Impak Finance is innovating banking tools with a social purpose

Did you know that finance could be purposeful, and that soon you could open a bank account in a cryptocurrency that allows you to make a difference in this world? On the eve of its official launch, Paul Allard, CEO of Impak Finance told us all about the impak coin (MPK) and how it would change the relationship that bank users have with finance.

Indeed, when we think of finance and banking in general, we usually picture profit-driven tycoons, speculating over stocks, options and other tools with the general public being somehow exploited eventually. But have you ever heard of the impact economy? This alternative way of doing business is actually a new market force that strives to achieve an intimate connection between profit and purpose.

A new conception of finance

paul_allard_impakfinance_4x5_200dpiImpak Finance is a new Montreal startup that positions itself right in this context. As explained by Paul Allard, the mission statement is clear:

“In the context of extreme financial deregulation, we want to remodernize people’s experience of economy.”

Through this innovative and disruptive approach, Impak Finance wants people to understand what banks do with their money with transparency and social consciousness, and change the way people experience their relationship with money.

Impak coins

When we hear the term “cryptocurrency” we think of bitcoins, and we have a vague understanding that it is related to blockchain but we usually see these new fintech tools as suspicious because of the absence of regulation. Well, impak coins (MPK) aim at being the first cryptocurrency not only in Quebec but worldwide, that is created by the book with full transparency.

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It will have the assets of other cryptocurrencies –the ability to transfer money with no fees, but it will have a key differentiating aspect – its stability. It will only be tradable on a permissioned market managed by impak Finance, not on other digital asset exchanges.

Every transaction involving an impact-driven company will be rewarded and MPKs will only be usable at specific businesses that are part of the impact economy – for example, eating at Panthere Verte vegan restaurants, using Teo-Taxi vehicles, drinking Rise Kombucha beverages.

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To structure transactions, an online ecosystem will be launched at the end of 2017, with the perspective that it becomes eventually an online bank. Anyone will be able to buy MPK on this platform, to use their money sustainably. Citizens will be able to identify impact merchants and have access to products and services aligned with their values.

“People will be able to actively participate in transforming the world every day by responsibly choosing which companies their money will support.”

Canada’s first socially responsible chartered bank?

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You might ask yourself if all this is realistic, if it is possible to have a financial ecosystem that is secure, energy efficient, with no intermediary, no fees and with value. With an initial equity fundraise of CAD$1.5 million, it is clear that a significant community is interested in spending meaningfully.

With an upcoming official presale coming in August, impak coins is expecting to connect 500 enterprises, 150 capital partners, and 5,000 user participants by the end of the year.

If you want to understand all about this innovative project, you can read Impak Finance White Paper.

Kinesix Sport is innovating sportswear the Canadian way

Canada is famous worldwide for its extremely cold winters so it is natural that a very promising Montreal startup has found out a way to leverage innovative tools to make people warmer. We met Jonathan Albrecht from Kinesix Sports during Startupfest 2017 edition. He is currently finalizing what could be the perfect smart object for urban Montrealers next winter.

The concept of a heating jacket

Have you ever heard of heating jackets? It is mainly used by amateurs of extreme sports (skiing or hiking). But Kinesix is taking a step further and working on making this a smart object, giving users the possibility to control temperature from their smartphones.

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Basically, heath is conducted through carbon elements to twelve heath zones. A manual mode is available but the app can also determine the optimal temperature. The fabric is similar to Gortex so it does not absorb water or perspiration for an optimal comfort. And the price remains competitive compared to Canadian premium winter jackets (it is $300 on pre-sale and eventually the final retail price will be $699).

Combining a passion for sports and biomechanics

john.jpgJohn has always been into sports. After living in France during his teenage years, he came back to Canada and decided to study in kinesiology and in biomechanics. He worked in a sports store for 5 years where he clearly identified a need for simplifying winter sports clothing. His dream was to combine these two passions and work in the product development division for Nike.

His passion for entrepreneurship eventually led him to think of starting his own business – Kinesix, offering innovative high-end products for athletic usage. In this context, launching a smart heating jacket was the next logical move:

 “In sports apparel, innovation has to come from smart objects. Brands like Nike tend to innovate their equipment to produce better fabric but not to create smart connected objects”

A 100% Canadian product

love winterKinesix is working in partnership with the Centre de transfert technologique in Saint-Hyacinthe to integrate heating elements and develop the an expertise for mass production. The electronic elements are produced in partnership with DFX Tech and the heating parts with Memtronik. John has already raised interest from potential buyers in France and Switzerland:

It is important to offer a Canadian product especially when selling the product in Europe. It provides credibility.

For now, the team is finalizing technical elements, working on the rechargeable battery but the heating jacket has already raised a lot of interest (especially through an article on La Presse) and a Kickstart campaign will soon be launched. Pre-purchase requests come from various customers – senior citizen, students or athletes – which confirms the multiple usages of such a smart object.

Bringing artificial intelligence to the business world

Element AI is the new darling in tech innovation. This 100% Montreal startup is revolutionizing artificial intelligence usages and making a big name in the business environment. We met with one of its co-founders, Anne Martel, during the 2017 edition of Startupfest in Montreal. She shares glimpses of this fascinating journey.

After closing the biggest Series A financing of the year ($135 million) and less than a year after their launch, Element AI has become the leading global company when it comes to AI.

From Art History to Artificial intelligence

anne martelAnne graduated from Concordia University in Art History and Finance less than 10 years ago. Today, she is the Senior Vice President of Operations for possibly the biggest AI incubator in the world. Without any previous experience in AI or computer sciences, but with a natural tendency towards entrepreneurship, she started her career by taking over the family business in the healthcare industry, manufacturing hardware for medical equipment and helped structure the company before selling it. This first experience had given her the desire to start a new company, in the tech industry this time.

