From Finance to Craft Brewing, an entrepreneur story

Today, Renaud Gouin has two microbreweries in Montreal, he has been one of the key industry innovators in the past decade, seeing the potential for hoppy beers. How did he become a brewer and entrepreneur? We will have a look at his journey, from HEC Montreal to Jukebox and Avant-Garde.

The beginnings

 

At first, Renaud didn’t like beer. Because beers were unflavored, standardised, industrial. When he discovered some Belgian beers, he realised that beer could be fruity with almost a non-existent bitterness.

During his studies at HEC Montreal he started home-brewing and discovered that he could actually brew beers that were above industry averages. He also found out that the community of craft beer lovers was a passionate and dynamic one, ready to share their knowledge and experience through social platforms like the MontreAlers on Facebook. Still an amateur, Renaud accepted a position at Desjardins as a Personal Finance Advisor and decided to explore his new passion further.

A potential for innovation

There is such a diversity of flavors in craft beers: fruity, sour, even salty flavors! Some hops like Citra can create flavors of tropical fruits, litchi, passion fruit, without adding any fruit in the brew! Some yeasts like Brettanomyces can give a sour taste of hay.

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one of the very interesting infographics made by https://vinepair.com 

 

In Quebec, in the early 2010s, over 50 types of beers where still not accessible. There was one particular type that was still not adopted by industrial and medium-sized breweries: that of American Pale Ales and Indian Pale Ales. Their intense bitterness made everyone wince. But Renaud was already creating his own.

When Renaud the corporate vision of life, he decided to take a leap in entrepreneurship but he knew that he could not invest in the heavy and expensive equipment and open his own brewery. He had read a lot about contract brewing and how it succeeded in the US. Without equity, this innovation in manufacturing industry clearly eased the transition to being an entrepreneur for home brewers.

Renaud pitched his idea to Brasseurs de Montreal. At that time, they had never tried the model but as they were not into creating similar products, they decided to go for it.

Introducing hoppy beers in Quebec

renaudRenaud analysed the market and clearly saw an opportunity to catch:

“Unibroue had concentrated their efforts on creating Belgian-style brews while McAuslan was more traditionally focused on English styles but hoppy beers were new to Quebec”

He also wanted to innovate the branding and offer a disrupting image to his beers: unlike industrial or regionally focused images used by the other players, Renaud wanted to offer a whole new world: in 2012, he created his first microbrewery, Jukebox, around the world of rock music. The hoppy flavor of each of the products is as electrical as the guitar on the labels.

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If amateurs and curious gourmets liked his new products, Renaud was still working part-time at Desjardins because he needed cash flow.

“Contract brewing was great for distribution and increasing sales revenues but it did not include representation and promotion which is a crucial part.”

Innovating vs. creating profits

With Jukebox steadily working, Renaud wanted to create new products and innovate:

“One thing is to be focused on growth but I am more interested in creativity, passion and innovation and contract brewing is a perfect tool for testing the market and testing new flavors”

Renaud had met with Shawn Duriez, an ex-brewer from McAuslan. They decided to create new innovative beers together and co-founded Avant-Garde. Shawn’s experience on the ground and Renaud’s entrepreneurial experience made them complementary.

Again, timing was of the essence: in 2016, they capitalised on another innovation in the industry: Julien Niquet and David Cayer, co-founders of Glutenberg, were launching Oshlag Brewery, and offering the first contract brewing service for craft breweries. Renaud and Shawn jumped at the opportunity.

With the high popularity of IPAs, they wanted to offer more classical beers while exploring new flavors. They focused their exploration on barrel-aged beers: the Porter Imperial Bourbon, for example, has a vanilla bourbon nose, mixed with coffee, caramel, even banana flavors. They also disrupt classical recipes with the Nocture Coco, an Imperial Porter made with an unconventional ingredient: coconut!

Introducing the new innovation in craft beer tasting, made in Quebec

If you live in Montreal nowadays, you must have heard of the art of craft beers. You must know that in Quebec, beer consumption can be as refined as wine tasting in France. To make this local strength more visible, Catherine Roux has created an innovative product to help you discover new microbreweries: Passeport en fût.

