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.

Making Montreal taxi industry greener and more innovative

When we discuss car transportation apps we usually think of Uber and especially in Montreal, we move to a controversial tone. But there are other apps that make car transportation more innovative, more sustainable and more compliant, like Teo Taxi.

Montreal is becoming a pioneer in electric energies

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If we come back five years ago, in 2012, the Montreal market was not ready for these kinds of applications but Patrick Gagné was. This innovator started a first app for booking taxis in Montreal but because of reluctant taxi companies, it was not successful at that time. Since then, he met with the right people and developed his passion for urban mobility and smart city initiatives and became one of the co-founders of Teo Taxi.

Today, Teo Taxi is a successful impact-driven project, innovating the taxi industry. It all started with motivated entrepreneurs and money. Initiated by billionaire Alexandre Taillefer and his growth capital fund XPND Capital, Taxelco is the corporation that drives Teo Taxi.

Controlling the value chain

Instead of trying to change the mindset of taxi companies to use electric cars, Taxelco simply integrated a part of the value chain and bought one company, Taxi Hochelaga, in August 2015.

patrick gagne.jpg“Controlling the second-largest taxi network in Montreal was a big asset to implement change”, Patrick Gagné

With additional financing from Claridge Investment and public subsidies from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Teo Taxi was launched in November 2015 with an exclusively electric fleet.

Working hand in hand with the Quebec province

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This is obviously made possible by a good relationship with public services. Just like Uber, Teo Taxi is part of a pilot project from Quebec to position Montreal as a green and to turn public transports into responsible economic and social development tools. The province amended previous regulations to allow Taxelco to rent taxi permits. In the context of a new car electrification program, a $5-million grant was also given.

What makes the venture so attractive is its unique positioning, combining the tech innovation of an app with the professionalism of the traditional taxi industry.

“We are partners with the taxi industry and comply with local politicians’ expectations.”

A promising future in expansion 

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Teo Taxi owns its research infrastructure and its electric cars fleet (the very recognizable fleet of green and white Nissan Leaf, Tesla and Kia Soul vehicle). And Taxelco has a wider purpose. It has already started discussing similar projects in other cities in the world such as Winnipeg in Canada, Mulhouse in France, Colombus in the US (Ohio). Other projects also include launching electric taxibuses with the overall purpose that economic and social benefits are derived from the use of electric vehicles.

Neoshop, selling innovative objects offline in the heart of Montreal

When we think of innovation we often think of new apps to facilitate our life, we think of smart objects, artificial intelligence, new service providers but there is a myriad of smart objects being created in Montreal, and now you have a physical address to find them – Neoshop.

Once upon a time in France

Yes, the idea came from France, with the first Neoshop opening in Laval in 2013 but through an initiative of the dynamic Quartier de l’Innovation, it successfully expanded in North America with Montreal as a HQ. The idea is to offer to consumers the innovations created by startups and thus, to support these startups when marketing their innovations.

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Credit Substance ETS

A business accelerator for innovative startups in Quebec

The Montreal boutique opened almost a year ago and we met with Hugo Paquin, its manager, last week during Startupfest 2017.

We want to progressively become the reference for innovative products in Quebec. Some of these startups only have an online presence but they could reach many customers by using a physical sales point.

Neoshop acts like a physical address for startups but it is much more than this – the idea is also to help startups fine-tune their marketing strategy. This is where Hugo can add a true value. With over seven years of professional experience in marketing and communication, having worked in prestigious organizations such as KPMG and CGI, he knows how to share new ideas with startups to leverage their growth strategies.

During Startupfest 2017, Neoshop had a pop-up kiosk where they were displaying some of the popular objects they offer – Naak energy bars, OCNI Factory seasoning mix, Kinesix sportswear, Nex Band a smart bracelet, Bubbles products… and Hugo met many new startups to expand the Neoshop catalogue in the near future.

Strengthening the community

Eventually, the goal is to create an international network where European products will be offered in Montreal and Quebec products will be advertised in Neoshops in France or Ireland. These innovation boutiques are mostly targeted at “early adopters” and Millennials, who are already sensitive to innovation but being a physical retailer also allows to target pretty much anyone.

For now, Neoshop does not have a permanent physical address but it is hosted by Quartier de l’Innovation which already brings visibility and awareness. In the middle of engineering works in Downtown Montreal, Neoshop surely serves as a bridge between innovation and the consumer market.

Revolutionizing the soda industry, one flavour at a time

One year ago Innovation Montreal launched by introducing 1642 Cola, an innovative soda company from Montreal founded by Bastien Poulain. Today, we have decided to give you an update on how they are doing and how they are making a name in the entrepreneurship sphere in Quebec.

