Be innovative, add mushrooms to your next coffee!

Healthy products are currently booming and food innovation is becoming more and more growth-generating. People want to be able to eat tasty, quality and healthy products and at the same time, they want to generate as little waste as possible. This is just what Mushup is aiming to do: providing a healthy coffee alternative with a beautiful but sustainable packaging.

It all begins with friendship and travels

Rachèle brought her background in business development and her passion for sales and public relations. Maeva had a previous experience in sustainable development, events management, marketing. But most importantly, both of them shared one important asset: a true friendship.

We needed new challenges, we wanted to change the way we lived… so we went on a backpack trip to Colombia to find inspiration and see if we were ready to start working together.

Rachèle

In November 2017, on a hike in the beautiful zona cafetera, they decided to launch a business in the coffee industry that would be socially responsible. Back to Montreal, they met with a mycologist who introduced them to the complementarity between coffee and medicinal fungus.

After months of research and development, they came up with a coffee bean that integrates the positive mental and physical impacts of these fungus. Spark, Vigor and Vital each provide a different benefit.

It was important to select the best possible coffee. All grains are hand-picked and slow-roasted. 

Maeva

Innovation by curiosity

Neither Rachel nor Maeva have a technical training in mycology or in science. They are not inventors but they can be innovators because they have an acute perception of the market. They understand consumers, their needs and desires for alternative products.

Some people might find it strange to add mushroom extracts to coffee beans but not our generation. Curiosity is part of our DNA.

Rachèle

They also know how to make the solution attractive: they have created three types of coffee, with three exclusive visuals from French designer Julien Brogard, picked through an international competition and their boxes are zero waste.

Collaboration and independence all the way

Collaboration is key to their growth. Mushup is working hand in hand with partners like graphic designers (from the Billy Club) to develop, one coffee at a time.

Starting a new business was a way for us to come back to our original life objectives. We needed to gain control over our lives so it was natural to also keep control over our business

You can buy Mushup products online or in a (growing) number of local shops. You can also taste it, among other places, at the lovely Bistro Tendresse in Montreal Village neighbourhood.

Making 3D innovations more sustainable

3D printing is at the core of innovation and opens the possibilities for the hardware industry. You can now print pretty much everything, from the little piece that would allow to stabilize your living room table, to a new shinbone for surgery. Two French engineers have developed a new material, made of recycled plastic, to make these more sustainable.

Today, Nefilatek’s Kickstarter campaign is almost over but the project started a year ago, as a school project. Bastien was studying at Polytechnic and was convinced that developing recycled 3D printing filaments could be realistic. He was able to win grants from Fondation Arbour and enter Universite de Montreal and Polytechnique JAB incubator

A few months after, Angel joined the adventure with a background in Physical Engineering. After working in a biomedical lab, he wanted to find a meaningful project that allowed him to contribute to society.

Recycling makes the cost of raw material much cheaper

Thanks to research and development innovations, pretty much all plastics in the industry can be recycled: old electronics, home appliances are thrown in recycling factories and transformed into plastic pallets. 

Nefilatek has been able to develop different filaments: HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) is good for the general public and for startups while PC (Polycarbonate) is more resistant and used in biomedical labs. In addition, the team builds spools that are also recycled, reusable and very light to avoid wasting empty stools. 

Closing the loop of the circular economy

For now, the team at Nefilatek uses plastics from sorting centers which is not 100% clean and needs to be decontaminated but the aim is to find raw plastics and make their own mixture.

We want to be able to collect used filaments from 3D printed prototypes and objects and recycle it to develop Nefilatek filaments. Then, we would be truly closing the loop.

Angel Chauffray

3D printing could be the new DIY trend

Over the past years, it is mostly known by geeks and tinkers, but 3D printing is a fun and useful hobby … and it is not that expensive! Did you know that you could buy a 3D printer for $350? And you can use it for making a missing piece of furniture, instead of buying a new one, or to make a new flower vase, deco pieces or toys for your children, or anything you want! Most models are open source so you can find them on websites such as Thingiverse.

It would be great to build a community of individual clients and democratize circular economy, show people that they can make everything by themselves.

Angel Chauffray

If you’re interested in testing 3D printing and doing it in a sustainable manner with Nefilatek filaments, you can contribute to their Kickstartercampaign until 22 April 2019!

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.

