HelloStaff, building a pool of talents for Montreal events

Looking for a job can be time-consuming and overwhelming: you have to go on many different platforms and update your mailbox every two seconds for new emails, especially when working in the events industry. It is this wish for creating a more efficient tool that led Thomas and Michael to create HelloStaff.

Going on an entrepreneurial journey

Starting from scratch and jumping in the unknown… does that ring a bell? It is a prerequisite for becoming an entrepreneur. It is not for everyone and you definitely have to like taking risks and being interested in out-of-the box perspectives, just like Thomas and Michael. 

They had different backgrounds, Thomas had a degree in Management and Michael had started his career as an actor. And yet, they were both working in the events industry, through temporary contracts as brand specialists. Discussing their mutual experience of seeking jobs led them to think of a way to innovate the job seeking experience. HelloStaff was on its way.

Looking for talents 

A lot of entrepreneurs in the tech sector are developers themselves or have an experience in that field but it was not the case for Thomas or Michael. Finding the right person was their first priority.

We wasted 6 months not finding the right person to develop our platform. We understood that we needed to structure everything, working with contracts and officialising. Look for a talent that would also be interested in being a shareholder. This is how we found David.

Thomas Lussiez

With a team of three, fully invested in their project, and a developer with an already established technical expertise and entrepreneurial experience, HelloStaff worked hard on developing their MVP.

When your product is built around a technological solution, you do not have the right to make any mistake; the slightest tech glitch will not be forgiven.

Learning all the way

The startup ecosystem played a major role in our progress: we found mentoring opportunities, professional advice, and funds. Earning our first grant gave us more credibility.

From Montréal inc. to Réseau M, entreprism and Entreprendre ici, an initiative of the Government of Quebec (Ministère de l’Économie, et de l’Innovation), HelloStaff knocked at as many doors as possible to develop their legitimacy. 

Every step of the journey, building a company, I discovered a new field of work and I wanted to get my hands dirty to better understand in order to recruit the right talent.

Check out HelloStaff.ca: If you are self-employed or studying and looking for a short-term mission in relation to events, you can create a profile to get customized offers. If you are a company in the events industry, you could get access to a great pool of talents.

Bonjour Startup Montréal, a unique platform for Montreal innovators

Who’s behind this cheerful and welcoming brand, created less than a year ago? How are they planning on changing the startup world in Montreal? Here is a glimpse of Bonjour Startup Montreal’s ambitious plan and some promising results.

Creating a platform for the city’s startup ecosystem

Not all startup ecosystems in the world have one single organization that gathers all the key stakeholders, because it is really hard. Gathering all initiatives is a real challenge.

Bonjour Startup Montréal is not a shadow organization created and funded by the government, it is not an incubator, an accelerator, or a coworking space. It is much more than that and it draws inspiration from other cities’ initiatives with very positive results. In Amsterdam, StartupAmsterdam was created by the city to strengthen and showcase Amsterdam’s ever-evolving startup ecosystem. In Paris, Frenchtech creates links between French startups and international markets, in London, TechNation presents itself as a national network for ambitious tech entrepreneurs.

(c) StartupVillage.nl

In a startup community where key players are often very specialized, where financial resources are fragmented, it is inevitable and it is recommended that some resources join to improve their services to entrepreneurs. The concept of creating links and dots leads to stronger and more impactful organizations. By joining forces, we make our ecosystem more impactful. 

Liette Lamonde, Bonjour Startup Montréal’s co-founder

Celebrating Montreal diversity 

(c) Sylvie Hill

In Montreal, it is essential to define what makes us unique to efficiently promote our city and our international results. Incubators have developed complementary skills: La Piscine has specialised in culture while L’Esplanade is focused on social impact. This diversity is what makes our ecosystem stronger. These different incubators find strength and added-value in this “coopetition”. This unique identity built in cultural diversity is perhaps what Montreal can raise as a key asset to establish as a launching platform for European startups in North America.

Laurence Audette-Lagueux, Bonjour Startup Montréal

To give a better understanding of this diverse ecosystem, Bonjour Startup Montréal is working towards aggregating information. It has developed a mapping of the ecosystem organized by type of key player: financing, support organization, accelerators/incubators, media, corporate innovation, physical hubs, events, government programmes, clusters.

