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.

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.

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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Transforming “likes” in money for a good cause

Lately, it has become so easy to get involved in pretty much everything through social media: changing your profile picture after a terrorist attack or a tsunami or an earthquake and getting 100 likes for it. Social sharing can create much awareness but it does not boost funds for the concrete projects (more on this very insightful “Likes don’t save lives” UNICEF campaign).

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Jason Dominique and his team have founded a new social marketplace for global good that lets you take action on causes you care about in an instant and is drawing more and more attention: he has recently been selected by Urbania magazine as one of the 50 people who are creating extraordinary projects in Quebec in 2016.

A social network for millennials

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With this in mind, Philafy was created. This certified Benefit Corporation wants to help millennials give and raise funds in an instant for issues that matters to them and their friends. Some might say that millennials are particularly individualistic but more and more studies tell a different story and Jason truly believes there is more to this thriving generation.

“Millennials realize a disconnect between their social engagement and online actions — only 2% of Millennials find their online philanthropic involvement satisfying”

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This is where Philafy enters the game: a tool that is technically adapted to the generation – a social network – to enable them to take meaningful steps towards action. Through the platform you can do much more than liking and sharing the world’s problems… you can share actionable content: causes you care about and a way to give in one step. The process is very simple: if you wish, when liking a project, you can share it with a ‘1-Click’ micro-giving (e.g. 50¢, $1 or more) call to action button and choose which social causes (e.g. Nonprofits, Charities, NGOs, etc.) will receive the funds.

“Every post can be a micro-fundraising campaign that uses the network to raise more donations faster.”

An innovative payment model

What makes the platform a real game changer is its payment model: when it comes to giving, users need to purchase Philafy prepaid donation credits, a virtual currency that lets them send donations. When traditional crowdfunding and donation platforms took a commission on all donations received by the cause, Philafy is working the other way around: charging a 5% fee to users when they buy prepaid donation credits on Philafy. This new transaction-based fee model is innovating and particularly attracting for causes as it redistributes 100% of donations to causes in 120 countries.

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Through a partnership with Stellar Development Foundation – a nonprofit organization focusing on making traditional financial systems more democratic – Philafy is using technology to send, track and stock the virtual currency that is indexed on US dollar: you buy USD and virtually get USD. For example, if a user wants to add 20$ to its donation wallet, a total amount of 21.91$ – 20$ + 1$ (5%) Philafy fees + 91¢ (2.9% + 30¢) credit card processing fees – will be charged.

Bootstrapped from day one, Philafy is still looking for additional funds to boost product sales & marketing but already has very concrete assets – part of the District 3 incubator – and ambitious objectives: in two weeks a private beta version will be finalised and a public beta version will be presented before summer.

Stay tuned for more information: visit their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Art promotion and social innovation in the city

If you consider that buying artworks is a privilege of the rich and that you could never afford having a sculpture or aquarelle painting from a recognized artist in your living room, here is a story that will change your mind.

Artothèque is at the center of innovation, entrepreneurship and social development: it gives you the opportunity to have a Riopelle painting in your living room for a short period of time. We have met with Artothèque’s brand new director, Justin Maheu.

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From performing to diffusing the arts

IMG_6810Justin’s piercing blue eyes can tell a lot about his motivation and determination. Indeed, when he starts describing his current occupations you begin to understand where he is heading: in addition to managing Artothèque, he is also director and pianist at Quattr’Opéra, a group of musicians aiming at promoting opera towards the general public, he is treasurer and executive member at the Quebec society for research in music (SQRM). Although Justin started his career with a music background, he realized that what mattered the most to him was to diffuse and vulgarize the arts. He could not have found a better place to do it than Artothèque, a library allowing art rental for individuals, organizations and businesses for short or long periods.

You might think that it is another consequence of the “uberization” of society but it’s not: this social economy enterprise was founded in 1995 and it is a pioneer in the field of social entrepreneurship and arts. Run by the Fondation des arts et métier d’art du Québec, it gives access to over 5,000 works created by some 1,000 local artists.

A new strategy to revitalize the art industry

FullSizeRenderFor now, Artothèque’s priority is to increase art rental – as a hybrid enterprise, it does not benefit from any public subsidies. Justin is working on systematizing the programming at Artothèque with a balance of exhibitions, training activities for children, cultural mediation. The organization is also based on a transversal renting model: “we do not only rent the artworks to individuals, we also target corporate companies and we work with members of the film industry”. Justin believes in the importance of diversifying and updating the collection: tendencies and trends evolve all the time and Artothèque has 500 “sleeping” works of art that no longer correspond to the clients’ taste.

A social enterprise first

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Of course, the business model is based on the benefits resulting from the renting but Artothèque’s mission is much larger:

“We want to give a taste for art to the greatest number of people by making works easily accessible while increasing our artists’ visibility.”

The innovative aspect of this non-profit organization is that it still provides benefits to artists: when they leave their pieces on consignment, they obtain visibility through the virtual catalogue, receive rental income from their work (between 20 and 40% of the price of the rent) and create relationships with the business sector and new clients.

Artothèque tries to find a balance between making artworks easily accessible and offering a showcasing opportunity to promising artists. Of course, individuals who become clients are already “educated”. “Our audience is very similar to people going to the opera, in their forties, with a high annual salary but we want to reach a larger public”, explains Justin.

Indeed, there is an exhibition currently happening, “Quoi de neuf“, and you can visit them in Rosemont, 5720 rue Saint-André.

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.