Create a local emulation

The original idea for Passeport en fût was discussed in August 2015, between Catherine and her co-founder Geneviève. Catherine worked with the Quartier Latin SDC (Société de développement commercial), an organization that helps retailers promote their activities in their local environment. In a neighborhood like Quartier Latin, where there are many breweries, bars and restaurant, she wanted to offer innovative ways to create a bond between SDC and the general public.

With the rise of craft beers in consumption patterns, focusing on microbreweries was the most natural move. Especially as there were no efficient models to help retailers promote their products: there are big events organized every year to promote the craft brewery industry (cf. Mondial de la Bière) but there is no real product or service to encourage people to discover breweries by themselves, throughout the year.

“Microbreweries are real partners, they do not participate to our project, they are fully part of it”

From vouchers to a mobile application

photo Pascale Martel

A new startup was born. The original project was as simple as revolutionary: a booklet of vouchers – 12 vouchers for 12 beers (or non-alcoholic drinks) in 12 Montreal microbreweries, at a very attractive price, for a limited period. The vouchers were mailed directly to buyers. This model really put forwards breweries through a B2C approach.

For the two first editions, in 2016 and 2017, this paper version of the passport proved to be very popular but Catherine received a growing demand for innovating her product: turning the passport into a mobile application was an attractive idea, but it needed capital and expertise to succeed.

In 2017, Catherine met with the founders of a web agency, Okam and got a “professional” crush with its co-founders, Samuel and David.

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With this new partner, she could develop the app and bring her entrepreneurship adventure to the next level: through technology, she could extend the service to the rest of Quebec and serve a wider audience.

In October 2017, the new version of Passeport Local and the app were launched, with the opportunity to discover 12 locations out of 70 microbreweries throughout Quebec.

A new technology startup to promote local entrepreneurship

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The success of Passeport en fût crossed both the provincial and national borders and Catherine is currently working on possible projects in the rest of Canada and the US.

To implement these new developments, she has created another startup, PSSPRT, that specializes in developing technology products dedicated to discovering local companies and their products. Along with her partners from Okam, they are working on bringing personnalisation and customization to a whole new level, to help local companies expand their visibility with mobile tools.

“We are looking at opportunities to expand our technology beyond Quebec by selling usage rights to our app.”

We can’t wait to discover these new innovative products, but until then, a little bird told us that 15 additional microbreweries will join the Passeport en fût this Spring. To discover it all, you can download the app here.

A “Biotifull” startup revolutionizing Quebec organic cosmetics

Launching a startup can be a project undertaken at any time of your life: a mother of two teenagers, Isabelle decided to leave her comfortable job at Universite de Montreal to launch an innovative and social business called BiotiFULL.

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How can teenagers get interested in organic products?

The market for local organic beauty products in Quebec is already established (cf. Emporium “made in Quebec” products) but the design and marketing are not made to appeal to teenagers. What BiotiFULL is offering is a HEALTHY, YOUNG and ENVIRONMENTALLY COMMITTED product.

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Isabelle Audet has a background in mathematics and project management. Nothing predestined her for entrepreneurship. However, as her two daughters started growing and developing allergies to most of the products sold in general stores, she started investigating cosmetics ingredients.

I discovered that 4 out of 5 beauty products used by young people include at least one ingredient suspected of inducing environmental or health issues.

Generation Z is more aware of the social impact of their consumption but they remain teenagers and they expect a “cool” packaging and fruity fragrances.

With these thoughts in mind, Isabelle decided to pitch her ideas directly to the Montreal community of entrepreneurs and investors to find out if it was relevant. She registered for Les Affaires Défi Startup in February 2017 and pitched BiotiFULL to a jury that included Julien Brault (check our article on Hardbacon), Sylvain Carle (Mr. FounderFuel), Sophie Boulanger (Bonlook) and many other innovators.

