5 startups disrupting eating and drinking habits at Montreal Grand’ Messe

We, humans, have never been so self-conscious about the way we eat, for better or for worse! We eat differently, we seek innovations in the products we choose, we want to be healthier, but while having fun! If you recognize yourself in the “we”, you should discover these 5 Montreal startups.

Innovation MTL discovered them during Fondation Montreal Inc. annual event, La Grand’ Messe. For this 3rd edition, 100 startups were gathered to present their newly crafted products to investors, media, influencers, and the general public.

Mushup coffee

Do you also have that colleague who decided to cut off his coffee consumption because he was experiencing chest pains, insomnia, anxiety? Perhaps he or she would be interested in Mushup coffee… quality and fair trade coffee beans, roasted in Montreal, but without all the negative effects of coffee thank to a magic ingredient: mushrooms! Not magic mushrooms, but medicinal mushrooms extracts that add healthier virtues while enhancing the taste of coffee beans. Who knew that the coffee industry still had room for innovation? Try it out, it is delicious (and the branding is gorgeous too)!

Cultur’ dough

Eating is about so much more than feeding yourself or even indulging, it is about living new experiences. If you cannot afford a trip to an exotic destination perhaps you can at least experience that change of scene during a handful of seconds by biting in one of Cultur’ dough cookies. You can jump from Japan to the Mediterranean, from Mexico to the Middle East, without any visa, directly from your taste buds to your imagination. For those who seek something different from regular cookies, it is definitely worth it.

Choco de Lea

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💓 💓 💓 #chocolate #vegan #heart

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Chocolate is a guilty pleasure in so many ways: it is rarely fair trade, it is a calorie bomb, it uses animal products, and often comes in non-recyclable packaging. Léa wants to solve (almost) all these problems with her craft chocolate bars. Using soya milk and gourmet ingredients, she advocates a more responsible consumption of chocolate. We had the opportunity to taste the camomile and cherry flavoured white chocolate. It was surprisingly delicious. It is brand new, so follow her adventures on Instagram!

Haumana

Haumana produces baobab natural energy bars. If you wonder what a baobab is, it is a tree that grows in Africa. People there consumes the citrusy fruit that comes from the tree after drying it and making a powder out of it. It is said to have true health benefits. Haumana is working with a cooperative of women in Senegal to produce their vegan, raw and gluten-free energy bars. The light sour taste gives it a funky twist. And don’t worry, there is an option with chocolate too, it is available here.

Blue Pearl Distillery

Last but not least, if you want to make that old gin & tonic look rejuvenated and more exciting, while supporting a Montreal based company, Blue Pearl Distillery has created a surprising, delicious and funny product to try. With 100% Quebecois ingredients, their Bleu Royal gin has a flowery flavour (it is distilled with juniper berries and coriander) and a natural blue color (apparently it comes from the butterfly pea flower) and… when you mix it with (1642) Tonic, it becomes pink. More than an ordinary liquor, Blue Pearl wants to offer experiences, and magical ones, preferably. You can find Bleu Royal gin at the SAQ.

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.

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.

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.