After a first experience in 2017, Innovation Montreal was excited to discover the new location for Startupfest 2018 and experience the magic of networking! Here are our four impressions from last week.
1. A new location for more dynamic opportunities
The festival was happening at Parc de Dieppe, at the extreme end of the Cite-du-Havre peninsula, with an exceptional view over Montreal Old Port. From this location, the opening ceremony of Startupfest, on 11 July, coincided with the traditional summer fireworks in Montreal and provided a festive atmosphere to the launch. To access the venue, guests could arrive either by boat, bus, car or bike. This unprecedented venue encouraged small-scale networking opportunities for sure.
2. More premium fests, more targeted content
This year, the festival was divided into 9 specific mini festivals so that startups, organizations, investors, could meet with their specific communities more efficiently. For example, ScaleupFest was dedicated to providing advice and knowledge on initial investment and growing. ArtupFest aimed at gathering artists, designers and all members of the creative community to discuss ways of improving society.
3. A contest for impact-driven startups
The Quartier de l’innovation and MTL Newtech organized a pitch contest for startups that are driven by social impact considerations. Over the three days of the events, entrepreneurs got the opportunity to present their projects to a jury with the possibility of winning prizes in cash but also a promotional video produced and disseminated as well as coaching from MTL NewTech. They could either pick a technology (from those mentioned on the colourful cards) or explain how their startup impacted positively on the community. On Thursday 12 July, Aligo Innovation was part of the jury and offered the opportunity to develop already existing technologies or to help inventors and researchers move from research to development.
4. A “young” entrepreneur with a vision for a greener future
Through the brain dates system, Innovation MTL was able to meet with Gaston Beaulieu, a “young” entrepreneur of 72 years old who decided, after he retired, to develop a new concept of eco-energetic greenhouse that grows plants and vegetables without electricity nor water: Gaïa Écosystèmes. Through a concept of biomimicry, this engineer with experience in the aerospace industry invented and tested his inventions over the past 8 years. His is now ready to present his concept to investors and potential partners for prototyping. If his tests are correct, this greenhouse could provide 330,000 kg of vegetables annually. We will definitely be following his ambitious project!
What an exciting, exhausting, thrilling and inspiring 3 days… We did not know where to start, with all these conferences, workshops, networking opportunities, experiences. We tried to experience it at 200%. Here are our highlights from the most popular, selective and inspiring event that happens in Montreal.
1- To grow, you need to open your mind
The closing ceremony of C2 Montreal was long awaited by all. For this final act, world-famous rapper and weed entrepreneur, Snoop Dog came to talk about the blooming cannabis industry in Canada. As C2 aims at helping “established and aspiring leaders unlock their creativity in order tobetter face disruption and change”, mentioning cannabis growth opportunities was daring but undeniably adapted!
2- Empathy will save us all
Scientist turned robot maker, Christine Sunu showed us that robots could have a heart. Yes, they can make us feel real emotions, especially Mostly, her fluffy creation that makes sounds and purr like a cat. For mentally and socially challenged people, these robots can trigger emotions, feelings and empathy that even humans would not be able to express.
3- Design your solutions
Ideate for Impact was the place to be if you wanted to create something tangible out of your 3 days. This series of workshops allowed participants to design a real solution to make an impact on the ground. During the “Healthy Cities” lab, we learned how to articulate a design challenge, frame prototyping ideas, and implement them. This was a unique opportunity to help real people (Mark Brand and his team) on their mission to bring the homeless community upward in Vancouver through Save on meats.
4- Create with others
If you really want to bring something new to the world, you need to do it with others. Indeed, many inspirational speakers presented projects that were innovating because they were launched by a transversal and diverse team. Creativity came from the collision of their skills and personalities. Stéphane Garti is an artist and engineer that applies the tools of prototyping to dance and fashion projects. He founded Wearkit, a community of makers, coders, artists and designers contributing to open design.
5- Learn technology… or disappear
Again, this was on the mouth of several influencers such as Stephanie Carullo, COO of Box and expert in scaling tech companies: if you want to change the culture in your company, you have to excel in technology because digital tools will allow you to work towards customer centricity, diversity and… privacy!
6- Protect your data
Talking about privacy… Regulations are starting to emerge, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that went into effect on 25 May in the European Union. But beyond regulations, there is an ethical and democratic aspect to that issue. We had the privilege of listening to transparency activist Chelsea Manning talk about how marketing has turned into a massive surveillance system where it is more than ever urgent to protect our data.
7- A penny for your thought?
Have you heard of computer-brain interfaces? There are machines that allow researchers to read your minds or should we say, to “hack your brain”. At the “Reveries” lab, we got a glimpse of what happens in our minds through the use of neuro-technology. A unique visualisation of our thought patterns was offered to us after a set of electrodes was attached to our head. If today, these offer mysterious brain signals, tomorrow, tech giants like Facebook are working towards creating new devices around these computer-brain interfaces… for better or for worse!
The second day at C2 Montreal was long awaited as Chelsea Manning, world famous transparency activist was here to talk about her battle for a new democracy. But in some parts of the world, technology can be a new way of creating sustainable growth. Here is a glimpse at our lessons learnt for the day.
