

“Offering an app immediately would limit our development to one specific location and we want to eliminate geographical frontiers”

A store card is perfect because it can have a physical notion (the card) with digital purposes – creating a community of clients. There is a free version and an integral version with a personalized loyalty program.

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With already +150 clients, Moose will hopefully allow to revitalize local retail in Montreal through an affordable and accessible technology.

PS: to discover wonderful acrylic paintings of Montreal urban scenery, check Michael Litvack collection https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/michael-litvack.html?tab=artwork 

Making Montreal taxi industry greener and more innovative

When we discuss car transportation apps we usually think of Uber and especially in Montreal, we move to a controversial tone. But there are other apps that make car transportation more innovative, more sustainable and more compliant, like Teo Taxi.

Montreal is becoming a pioneer in electric energies

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If we come back five years ago, in 2012, the Montreal market was not ready for these kinds of applications but Patrick Gagné was. This innovator started a first app for booking taxis in Montreal but because of reluctant taxi companies, it was not successful at that time. Since then, he met with the right people and developed his passion for urban mobility and smart city initiatives and became one of the co-founders of Teo Taxi.

Today, Teo Taxi is a successful impact-driven project, innovating the taxi industry. It all started with motivated entrepreneurs and money. Initiated by billionaire Alexandre Taillefer and his growth capital fund XPND Capital, Taxelco is the corporation that drives Teo Taxi.

Controlling the value chain

Instead of trying to change the mindset of taxi companies to use electric cars, Taxelco simply integrated a part of the value chain and bought one company, Taxi Hochelaga, in August 2015.

patrick gagne.jpg“Controlling the second-largest taxi network in Montreal was a big asset to implement change”, Patrick Gagné

With additional financing from Claridge Investment and public subsidies from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Teo Taxi was launched in November 2015 with an exclusively electric fleet.

Working hand in hand with the Quebec province

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This is obviously made possible by a good relationship with public services. Just like Uber, Teo Taxi is part of a pilot project from Quebec to position Montreal as a green and to turn public transports into responsible economic and social development tools. The province amended previous regulations to allow Taxelco to rent taxi permits. In the context of a new car electrification program, a $5-million grant was also given.

What makes the venture so attractive is its unique positioning, combining the tech innovation of an app with the professionalism of the traditional taxi industry.

“We are partners with the taxi industry and comply with local politicians’ expectations.”

A promising future in expansion 

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Teo Taxi owns its research infrastructure and its electric cars fleet (the very recognizable fleet of green and white Nissan Leaf, Tesla and Kia Soul vehicle). And Taxelco has a wider purpose. It has already started discussing similar projects in other cities in the world such as Winnipeg in Canada, Mulhouse in France, Colombus in the US (Ohio). Other projects also include launching electric taxibuses with the overall purpose that economic and social benefits are derived from the use of electric vehicles.