(c) Bonjour Startup Montreal

This precious map is part of an exclusive report developed through a series of interviews and surveys of +350 startup founders. It provides unique and verified data on the Montreal startup ecosystem (download it here).

This is only the beginning and Bonjour Startup Montréal has big ambitions. As the platform works towards gathering all initiatives, it also aims to position the city back in the top 20 most dynamic ecosystems worldwide (more specifically according to the annual ranking released by Startup Genome)

Join Bonjour Startup Montréal’s community on Slack and contribute to discussions around the future of the startup ecosystem in your city!

3 lessons from Movin’On Sustainable Mobility Summit

Spending an afternoon at Movin’On Summit, the international event on sustainable mobility organized in Montreal by Michelin was very enlightening, here are a few impressions, from this first day.

Applying circular economy to mobility

This year, talking about sustainable mobility is associated with circular economy, which is quite innovative. Indeed, we usually think of recycling when we hear about circular economy, but it can be so much more than that. 

Putting circularity at the core of new mobility products and services, we realize that it has to do with shifting behaviours. 

For example, being circular can translate into finding solutions to commuting and therefore, working from home can be a solution to decreasing traffic jam while increasing quality of life and well-being of workers in urban areas.

Embracing climate constrains to design urban spaces

Thai architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom designs parks, gardens, green roofs and bridges that address the city’s flooding problem while also reconnecting residents to their natural environment. She has designed a stunning park in the center of Bangkok where rainwater is collected, cleaned and reduces urban heat. Considering the recent Montreal flooding, this project was truly inspiring.

Making the automotive industry greener

Did you know that there were cars working with hydrogen instead of CO2? Did you know that in Quebec, there was a 100% electrical dumpster? That Michelin is developing an air-free tire, Uptis, that was connected and 3d printed? All these innovations are happening to make the future of mobility greener and more efficient. 

The solution to making mobility more circular lies in technology.

Movin’On is happening in Montreal, from 4 to 6 June 2019. More information here.

Top 3 findings of a first day at C2 Montreal

From electrical vehicles to lab-grown meat, from humanizing design to promoting circular economy, C2 Montreal is once again enchanting.

Setting its 2019 theme as Tomorrow, the 2019 edition of C2 Montreal was expected to be all about futurism but the lesson that arises from this very first day, is that tomorrow will only be possible if we start changing ourselves, the way we behave, and if we give a voice to young innovators.

Lab-grown meat anyone?

What if, instead of turning vegan, you could actually taste meat while avoiding the killing of animals? Beyond Meat has been producing plant-based meat substitutes for a decade but a 15-years old scientist explains how she wants to develop genetically modified proteins and a new generation of lab-grown meat. Isabella is part of a The Knowledge Society, an innovation programme that develops young leaders skills. She wants to disrupt food production processes through her cellular agriculture research.

Artificial intelligence is everywhere

It is a known fact that artificial intelligence was everywhere, from healthcare to transportation, from Google search to agriculture… For the general public, AI is associated to Siri, robots and sometimes machine learning (when Gmail suggests the end of your sentence). Even better, AI can be used to predict if someone is likely to contract a disease. Samarth and Ayaan, 14 and 15 years old, are working on algorithms to make diseases predictions even more accurate and better understand human biomarkers. Today, accuracy for an AI-generated diagnosis is of 90% (vs. 70% for a human).

The future is circular

Did you know that IKEA had launched a programme dedicated to circular economy? Dominique Fularski‘s mission, through Circular IKEA, is to work towards becoming the biggest circular retailer, reusing only existing material, by 2030. The giant Swedish retailer wants to work towards a better world, at its own scale. If circularity is often associated to recycling, it also has to do with refurbishing and remanufacturing. IKEA has decided to reuse, repurpose, repair and recycle, not only because it makes the company grow sustainably, but also because it is more convenient for its customers.

Stay tuned for more highlights around C2 Montreal. The 2019 edition is happening from 22 to 24 May in Montreal.

