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.

MiumMium, bringing Chefs to your dining room

How many times have you wished that you could eat that lovely foie gras and gingerbread without having to pay for the expensive menu at this soulless restaurant downtown? What if you could have the chef coming directly to your very own place? What if your dining room could turn into a 3-stars restaurant? Well, your dreams are about to turn into reality thanks to Miummium.com! Founded a little more than a year ago by a young Canadian chef, the website allows you to pick a date, choose a menu and… invite your friends while the chef takes care of the rest.

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So, is this the “Uber of chef”?

chloe saint cyrWe asked Chloe St Cyr, the 26 years old founder, this very “dans-l’air du temps” question and here is what she answered:

We want to democratize the culinary art, make it accessible to all, help professional chefs increase their income and reduce their financial dependence on restaurants. The time has come to take the chef out of the kitchen and into the customer’s home.

Miummium is truly about selling an innovative experience: an exciting and less expensive dinner with an average price of $55 per person and rates ranging from $16 per guest to +$100 per guest (in Montreal). It is about delighting the customer with all kinds of cooking styles (barbecue, vegan, Italian, Moroccan…) anywhere in the world.

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A family business

miummium 2It all started when Chef Chloë St-Cyr, who has become an internationally recognized culinary talent, started receiving requests from friends and family to cook for special diner parties. She sensed that there definitely was a need for alternative gourmet dining experiences. Although venture capital and other innovative sources of financing grow in popularity, it was a family matter to bring Miummium to life: everyone involved is either part of her family or a close friend of Chloe with her father acting as a mentor and her closest advisor.

My dad thought me that the best businesses are the one you can grow without having to continuously add people and infrastructure. Keep it lean and focus on the one thing that you can do better than anybody else.

A global innovative venture from the beginning

miummium mapAlthough Chloe is originally from Montreal, she has lived all over the world and she is currently between the Maldives and Dubai. So just like her founder, Miummium was a global company from the beginning: it started operating in nine countries since day one, with people in Asia, Europe and North Africa and with the core of their operations currently originating from Spain. Success was instantaneous with more than 11,000 chefs registered in less than 12 months.

In Montreal, the Personal Chef culture is establishing itself rapidly but Chloe explains that it took longer for the rest of Canada and the US. Chefs have also evolved in their offerings and become more responsive. Behavioral trends are changing everyday with new services, over customized offers. Today, the core of operations actually originates from Spain.

Chloe has seen how new start-ups are disrupting the service industry and she believes that inviting a Personal Chef in your home is a trend that will explode in the coming years:

Wherever we go, we need transportation, a roof over our head and, of course, food in our belly.

A marketplace for chefs… 

chef pictureConsumers are clearly benefiting from this new tool, but so do chefs: they are classified either as professional or foodie depending on their experience and after careful consideration from the team, their profiles are published. Eventually, for the best chefs, MiumMium becomes the principal source of income. Private Chefs are not competitors but become partners with the possibility to monetize their free time just like drivers monetize their car on Uber.

… with ambitious expansion plans

When most new start-ups need an average of three years to start making profits, Miummium is expecting a small profit after a year of operation and has no debt. Despite this promising start, Chloe is definitely interested in seeking capital, through partnerships. It started with Homeaway.com so that clients renting a vacation home can be introduced to a MiumMium chef.

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But what Chloe really wants Miummium to become goes beyond the marketplace and has to do with innovating the food services as a whole, partnering with other start-ups in the industry such as Alfredsommelier.com, a Quebec startup who delivers a sommelier in your pocket. Providing always more services and customizing the dining experience when booking a meal on MiumMium, you will have the opportunity to get the perfect wine pairing through the professional advice of a sommelier and even get the sommelier to come to make your dinner a perfect evening!

In a nutshell, when it comes to food, even the craziest dreams can become reality.

Revolutionizing the soda industry, one flavour at a time

One year ago Innovation Montreal launched by introducing 1642 Cola, an innovative soda company from Montreal founded by Bastien Poulain. Today, we have decided to give you an update on how they are doing and how they are making a name in the entrepreneurship sphere in Quebec.

From 1642 Cola to 1642 Sodas

portrait-bastienBastien has understood that in order to grow you need to diversify. Priorities today are to improve distribution networks and expand product lines. After the Cola came the Tonic and after the Tonic came most recently the Ginger ale, a blend of honey, ginger and maple syrup, always aiming at a premium and local product.

To sustain the development of these new products, Bastien has made the move that many entrepreneurs do – he has opened ownership to four angel investors from the Quebec version of “Dragon’s Den”, Mitch Garber, Martin-Luc Archambault, Alexandre Taillefer and Serge Beauchemin. They own 7.5% of the shares since February 2016.