Data transparency in danger
Celebrating her first year out of prison last week, Chelsea Manning was on the big stage this morning to raise awareness on the risks of digital data collection and mass-surveillance from the government.
“Ten years ago, I was working on machine learning technology to find out how to better target people. Today, this has turned into aggressive surveillance. We have moved from a customer-centric marketing to a marketing for death.”
Indeed, it is more than ever urgent to create rules and work towards a greater transparency. Manning, who is a fierce whistle-blower and former US soldier got incarcerated for revealing classified documents. Today, she urges coders and software developers to assume their ethical responsibility to create more transparent tools.
If we already have encrypted text messaging or softwares like Securedrop that enables the anonymous source to upload information for journalists, the battle is only starting.
Building and scaling technology in Africa
If citizens are fighting for their privacy in our part of the world, others are embracing new technologies and creating new digital products that are both transparent and growth oriented.
Tunde Kehinde is a serial entrepreneur from Nigeria who disrupted the way Africans live and consume thanks to tech tools. He was one of the co-founders of Jumia, the “Amazon of Africa”. Despite the infrastructure challenge – Lagos was for decades among the top 15 worse cities in the world for traffic congestion (according to TomTom Index) – Tunde decided to listen to customers demand and innovate their lives.
To solve the traffic issue, he founded his own e-commerce delivery company, Africa Courrier Express (ACE). Today, his newest company, Lidya, provides African SMEs with access to credit and financing, even when they do not have a bank account.
“Africa is the next go-to market for mobile developers and a trade partner for the future for international companies.”
What we learned from this second day at C2 is that, as the theme of this year’s edition suggests, technology is definitely where the world’s privacy threats and economic growth collide.
Today was my first experience ever of C2 Montreal. If you have not heard of it, this is the most sought after event for innovation lovers in Montreal and in Canada. Here are some highlights of the first of three exciting days.
Founded by Sid Lee and Circle du Soleil, C2 – which stands for Commerce and Creativity – aims at reinventing the way international events are organized and making innovative ideas collide and burst into participants minds.
Recycling oysters shells into concrete and plastic
Introducing the “Visionary placemakers” session, Pauline Mure presented RaWMaterial, a company that works with oyster farmers and restaurants in the South of France to recycle oyster shells by designing new sustainable products: concrete for building new homes, plastic for making new toys.
Bringing love and empathy to architecture
Then we traveled to Brazil with Guto Requena. This architect from Sao Paulo made a touching presentation of his background and how he decided to dedicate his life to triggering empathy in the city through design. His Love project combines design, science and technology to transform people’s emotions into products of daily life and including them in the process. Participants are asked to tell the love story of their lives and as they speak, data is drawn and processed by a software that creates, a graphic representation is drawn and finally, objects are fabricated using a 3D printer.
The youngest VR developer
As part of the “6 under 16” presentations, we fell in love with young Sabarish Gnanamoorthy. With his brother, he launched The Knowledge Society to bring students between the age of 13 and 17 together to work on solving the world’s biggest problems through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
Design thinking to make cities healthier
For the first time at C2, a 3-day program, “Ideate for Impact”, is designed to get participants to work on solving the world’s most pressing challenges collaborating with changemakers from around the world. Using empathy and design thinking tools, we are mobilized to design, prototype and construct a vision for how these isnights and tools can be taken back to four different businesses.
As part of the Montreal Summit on Innovation organized by UQAM and Quartier de l’innovation, we experienced the Conversation market on collaborating towards social impact. Using color codes, participants debated on the urgency for social actors – NGOs, governments, corporations – to work together towards solving problems and make a difference in the world.
Stay tuned for our favourite findings for day 2 and 3!
Last Friday we got to discover truly innovative startups at a 5@7 organized by Quintus, a communication agency dedicated to sustainable projects. This edition of Quintus@7 was dedicated to urban agriculture.
Quintus@7 are free networking events organized throughout the year by Quintus marketing. They highlight best practices in sustainable living. In 2018, five events will be organized focusing on how can we become change catalysts.
Stefany Chevalier, CEO of Quintus defined change catalysts as entities that work towards changing society with a social or environmental impact and that encourage consumption patterns that are innovative and sustainable. Quintus helps change catalyst to promote their activities through accessible communication tools – videos, events, communication campaigns.
“Our intention is not to get people to consume more but to consume more sustainably.”
Among the great initiatives that we discovered last Friday were:
Crickstart & La Mexicoise, two startups that are changing eating habits by promoting the use of insect-based products. Crickstart’s mission is to open people’s minds with flavourful products made out of crickets. Yes this is pretty unusual but it is also one of the most sustainable – crickets are used in their entirety with zero waste, unlike in traditional livestock farming and meat processing, and healthy ingredient – the protein in crickets is rich with amino acids.