From 1642 Cola to 1642 Sodas

portrait-bastienBastien has understood that in order to grow you need to diversify. Priorities today are to improve distribution networks and expand product lines. After the Cola came the Tonic and after the Tonic came most recently the Ginger ale, a blend of honey, ginger and maple syrup, always aiming at a premium and local product.

To sustain the development of these new products, Bastien has made the move that many entrepreneurs do – he has opened ownership to four angel investors from the Quebec version of “Dragon’s Den”, Mitch Garber, Martin-Luc Archambault, Alexandre Taillefer and Serge Beauchemin. They own 7.5% of the shares since February 2016.

To expand distribution networks, 1642 Sodas partnered with Lassonde, Quebec leader in ready-to-drink fruit, juices and drinks. This partnership allows 1642 Sodas to expand sales points from 600 to 440 throughout Quebec.

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“What matters the most is that all sales point reorder the product – once the order becomes recurrent, we have overcome most of the challenge”

An innovative gourmet product, not an organic product

It is clear from the beginning that 1642 Sodas are NOT organic products. This is how they differentiate from Bec Cola, a product that was launched in Quebec long before them. “It is difficult to promote both healthy and local products” explains Bastien. 1642 Sodas have made the choice to offer products that are 100% natural in their composition but not organic. Obviously they do not attract the “granola” customers but they do attract another growing target customer basis – epicureans!

What 1642 Sodas can do, unlike organic products firms, is that they can sell alcohol. Indeed, they have partnered with Ungava Spirits and created 100% Quebecer signature cocktails such as their Gin & Tonic,  or their local Cuba Libre, “Gaspésien Libre” with Chic Choc. The team participated to dozens of food festivals (like Premiers Vendredis, which is the largest food truck festival in Quebec). They have also partnered with a famous Montreal snack and food truck, Le Gras Dur, to create a signature dish – General Tao chicken with 1642 Cola.

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“We have the same target as microbreweries – consumers that are interested in quality, taste and pleasure”

1642 Sodas will certainly expand in the near future to the rest of Canada and beyond. After selling 350,000 bottles in 2015 and 530,000 bottles in 2016, it is clear that the innovative company is on a strong upward slope especially considering Montreal is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year.

 

 

 

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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Montreal, a new lab for innovative cannabis health usage

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(c) Kevin Chen

For centuries, marijuana has proved to have a huge potential to alleviate pain especially when it is related to the side effects of chemotherapy and other degenerative diseases. Today, synthetized cannabis could be the next innovation in the health industry – at least it is the project of ambitious young scientist, Kevin Chen.

We met Kevin at an event organized by John Molson School of Business MBA Entrepreneurship Club (JMEC) earlier this year. With his 24 years old and geeky eyeglasses, Kevin is not the kind of guy you would imagine roaming around with a joint – in fact, he has never smoked any cannabis in his life, but he is passionate about biochemistry and that is enough to make a difference.

“As synthetic biologists, we adopt new technologies, innovations and models in making discoveries, finding cures, and solving problems.”

A pure Montreal innovation

This new innovation is a 100% Montreal project, from its premises to its actual stage: it all started at the beginning of 2014 at Bricobio, a biology lab where scientists and entrepreneurs met in Montreal. With a couple of friends, Kevin pitched his ideas to Irish biotech accelerator Indie.bio. After this, nothing was the same: Kevin started the company with his co-founders Zach Wiltshire, Alex Campbell, Shoham Mookerjee.

They decided to stay in Montreal, instead of Ireland: “we had a lot of incentive and support for moving there but for entrepreneurs, Montreal has a great talent pool and access to a lot of other resources that are great for early stage companies.” Fuelled with the cohesive and collaborative startup ecosystem, the team started the most difficult part of the job – collecting funds.

Getting funds one round at a time

The team closed a first round was as part of the IndieBio accelerator program. The  $520,000 second round was lead by Bill Liao at SOS Ventures, and followed by Ethan Perlstein of PerlsteinLab and Andrew Hessel of Autodesk. Major steps in achieving this were demonstrating potential through their results and ability to solve problems. Recently, Hyasynth Bio participated in MassChallenge in Boston this summer and won an award from Cydan, an accelerator of orphan disease research dedicated to creating therapies that impact the lives of people living with rare genetic diseases,

Synthetizing cannabinoids … and beyond

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Today, Hyasynth Bio is in the later stages of the development phase, and very close to commercialization. They are aiming to be on the market within the next year. The target audience is ultimately patients, but they are also getting there by partnering with other companies and organizations of different kinds.”

“We’re aiming to synthesize anything. The cannabinoids are going to occupy a large portion of the pharmaceutical industry, and there are a lot of molecules in that family. Beyond that, there are many more biologicals that would make great targets”