To expand distribution networks, 1642 Sodas partnered with Lassonde, Quebec leader in ready-to-drink fruit, juices and drinks. This partnership allows 1642 Sodas to expand sales points from 600 to 440 throughout Quebec.

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“What matters the most is that all sales point reorder the product – once the order becomes recurrent, we have overcome most of the challenge”

An innovative gourmet product, not an organic product

It is clear from the beginning that 1642 Sodas are NOT organic products. This is how they differentiate from Bec Cola, a product that was launched in Quebec long before them. “It is difficult to promote both healthy and local products” explains Bastien. 1642 Sodas have made the choice to offer products that are 100% natural in their composition but not organic. Obviously they do not attract the “granola” customers but they do attract another growing target customer basis – epicureans!

What 1642 Sodas can do, unlike organic products firms, is that they can sell alcohol. Indeed, they have partnered with Ungava Spirits and created 100% Quebecer signature cocktails such as their Gin & Tonic,  or their local Cuba Libre, “Gaspésien Libre” with Chic Choc. The team participated to dozens of food festivals (like Premiers Vendredis, which is the largest food truck festival in Quebec). They have also partnered with a famous Montreal snack and food truck, Le Gras Dur, to create a signature dish – General Tao chicken with 1642 Cola.

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“We have the same target as microbreweries – consumers that are interested in quality, taste and pleasure”

1642 Sodas will certainly expand in the near future to the rest of Canada and beyond. After selling 350,000 bottles in 2015 and 530,000 bottles in 2016, it is clear that the innovative company is on a strong upward slope especially considering Montreal is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year.

 

 

 

Fight against food waste through your phone

We are living in a world saturated by new products, new brands, where our conversations and our lives are driven by consumption… and waste. Millennials are feeling a growing sense of confusion and responsibility towards solving the problem of food and energy waste. This is exactly what William pointed out when he decided to launch an app that would allow consumers to optimize their food budget while limiting food waste – Eatizz.

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When you want to launch a new project, begin by thinking about your values

“I wanted to find a solution to a problem that could be that of my generation. This is how I started thinking on sustainability and food waste.”

william-eatizzWilliam Stevens explains how it all started for him. This young French graduate from HEC Montreal comes from a family of entrepreneurs where it is the norm to start companies – restaurants, sustainable swimming pools, linguistic programs. Therefore, it was natural for him to think of launching his own business when he graduated.

Innovation is not always synonymous with innovative financing solutions but it can come from the tool itself – an app that is simple to use and to understand (available both in French and English)

When it comes to financing and structuring the project, William is not that much interested in start-up incubators that he finds too restricting. He wants complete freedom and tranquility when it comes to Eatizz. He started financing the project with his own equity (a first round of $30.000) through a holding after benefiting from insurance compensation from a serious health accident when he was young. After a few months, he welcomed two other associates, Mathieu and Marion and they now work mostly with freelancers.

Eatizz benefits both consumers and small businesses while serving a good cause

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The concept is very simple, which makes it efficient. All the discounted food that you see in supermarkets when they arrive at sales’ expiry date, or in bakeries or in restaurants, can be registered on the app to help communicate important discounts on products. Based on location-based alerts, sales announcements are communicated to users every day. All vendors have to register their offers themselves directly on the app and they can choose between different online formula. Profit comes from retailers who pay a $0.4 fee for each batch of adverts. With an average of 20 ads per day, consumers can get various promotional offers such as a 50% discount to buy cookies on Saint Laurent boulevard and fruit batches at $1 in Jarry.

Fighting against food waste, a relatively new battle in Montreal

France has become the world’s first country to ban supermarket waste and compel large retailers to donate unsold food, allowing to change consumption habits through a more diversified food basket and at the same time, feed more people. Although the legislation was voted in February 2016, other European countries like Germany and Britain had taken measures to reduce food waste and Denmark launched a “waste supermarket” (you can read this very interesting article on the subject)

What about in Canada? Throughout the country, food waste has been evaluated at 27 billion dollars in 2015. Well, as William explained there are a lot of individual initiatives here in Montreal to fight against food waste but they lack visibility. Moisson Montréal is a non-profit organization that gather food donations and basic products and distribute them to community organizations on the Island of Montreal. They have become the largest food bank in Canada. They distribute $81.5 million worth of food annually and there are many social initiatives fighting against food waste in Montreal

Eatizz is hoping to get +15000 users and 150 shops in their databases and eventually monetize the app in 2017. Targets remain realistic and rewards are progressively arising – Eatizz just won a prize for best mobile app at the annual DUX gala recognizing companies who are leaders in implementing healthy eating initiatives.