These solar watches offer a sustainable and refreshing fashion alternative

Millennials are all about making a difference in our world, consuming wisely, giving up on some habits. But it does not mean that they give up on quality. This is the mission statement of Solios Watches, a young Montreal company founded by Alex Desabrais and Sam Leroux. We met them in the confessional at Fondation Montreal’s Grand Messe on 27 March 2019.

Where it all started…

Alex and Sam met at HEC Montreal during their Bachelor of Finance. They shared a common interest in case competitions and entrepreneurship. 

When graduating, they were looking for meaningful experiences. Alex joined District M, a tech startup, where he developed his sales leadership and learned how small companies were able to grow. Sam started working at Snowdon partners, an entrepreneurial investment fund, and realized that this smaller ecosystem was exactly what he was looking for. 

Both of them spent 4 years in their respective companies, learning, growing and … maturing their entrepreneurship project. They then started designing their dream watch in-house and building their business plan which, two years later, launched through one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of 2018.

Choosing entrepreneurship to make a difference in the world

When you are not an engineer or a developer, when you are not a millionaire, it is more difficult to find an idea for your startup. But we knew we wanted to focus on an eco-friendly idea.

Why solar watches? The technology is already well established and recognized, and it is a way to improve a very traditional consumer item. Also, in the watch industry, the affordable luxury watches market is the only part currently growing because consumers are aware that quartz watches are not sustainable.

Rather than offering direct consumption goods, fast fashion items, we want to make a fashion and sustainable statement. 

Responsible production

Sam in Hong Kong, checking on the production process

Eventually, Alex and Sam want to develop a portfolio of responsible products, with full transparency on the sourcing of materials. They work hard to create a relation of mutual trust with their suppliers and distributors and travel regularly to Hong Kong and Japan. Each component, each manufacturing process behind Solios Watches is carefully chosen to be as sustainable as possible while maintaining the quality, from the choice of packagingto the coloration of steel and the choice of bracelets.

People think that vegan leather is sustainable but in fact, it is made of plastic and petrochemicals, which is eventually polluting. Instead, we use silicon leather which is not vegan but more sustainable.

Responsible consumption

The team obviously aims at selling their products, but their goal goes beyond that sole purpose: they want to educate consumers and change behaviour patterns and common beliefs (yes, a solar watch can work in the UK where the sun does not always shine bright).

For now, the team has just received the first batch of orders from their Kickstarter campaign and started delivery in April 2019. You can order their products online.

Bringing sustainable collaboration to freelancers in Montreal

Job seekers are increasingly choosing freelancing over traditional employment. Millennials are embracing the concept so they can work directly from their bed. How is this a real opportunity for innovating collaboration? Pierre-Luc Thivierge, a Montreal entrepreneur has decided to develop his own tool for optimal collaboration

Freelancing, for better or for worse 

Today, 2.18 million Canadians are part of the gig economy – including freelance, contract and other temporary workers (BMO, 2018). By 2020, 45% of Canadians will be self-employed, almost have of the workforce (Intuit Canada, 2017). There are several benefits to this condition that include autonomy, control and work-life balance. However, being a freelance can sometimes be difficult – financially (no benefits medical, dental, disability) and psychologically (no long-term perspectives, absence of colleagues).

In Canada, many initiatives exist for structuring freelancing: job websites (Workhoppers, Glassdoor, to mention only a few), dozens of Facebook groups, and even a freelance union but what if you could find all these services at once?

Pierre-Luc has been a freelancer himself, but he also worked on the other side – with agencies and IT companies. With his background in web development, he noticed how many freelance web developers worked with agencies and how important it was to provide them with a community and to provide agencies and companies in general with a pool of freelancers that were reputable and skilled.

I want to put the spotlight on these talents, who do not fit in the frames of traditional jobs.

Using each other in a trusting environment

(c) Albert Zablit

Collab Machine is like a mini-incubator for clients and talents to find each other. 

For two years, Pierre-Luc has deliberately kept the network at a small scale (approximately 170 members and a pool of carefully selected advisors), with most of the activity on Slack and regular meetups. Recently, he has developed a dedicated social platform that allows clients to post their requests and freelancers to apply, but also to draft and send invoices. Soon, Collab Machine will also offer public liability insurance, life insurance and other social benefits.