Telling stories by designing authentic products

Designing, creativity and adventurousness run in the family for Antonio and Lorena. Having an industrial designer as a mother and an astrophysician as a father, the siblings have a passion for design. They are inviting Montrealers to embrace their innovative products.

Not interested by traditional paths

Lorena studied ceramic and graphic design while Antonio went for sculpture and industrial design. They both started their careers few years ago in the corporate world and in design studios. However, something was wrong – a sense of uneasiness, lack of authenticity? Antonio decided to go back to studying and chose an environmental programme in design and architecture at Universite de Montreal and Lorena quit her job. Brother and sister decided to become partners and Co/Crea Studio was born.

We did not agree 100% with what the market had to offer, we needed to create ourselves something that aligns with our vision of the world. 

Their conception of design is responsible and interdisciplinary, it embraces circular economy and has a positive impact of society while remaining viable. 

Going against the grain: durability vs. trends

(c) Tora Chirila

People are either graphic designers or industrial designers but studios rarely combine the two. Blending 2D and 3D is a way to provide richer experiences and mutually benefit from each other.

Lorena and Antonio work on the ideation process together, then, the lead will depend on the type of product or service. The focus is always on offering a sustainable product or service with an extended life – which is against the processes of the industry.

Conveying messages through products

They are currently working on a series of products called the “Fundamental Series”, to promote good habits: a book-end, to leave technology aside and go back to reading books, candlesticks to give more light to our lives…

(c) Tora Chirila

To do so, they are partnering with Mexican artisans from a small village called Tecali which is famous for its expertise in marble and onyx craft. Unlike many manufacturers that go there for cheap but quality labour, the two Montrealers want to provide artisans with fair trade opportunities and… to come back to their country of origin!

Another product, “My Montreal, our island” was created after a call for projects inviting designers to reinterpret Montreal souvenirs (that are mostly made in China as we all know…). Using Montreal’s insularity, the designers created an original mug that showcases Montreal diversity and authenticity: it is made in clay as a reminder of the sand beaches on an island, it has the island of Montreal carved in the bottom, and the name is written just like you would write with your fingers in the sand. 

Of course, if you don’t know the story, you might just see it as another mug in a souvenir shop, but this is why design is so important for us – it helps conveying stories in a durable and creative manner.

You can buy these products online.

Tero: Designing products for more sustainable habits

Elizabeth Coulombe and Valérie Laliberté are two Product Design students who made the choice of entrepreneurship to bring their innovative and sustainable design to the world. Elizabeth talks about human-centered design, sustainability and R&D.

 Building on the recycling trend

The idea emerged as Elizabeth and Valerie were doing their Bachelor in Product Design, a new programme at Laval University (Quebec City). They had to work on resolving a social or environmental issue. 

Traditional composting

In Quebec City we do not have an organized compost collection system from the city. People who want to compost have to take lessons but it is not so well-known. We wanted to design a new product that would make composting easier. 

Food Cycler in Korea (c) Amazon

A similar product was already designed in Korea – the Food Cycler is a machine that grinds food waste to reduce it up to 90% of it’s original volume and make it odourless. Indeed, food waste management is already well-advanced in South Korea, where the government initiated a “pay as you trash” policy: the heavier your trash bag, the more you pay. 

Composting with style

Drawing inspiration from Korea, the two Quebec students started designing a smaller and more ergonomic product:

We want Tero to be like another household appliance, something that you will feel comfortable leaving on your kitchen table.

Closing the loop of the circular economy

The final product should turn one kilo of food waste into 100 grammes of fertilizing powder within three hours through a dehydration process – it is a quick and odourless process.

We worked with agronomists and academics to find the best way to recycle food waste. We did not want to burn it. The dehydration process allows to retain all the nutriments to use as a fertilizer for gardening

It is one goal to design an innovative product, it is a completely different one to launch your first company after only three years of studying! The two entrepreneurs are still studying today – Elizabeth is doing an MBA – and working with engineers to make the best and most affordable product (through partnerships with Solutions Novika and the Center for industrial research support in Quebec – CRIQ), But entrepreneurship is also about finding investments, selling products, marketing…. 

From designers to entrepreneurs

We remain designers – we always focus on putting the user at the center of conception and development.

When the product is finalized, you will be able to order it through a crowdfunding campaign. In the mean time, you can follow Tero’s adventures on their website or Facebook page.

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.