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Moodmap, a digital urban guide customized to your mood

Have you Montrealers not always wanted to rediscover your own city following your own feelings while promoting local communities? Well Moodmap is designed especially for you. And the team is happy to unveil a new version for their first anniversary!

julien this.jpgThe idea was born when Julien, founder of the project, spent six months studying in Montpellier (France). He discovered there were flyers promoting places to go out depending on your mood and found it quite original. When he came back to Montreal, Julien let his idea mature. There was an innovation side to add to the project to become truly original: create a digital mood map for going out. To do so, finding the right people with the right expertise was critical: Julien had studied Communication but did not have any background in IT Development. This is where Gisele, Manon, Julien and Hugo joined the adventure.

The website which will soon celebrate its first anniversary is getting better and better: visuals, location-based research, social media sharing and… an English version of course! On Moodmap, you can customize your search through a huge list of actions and filters to discover the place that corresponds best. If you feel “chic” and want to “dance” and “date” you will find exactly the right spot to visit.

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Creating an interactive new media 

What makes the project truly innovative and different from other websites is its content marketing strategy: bloggers that are considered as experts of Montreal, curate Moodmap with reviews of their favorite places, depending on their moods and feelings, while promoting their own blog. A team of around 30 bloggers provides quality content to the platform like journalists. Among the latest reviews, Café Parvis by Foodologie.

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Moodmap has also developed an interactive partnership with Bixi for the “adventurous” mood: every month you will be able to find a special urban biking itinerary created by a blogger to discover new places in Montreal. Recently, Montreal Addicts created an exclusive itinerary to discover Villeray and Rosemont.

Creating a community beyond the website

Of course, competition is high in the field of “outing blogs” especially in Montreal – Narcity, SoMontreal, Mtl Blog… but it all depends on the way you classify information and how you promote it. Julien and his team decided to use what they did best to differentiate: creating connections and networking. They therefore decided to organise regular events to have the community discover a new café during a 5@8.

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Moodmap has also started partnerships around major events: Espace Libre, a performance space featuring experimental artists, is a partner of the “curious” mood and provides exclusive promotions and free tickets for the theatre season while Moodmap create customised articles on the plays and the places to discover all around it.

Summer days are also crucial for developing strategic partnerships: Moodmap partnered with Zone Homa where the festival’s team was given the opportunity to create exclusive itineraries on the platform, related to all the cultural events happening in Montreal.

Already celebrating their first anniversary, Moodmap is ready for more challenges: while integrating strategic brands in their articles, bloggers always keep in mind as a main concern to provide unusual and innovative ideas for going out, not only to millennials but also to older people who do not know where to search for ideas and even to tourists.

You can join the team and celebrate their anniversary on July 27 at Pub St Joseph and check the new version of the website… soon in English! Follow them too on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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Pollinating Montreal with social entrepreneurship

Did you know that honey is more consumed than maple in Quebec? Did you also know that in Canada, most of the honey consumed is imported? Alex, Declan and Etienne are young beekeepers who decided that they would spread their passion and bring innovation to the beekeeping industry in their home-city of Montreal.

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Making honey in the city is possible and you can even do it on your balcony.

Alveole is a unique and innovative enterprise aiming at mixing apiculture, education and society. It all started with Bruce, Alexander’s uncle, in Manitoba. He owns a beekeeping company where the three friends worked. Like most rural exploitations, their model is based on monoculture (one type of flower provides one type of honey).

We wanted to produce a more natural honey, following the movements of the bees as they pollinate all kinds of flowers in a radius of about
5 km

calendrierInternetAlveole is progressively changing the face of apiculture and using the company as a social tool. The company model is based on team-building: honeybee colonies are installed in schools, universities, CEGEPs, social reintegration organization. Didactic sessions are held to change common ideas related to apiculture, working without any protection, showing that bees rarely sting, explaining the role of bees in the preservation of biodiversity

In fact, the team has launched a nude calendar where they pose surrounded with bees – powerful images to change public opinion in the long term.

 

 

Building the company on public and private partnerships 

In 2013, when it all started, Alveole received a grant and mentorship from Montreal Inc Foundation. Since then, the company has been able to work through public and partnerships. Among the 85 organizations involved, Financement Agricole du Quebec, Caisse Desjardins, Aldo, Cirque du Soleil, Birks. “They pay a fix amount, obtain apiculture services, collect their own honey while we use their rooftops and backyards”, explains Etienne.  Only 7% of the pots are sold in stores and the profits are redistributed in R&D.