She met serial AI entrepreneurs Jean Francois Gagne and Nicolas Chapados who were brainstorming about launching an accelerator or an integrator of tech projects. Both had a strong successful background in AI projects, building companies over the years. Anne successfully shaped her role in that triangle.

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Joining dots in the AI network

Element AI’s business model is based on creating connections with AI centers (McGill, Université de Montreal) and “bringing together the best in entrepreneurship, technology and academia”. With AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio as a co-founder, the startup can only be on the right track.

The business goal of Element AI is to reorganize companies around AI, automatize and strengthen processes in the fields of logistics or supply chain. Through a strong strategy consultants team, the company is building relations with corporations and educating them.

We all know Siri, how it uses language processing to understand the questions we ask and then are able to make simple operations on our devices. But there is even greater potential when it comes to disrupting business solutions – imagine a device that could organize treatment procedures, memorize and assist doctors in making the most informed decision?

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During Startupfest 2017, Element AI presented the Mur.AI, demo provided in real time, a capture of the world as seen through the eyes of a street artist

Growing next to the tech giants

Although Element AI is backed up by big names like Microsoft, Intel and Nvidia, the idea is to remain an incubator of talents.

“We are focused on B2B solutions, so we provide an alternative to tech giants and attract different talents.”

Experts that are hired are not only specialized in AI research but they also understand robotics, manufacturing, cyber-security, financial services. They bring this unique transversal expertise to businesses.

Startupfest, a unique blend of innovation and impact

For two full days, the Old Port of Montreal was bustling with innovation, entrepreneurship and meetings of all kinds, be it under a lovely sun or heavy rain.

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Speaking out, networking, pitching, judging…

If you were frightened by the impressive amount of rain that poured on Friday afternoon, you could listen to influencing speakers sharing their experiences during keynote sessions. Kimberley Bryant and her daughter told the moving story of their journey towards empowering black girls and encouraging them to become “the new Mark Zuckerberg”. Justin Schier explained how he created Scruff in the strategic niche market of gay dating apps. Tom Williams pointed out the best practices when it comes to recruiting talents…

When the sun came back, or if you were motivated under the rain, you could discover dozens of startups in the tents outside. Fondation Montreal’s tent was presenting different startups every day and we met with one of Unito’s cofounders, Eryk Warren, who explained how they were providing unique solutions to companies by synchronizing their tasks and projects through a unique platform.

Quartier de l’Innovation was presenting the newly opened Neoshop, which is the first physical location for innovation in Montreal, bringing startups’ products to the people.

In the Demo Zone we discovered Food Trip To, giving people the chance to travel around the world through their exclusive gift boxes.

We also met with lovely ladies who, under their candid looks, were actually impartial judges – the Grandmothers tent is one of the most popular pitch contests and many courageous entrepreneurs were queuing to take a chance, pitching for 30 seconds and answering questions for 30 seconds. Brenda, Doreen, Marilyn, Pearl are all grandmothers but they are also influential business women who have been at key managerial positions for years. During two days, the busy ladies heard over 350 pitches!

Eventually, making an impact

In the end, it was very inspirational to find out that the big $140,000 Prize was awarded to a startup dedicated to making the world a better place – FlashFood is an app helping groceries in Ontario fight against food waste by providing clients with discounts (very similar to Eatizz in Montreal, that we portrayed last year!)

So yes, innovation is surely about discovering new technologies and unwinding the potential of artificial intelligence but it is above all about finding better ways to address simple matters.

Montreal, the smart city to be this summer

So much is happening in Montreal in Summer. You might definitely have heard of the Jazz Festival but did you also know that there was one of the biggest international Startup Festivals? Innovation Montreal is happy to introduce you to this unique event and give you some glimpse of the action throughout a week.

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Introducing the “Startupfest

Quick facts – this is already the 7th edition, 4500 people are expected, coming from 20 countries, invading the Old Port district of Montreal July 12-15. There are exclusive events happening –premium mini-events, hackathons, but also traditional keynote sessions, networking breakout sessions, a giant tent to present innovative projects including, last but not least, the Grandmother’s tent, where entrepreneurs will have to pitch their projects with such simple words that grandmas should be able to understand! Quite a challenge, right?

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Creating wins

Of course, the festival is about showcasing innovative projects, but they main idea is to connect entrepreneurs with investors, but also with corporations, to strengthen the community. It is a unique opportunity for Montrealer startups to meet with international investors and to create synergies between international startups. For Matt Kanas, a blogger recalling previous editions,

It was a visceral example of how a community can truly help and support itself with a singular purpose: achieving a prosperous future for Canada’s startup community.

Montreal, a global smart city

This is also a great opportunity for the city of Montreal to show to the world all its potential as a hub for innovation in North America. People often think of the Silicon Valley, or New York or Toronto as dynamic technological hubs but Montreal is also a smart hub with dedicated programs like Montréal Smart and Digital City Action Plan (2015-2017) and as the city celebrates its 375th anniversary, it is more than ever in the mood for showcasing how digitally-savvy its people are, how the city bustles with new projects and how it creates opportunities for financing and development.

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A glimpse on the program

On Wednesday, dedicated sessions in French will require a separate registration but from Thursday July 13, things will seriously get started with Best Pitch competitions, Brain Dates, “How-to” sessions where notorious speakers will be sharing their experiences, “Future-of” sessions where they will be discussing what will be a key differentiator for entrepreneurs moving forward – automation, finance, augmented human intelligence…

Stay tuned for pictures, quotes and exciting discoveries on our Instagram and Twitter accounts and more articles to come!

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.

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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