Isabelle was awarded the “coup de Coeur” from the jury and she was more than ever convinced of the viability and need for innovating youth cosmetics.

How can an innovative startup make a social impact?

biotifull teenagersIsabelle did not only want to create a new product and make a lot of money. She wanted her venture to make an impact and to help teenagers in their projects. She knows that a lot of them involved in sports club or school clubs usually launch fundraising campaigns and sell chocolate or cakes.

Instead of industrial chocolates, why wouldn’t they sell organic shower gels and shampoos? Why wouldn’t they sell products that teenagers would actually like? She decided to launch a crowdfunding tool dedicated to these projects where BiotiFULL products would be sold.

Advertising local products, made in Quebec, that are attractive to teenagers is a way to trigger their social conscious and make them sensitive to cosmetics’ ingredients

BiotiFULL offers the logistic and marketing support of the fundraising campaign to school associations and 40% of the revenues are diverted to them. So far, $10,000 have been collected by school associations.

Products made for teenagers, with teenagers

products biotifullTeenagers are at the center of every consideration for Isabelle. Products are created in collaboration with teenagers: a panel of testers is giving personal opinion on the fragrances, the design, the name of the products so that they get exactly what they need. This is also a way for BiotiFULL to heighten awareness of teenagers on cosmetic ingredients.

For now, Isabelle is working with a chemist to make products that have a SHORT and EASILY understandable list of ingredients but she would love to have her own lab one day, to create her products

Next moves…

BiotiFULL is selected for the final round of LADN Montérégie that celebrates Leadership, Audacity, Determination, Innovative spirit of entrepreneurs. The final will be held on March 21, until then you can vote for BiotiFULL !

Myelin makes artificial intelligence a social innovation tool

Marc-Olivier thinks artificial intelligence (AI) can be a solution to human problems and can innovate health promotion.

myelin team

Providing a digital structure to social help

Marc-Olivier Schüle, along with his two partners, Marise Bonenfant and Francois Menet, is introducing Myelin, a new innovative startup that gives access to the best, most accurate information on autism. The AI tool adapts its answers to your level of knowledge and the type of question you want to ask.

Myelin is not inventing anything new, it innovates the way actual knowledge is processed, structured and delivered.

When you look at current information on Google related to autism, it is non-professional, non-official and… probably false. Myelin will be a source of knowledge supported by recognized institutions like the School of Psycho-Education from Université de Montreal, Quebec Federation on Autism, Ivado (the Institute for Data Valorization) and many other.

Academic excellence at the service of social intervention 

Marc-Olivier knows what he is talking about: he has years of experience in psychosocial intervention that made him realize the need for a serious and reliable foundation to build trusting relations with patients and their parents. At the same time, his academic experience (he is doing a PhD at Université de Montreal) reveals that the latest advances in research are unfortunately buried in universities’ intranet servers.

There are over 2000 articles published every day on mental health. How can we all process it and make it useful? Psychosocial actors need secure and reliable tools so we can spend more time on working on our relation with parents and children

From a prototype to a social artificial intelligence tool  

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This is only the beginning of the story: Marc-Olivier’s speech at TedX Laval was viewed over 40,000 times on Youtube (an all-time record) so it is undeniable that people believe in artificial intelligence applied to health issues.

The prototype is now ready for autism but Myelin wants to touch on other subjects in the future: ADHDH, anxiety, Alzheimer… to provide the general public with the proper tools to make a free and informed choice in their lives.

With a successful crowdfunding campaign on La Ruche, support from prestigious academic, medical, institutional and entrepreneurial actors and – last but not least – a dedicated and passionate team of entrepreneurs, Myelin is clearly innovating the startup scene.

How to raise a child in a mobile world?

children gaming

There are so many articles lately about the risks of leaving your kids with your smartphone or in front of screens but what do tech companies do about it? Discover one innovative tool launched by two friends from New Brunswick, Itavio.

The story of two “veteran” game developers

itavio photo

Melani and Matt have worked in the gaming company for several years. They met while working at Gogii Games, a gaming company based in New Brunswick, dedicated to the development and distribution of games.