Other honey makers have developed urban apiculture in Montreal but the competition is positive as it means that people are more and more aware and that urban beekeeping is growing. What really distinguishes Alveole from others is its community-based vision:

We are not biologists, we want to focus our production on a didactic approach, so that our clients become producers.

“Tasting a good honey is really close to enjoying a good bottle of wine.”

Clientele is formed of epicureans who appreciate the fact that Alveole’s products are made without pesticides, unpasteurized and ultra local. Cities are the ideal ecosystem for bee colonies: they follow strict anti-pesticide legislation, they are filled with a diversity of flowers that haven’t been foraged yet and they are filled with large unused spaces (rooftops are a great example).

Alveole is constantly striving to improve bee health and innovate beekeeping practices and has developed a unique technology with a smartphone app to provide customer services and locate all urban beehives.

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Next steps? Buzzing in the rest of Canada

Today, Alveole has created more than 250 beehives on the rooftops of Montreal or in the backyard of companies and individuals, producing 3 tones of honey every year. After pollinating rooftops of Montreal, Alveole has started opening beehives in Quebec City and Toronto. They are in fact hiring at those locations (see their job & internships offers).

The team is bustling with ideas to bring bees and citizens closer and meet their various goals: enhance consciousness related to sustainable cities and environment, produce more local honey, grow urban pollination.

You can follow Alveole on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and although bees cluster in the beehives during winter, you can take part in one of their training workshops very soon.

Shaking the world of food entrepreneurship, meet Amélie Morency

“When I was 8, I started selling potpourri baskets in the street one day, and I got 50 bucks out of it. I thought: that’s it, I’m an entrepreneur!”

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Amélie Morency is 24 today and she has already launched two startups, and one on the way. This time, she is ready to change the face of food entrepreneurship in Montreal through the FoodRoom an innovative culinary co-working place to open this spring.

Entrepreneurship, a means to achieve independence

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photo by Foodivine Photography

Amélie is impatient, passionate and ambitious. Entrepreneurship has always been her way of achieving autonomy. Realizing the importance of earning money at 8, she had a bank account to keep her savings at 14 and started a landscape gardening company while studying. Her family gave her great examples: her father and grandmother were entrepreneurs and have always been supportive. “I didn’t need to do all this, but I have so many aspirations and I always want more responsibilities, more challenges”.

When her mother wanted her to go to university, Amélie preferred the more pragmatic Cegep program. She then graduated from Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) and started working in a restaurant but moving up the ladder was too slow for her, she needed to achieve her goal faster and the solution was in entrepreneurship.

Amélie knows that entrepreneurship is not for idealists and sometimes you will break your neck. However, she did succeed in launching a successful first startup, A toutes les sauces, an eco-friendly catering company, and she earned several prizes and awards from the prestigious Founder Institute, Coop HEC and Fondation ITHQ…

The FoodRoom, an innovative solution to entrepreneurs’ problems

When Amelie launched A toutes les sauces, she quickly faced a major issue which wasn’t cash flow but a stable location to cook to meet the needs of her clients and fulfill impending contracts. Lack of infrastructure is what inspired the FoodRoom.

Other similar shared kitchen initiatives exist in Europe and the United States (the San Francisco’s Underground market was a pioneer). Montreal is a fertile ground for such innovative initiatives: Amélie is part of a broader community of young immigrants and Quebecers willing to build a food patrimony for themselves (on this subject, read Alix Food’s terrific blog), and she wants to provide her fellow entrepreneurs with the physical and social infrastructure to create delicious products, build partnerships with producers.

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The 7500 sq feet coworking space will be located in the Ahunstic area in Montreal. Half of the space will be dedicated to cooking and half will be transformed in offices and a multipurpose hall to organize events and trainings.

“We want to become more than a kitchen rental project, we want to create a community with high quality equipment”.

Through monthly subscriptions, members will get access to customized services. Caterers, small-scale producers (salsa, cookies, ice cream), chefs or food-truck owners’, everyone need a space to cook and in fact, the FoodRoom has already secured 23 contracts with clients and 65 are on waiting list.

“Getting investors to believe in you and your company is the toughest part.”

Investments for the FoodRoom came from Amélie’s private funds, from private investors and bank loans, but today, more than 500 000$ have been invested in the company and the building permit is settled so nothing will stop this exciting project from blooming this spring!

For now, you can visit their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and you can meet Amélie at La Gare co-working if you’re in the area.