We want to act like a community and as such, we play the role of human resource advisors.

Collab Machine has been involved with the BEC (Bureau d’entraide aux communicateurs) and recently partnered with ADI (which stands for Acceleration, Design, Innovation – read our article about this key player in the hardware innovation ecosystem) to strengthen the community-building initiative and better retain talents.

Collaboration can only be sustainable if it is based on trust.

This conception of collaboration is truly innovative – creating a community cannot only rely on technology, algorithms and technical excellence. There has to be human values and human relations too.

Check Collab Machine website and write to Pierre-Luc to get a chance to register on this innovative platform.

Two students are offering a more impact-driven “Uber” in Montreal

As Uber continues to infuriates taxi drivers in Quebec, and Teo Taxi files for bankruptcy, two entrepreneurs in their twenties are fine-tuning a different business model for a ride hailing app based on the social economy: Eva.

An improved and socially responsible version of Uber 

Dardan Isufi and Raphael Gaudrault are 22 and 23 years old and both still studying, but they are also full-time entrepreneurs and co-founders of a young startup: Eva

It all began in the Fall of 2017 as Uber was once again making the headlines in Montreal. The two friends started thinking of the ride hailing economy.

“The problem with Uber is not the concept of ride sharing but its implementation.”

Uber creates a precarious environment for drivers and an economy that does not invest benefits in the local economy (with 25% of revenues collected by the company).

From the old capitalism to the new sharing economy

Eva has completely shifted the economic model and offers a decentralized solidarity cooperative. Drivers and passengers are part of a community based on the redistribution of wealth (a great interview with Crypto Tim is available here)

When it comes to revenues, the driver members earn 85% of the total ride fare. While the rest does not go to any shareholder’s pocket but instead, 10% is used to provide funds to the cooperative and 4% goes for ecosystem treasury, and the rest goes to the Eva foundation (technical maintenance, communications).


“The idea is to maximize the profit for the driver members who often have to pay for the car, the maintenance, a driver’s license, fines, and energy costs.”

This is made possible by blockchain: based on the decentralization of data, this technology avoids the cost of stocking data on servers while offering more security and confidentiality. Everything is explained in this White Paper.

A taste for risk and for impact-driven values  

Both students are invested in impact-driven organizations and deeply believe in values of cooperation, respect, and social justice. Dardan is studying Political Science and handles operations, i.e. legal constraints and authorizations. Raphael is studying Computer Software Engineering and handles the tech part of the work, i.e. blockchain. Both have a deep interest in solving problems and getting out of their comfort zone.

“A crazy idea will become realistic when it is embraced as a team.” 

(c) Sylviane Robini, 2019

The co-founders have surrounded themselves with a team of technical ninjas and communications aurors who are getting ready to make their crazy idea a reality. As for the general public it can become part of the coop by joining as a rider, as a driver or as a support member.

A harsh market with high barriers to entry

Building sustainable innovations is not easy, especially in a market dominated by a giant like Uber. Some players have learned this lesson the harsh way: less than three years ago, Teo Taxi had brought a fleet of electric cars to the taxi industry in Montreal (we have written about them here) but it announced the shut down of its operations on 29 January 2019.

“Teo Taxi was a strong player in the transport industry. It provided a green alternative and had made the idea of electric transportation realistic”. 


(c) Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

Hopefully, Montrealers will continue to embrace socially responsible innovations when it comes to ride hailing, and Eva will provide a highly differentiated alternative to Uber that can attract a community that believes in impact-driven initiatives.

Eva is more than a ride-sharing application, Eva is a movement empowering people with automation and inclusion.

After receiving legal authorization from the Quebec Ministry of Transportation, the Eva App should be launched in Montreal by the end of February 2019Download the app and find out more about it.

4 findings from Startupfest 2018

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

DSC_0355.jpgThe 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

premium fests.png

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

IMG-2464

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.

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4. A “young” entrepreneur with a vision for a greener future

img-2313.jpgThrough 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!