Chicza, a 100% natural, certified organic, biodegradable and sustainable chewing gum ever made. It is made out of chicle, a natural gum extracted from tall Chicozapote tree followingMayan traditions. This is truly innovative as most gums on the market carry no more than 5-7% of gum base, if any at all – the rest is plastics (artificial, petrol-based polymers). If you really want to get scared, you can watch “The Dark Side of the Chew” a TEDx talk by Andrew Nisker on the subject. We tasted the mint flavoured Chicza and really liked it. Other flavours include Lime, Cinnamon and Mixed Berries.
Mamie Clafoutis– to be fair, we already knew Mamie Clafoutis’s products (traditional French bakery) but it was very inspiring to listen to its co-founder Joseph Sabatier talking about organic flour and organic bakeries in Quebec. Did you know that only 2% of Quebec bread is made out of organic flour? And Mamie Clafoutis is part of that small figure. As such, it is a real innovator and pioneer in the sustainable food industry in Canada.
Vrac sur Roues, a zero waste online grocery store with bike delivery. Launched by ambitious 21-year old Simon, this new player in the sustainable urban market allows you to buy dry and liquid goods delivered by bike to your door and poured in your containers. Simon is a carpenter but he wants to bring more than wood furniture to society – as the sole manager and employee in his startup, he takes care of all aspects (website, order preparation, delivery) and has assumed all cost with his job as a carpenter, not relying on subsidies or loans. We found his passion and mission truly inspiring.
The next Quintus@7 will be held on June 8 and focus on eco-living and ecotourism. You can already get free tickets.
Last Thursday, if you were walking on Monk boulevard in Montreal and passed by the beautiful church on number 5959, you would never have imagined what was happening inside… 100 Montreal startups were presenting their products and services to media, corporations, influencers and the general public.
In an old church transformed into Theatre Paradoxe, you could discover various innovative ventures in the food, travel, services, marketing, design or fashion industry. This 3rd edition of the Grand Messe was organized by Montréal inc and presented by Bell. Startups were pitching their ideas in confessionals to the media who symbolically awarded a benediction to their favorite emerging startup.
Innovation Montreal’s team was on the ground and discovered 5 innovative products:
Brwski, the first in-store digital beerologist that simplifies how grocery customers discover beer in-store. They invented a unique machine to help beginners and beer geeks look for the perfect beer in store.
Sagafrika, offering the first range of African frozen dishes cooked in Quebec. We met with Sandra, the founder, and tasted a delicious cassava leaves sauce from Congo.
Perla Paletas, bringing typical healthy Mexican ice-cream and Popsicle to Canada. Made with real fruits and no additive, they offer an original healthy snack for summer days. We tasted their lime and cucumber Popsicle and their chocolat and raspberry frozen yogurt. Perla has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule to extend her product line.
Reunion D Sens
With the same healthy concerns in mind, we got to admire a bicycle made of wood, Picolo Velo. The wooden bike frames have been designed and built in Montreal with social, environmental concerns. We also discovered that the same sustainable concern was shared by corporations : Reunion D Sens offers companies two innovative locations in the heart of Montreal to organise meetings. These locations offer a unique experience that stimulates creation and helps to lower stress levels and increase confidence.
Stay tuned for more in depth stories on some of these innovative startups!
Montreal is considered as an international hub for artificial intelligence, a lab for innovation. What are the urban implications of this reputation? What is the social impact of artificial intelligence in the city? We have discussed all these issues yesterday at Newcities roundtable on the subject.
At a time when technology and big data are blurring the limits of privacy, when academic research is driven by economic priorities, how can AI and innovation in general positively impact the lives of populations?
Cybersecurity and avoiding data deserts
The main social concern with AI applied to the city is to avoid data deserts – areas where certain groups do not have data regularly collected about them. And a prerequisite to answer this concern is to educate citizens to the relevance and benefits of sharing their data in a well-defined framework.
Damien Silès is the Head of the Quartier de l’Innovation, an experimental laboratory supported by the four Montreal universities, the Federal and Provincial government and corporate partners. Its mission is to experiment with urban innovations in downtown Montreal.
We want to break down silos and make this neighbourhood a collective lab where private, public and academic actors collaborate. Only then can we truly protect data.
Artificial intelligence by and for the community
There are already great initiatives to improve the social and ethical impacts of artificial intelligence. Last November, a dedicated conference was organized by AI Alliance Impact (AIIA) and headed by Valentine Goddard. AI on a social mission presented best practices of companies applying AI in sectors like mental health, education, social work (Myelin was part of them).
During Newcities event, Valentine lead a roundtable on the subject with participants from various backgrounds: Cisco, IBM, HEC Montreal, the French Chamber of Commerce…
Today, we are beyond technological challenges when it comes to AI. Challenges are ethical. We need to present innovations as solutions to concrete problems
AI can be a real solution to transportation issues: location-based search engines like Google Maps can allow to make predictions so that bus drivers spend less time on focusing on their route and more time on strengthening the social link with passengers.
When it comes to artificial intelligence, there is a fundamental gap between researchers and the general public. This gap is more than ever visible in the city.
For people to adopt AI tools, it is important to educate them – not explaining the algorithms but showing how data can impact their daily lives.