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

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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

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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!

7 findings from the 7th edition of C2 Montreal

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

IMG-1205.JPGThe 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

DSC_0282.JPGScientist 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 

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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

Stephanie.pngAgain, 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

chelseaTalking 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?

reveri lab.jpgHave 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!

 

Our digital paradoxes revealed at C2 Montreal

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.

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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.

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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.

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(c) Innovation Is Everywhere

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.

5 findings from Day 1 at C2 Montreal 2018

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

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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

img-1101.jpgAs 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.

The initiative was developed by Dr. Rajesh Aggarwal from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Design challenges were presented by four different organizations: 12.29, Mark Brand Inc., Youth Empowering Parents and Cohere.

Interactive debates around social innovation

social innovation.JPGAs 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!

Save money as you spend through Mylo

Fintech comprises all kinds of innovations that aim to compete with traditional financial methods and answer the financial needs of populations. It is currently booming in Canada, as Millennials as starting to earn a living and are not satisfied with what traditional banks have to offer.

We have already touched upon fintech on Innovation Montreal: the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchain to finance projects with a social impact (Impak Finance), or Hardbacon’s app that allow users to become better self-directed investors.

Today we present Mylo: a mobile app that automatically rounds up every purchase you make and invests the spare change.

Fintech on a social mission

mylo bannerWhat drives Mylo’s founders from the beginning is to make saving and investing accessible for all Canadians and especially for Millennials.

To use Mylo, you do not need any knowledge in finance. Mylo works through a partnership with Tactex Asset Management advisors who invest your money in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).

Basically, the more you spend, the more you save… simple, right? If you buy a $3.60 coffee through your debit or credit card, Mylo will automatically round your purchase to $4.00 and invest the extra $0.40.

Going even further, Mylo is not just a tool for investment, it gives recommendations that are customized and personalized. Using artificial intelligence, the app helps its clients optimize important financial decisions such as insurance coverage, interest payments, travel purchases…

“We’re focused on building the next generation of innovative technology, using AI in conjunction with financial data, to help Canadians improve all aspects of their financial lives.”

The financial model is very attractive: there is a monthly fee of $1 to get access to the app. The customized recommendations are completely free but if clients implement the recommendations, the Mylo team then earns a success fee from their partners.

Finance veterans turned startupers

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Phil Barrar and Liam Cheung, Founder and Chairman, are already veterans when it comes to financial investment.

Phil is less than 30 but has been into the Canadian entrepreneurial community for a while. He successively launched and sold two ventures after graduating from Concordia University and ended up joining a Montreal investment fund in 2015: Ferst Capital Partners. This is when he started thinking of ways to democratize financial investment decisions. Mylo emerged from his market study in 2016.

Liam joined the adventure later in 2017. With over 25 years of expertise in finance and technology, he had founded Tactico Inc., the parent company of Tactex Asset Management, an investment firm that manages client-focused equity portfolios.

Mylo acquired Tactex gaining more credibility in the process: a relatively new fintech actor had enough power for acquiring a team of portfolio advisers that manages over $110 million in client assets.

From pitching to seed investing, a tremendous growth

Mylo participated to the iconic TV show Dragon’s Den and got a great deal from three of the investors but as months past and as they worked on a beta version, the team managed to secure a strategic offer that made more sense for our company. They raised $2.65-million in seed financing lead by Desjardins Capital which allowed them to officially launch on the App store.

Today, the startup wants to offer more than just an app. On International Women’s Day, Mylo released a report analyzing the gap between women and men when it comes to saving and investing and offering recommendations to reduce the gap and innovate investing habits.

Montreal, an urban laboratory for experimenting artificial intelligence?

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.

Newcities is a non-profit organization dedicated to making cities more inclusive, more dynamic, more innovative. They organized a round table dedicated to AI and urban issues. Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) was represented by Myriam Côté, Executive Director. She highlighted the importance of a socially responsible AI for founder, Yoshua Bengio.

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Myriam Côté, MILA (https://www.facebook.com/NewCitiesFoundation/photos/

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

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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

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Valentine Goddard (https://www.facebook.com/NewCitiesFoundation/photos/

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.

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Visual representation of debates on AI and social impact

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.

Cooking to end food waste with Coriandr

There will never be too many startups to find against food waste in a city like Montreal. Coriandr is a website that provides you with recipes to use what you have in your fridge and maximise food utilisation, i.e. giving a second life to that last tomato and half broccoli.

Not just another culinary search engine

On Coriandr you will be able to enter every ingredient you have in your fridge, add search options (preferences, dietary restrictions) and find the optimal recipe to cook. The Coriandr database offers 8000 recipes from partners. This is the purely technical part of the innovation.

However, there is more: Coriandr wants to provide a tool that helps every key actor of the food industry. This is why an interactive map will be added to geolocate the nearest grocery store. And if you really do not want to use an ingredient, instead of throwing it, you can make a good action. Coriandr has partnered with the Food Banks of Quebec to facilitate donations of food or cash to the Food Banks of Quebec to support heir activities.

From traditional retail to tech innovation

David B Potvin - photo .jpgHow did this all happen? Initially, David worked as a Business Developer in the wine and spirits retail in Montreal. He did not have any background or particular interest in cooking or technology and yet he decided to become an entrepreneur. His experience volunteering at the Youth Chamber of Commerce of Montreal (JCCM) clearly triggered his interest in entrepreneurship. and gave him the confidence and methodology to structure his idea:

You have to be a little crazy to launch a business but also lucid: it is important to put money aside and question the viability of your project

David started by learning IT basics. He took part in the Lab 12 program, an initiative from Les Pitonneux, a non-profited hosted by Notman House. During 12 weeks, this bootcamp program gives learners an opportunity to become proficient programmers and developers and access to mentors and networking opportunities.

Financed by the people

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Now that he had the skills, he had to finance his project and decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign in January 2018.

It was a real challenge to raise money on a crowdfunding campaign when I was not selling a concrete product, only an experience

Using La Ruche, a crowdfunding tool dedicated to supporting new projects that have a social impact in Quebec, Coriandr raised $5,290 from 89 contributors from Canada, the USA, France and Italy in 45 days. Even better, it got selected by the Fonds ADM / 375 Idées of the JCCM and received 3,750$ in microdonations.

Supported by a community

After less than a year, David has already built a lot. Through the Youth Chamber of Commerce (JCCM), La Ruche and Montreal Network against Food Waste (REGAL), Coriandr is part of a community dedicated to growth, innovation and social impact. David draws inspiration from role models and best practices like Hardbacon or Smarthalo. He has many other ideas to make Coriandr a smart tool for food inventory purposes. For now, the official launch of Coriandr is set for Spring 2018. 

Follow Coriandr on Facebook and Instagram and register on their website to find out about the official launch.