In 2015, they decided to go on the exciting adventure of starting their own business. Melani is the marketing guru and Matt is the ideation pilot. They decided to launch an innovative tool that gaming companies could offer to parents for a more responsible usage of their products. Indeed, mobile usage and mobile gaming have evolved tremendously over the years. Gamers used to be a specific community with specific tools. Today, everyone can be a gamer, including children.

An ethical dimension

Itavio stands for “It takes a village” to raise a child in a mobile world. So it has to do with education, and helping both parents and game companies provide a more responsible product.

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In-app advertising (via https://pencilcase.io/blog/mobile-advertising)

Itavio offers a plugin that game developers can add to help parents limit the in-app purchases on free-to-play games. Here is a concrete example: remember that old addictive Candy Crush Saga? There are several in-app purchases available: extra lives, golden bars, extra moves, color bombs… During its peak of popularity, in 2014, Candy Crush players spent approximately $1.33 billion on in-app purchases. These purchases can be intentional but sometimes, they result from kids clicking carelessly on their parents’ smartphone or tablet.

Adapting to changing consumption patterns

Itavio wants to create a regulated environment where parents, children and gaming companies can peacefully interact and coexist. This would avoid parents an extra anxiety related to overspending and also empower children to manage their time and money. Indeed, children have become complex customers: they not only want to buy a real candy bar, but also a virtual candy.

A venture that attracts media companies

Today, Itavio has already signed with prestigious partners including Hearst. Even better, they are members of the Heart Lab, a selective community of early stage women-led startups that innovate the media or information industry. This greenhouse for new ventures invests cash and assists them in building teams and refining products.

Discover all about their pricing here.

Hardbacon, making finance accessible through innovations

Meet Julien from Hardbacon, an impact-driven fintech startup on the edge of launching an innovative mobile application to invest on the stock market.

From business journalist to entrepreneur

julien
(c) MTL in Tech

On Monday, during Queen City Fintech Demo Day, Julien must have had thousands of ideas coming to his mind: what an incredible journey, from writing articles on latest finance news at Les Affaires, Quebec top business newspaper, to raising more than 6 times the expected amount on Ulule, and being part of the prestigious accelerator by Bank of American and Wells Fargo in North Carolina.

Indeed, this is a promising success story that emerged from a desire to serve young generations’ financial aspirations and improve online brokerages and robo-advisors, Julien found out that it clearly needed improvements.

He therefore started by offering “Not Another Boring Course About Investment” through the crowdfunding campaign on Ulule: 4 hours of video content with a retail value of $100, offered at $50. Thanks to an efficient network of ambassador and really speaking to Millennials, it was a real success.

The online course was only the first step to a wider project: creating a platform that provides financial information to everyone and that allows to invest on the stock market.

Innovating brokerage  

With a dream team of 2 backend developers, 2 iPhone developers, one designer and one financial analyst, and this initial bundle of money, Hardbacon started working on creating a stock brokerage comparison tool and a mobile app.

“We want to do what Bloomberg did for financial institutions but for random people. Make investment accessible to everyone.”

screeshot hardbacon

Targeting the right public

The Ulule campaign made them realize that contributors were actually around 35-36 years old. Millennials are not yet considering investment as a priority as an initial capital of $5000 is usually needed to invest on the stock market. Instead, contributors and target customers are thinking about ways to better handle their money, thinking about wealth and pension management.

Differentiating

Since the Canadian financial market is highly concentrated, Hardbacon is not considered as a threat by brokers, banks and other financial actors. In fact, Hardbacon is earning money by selling robot-advisors services but it is also providing a unique portfolio analysis to clients.

“We want our clients to manage their portfolio by themselves, thanks to Hardbacon advice”

It’s time to disrupt the US market

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As entrepreneurship is about always targeting new challenges, Julien is now ready to conquer the US market. Because it has similar stock market structures but with different brokers. And because it allows to offer more services to clients than Canada: in the US, Hardbacon can add a financial recommendation dimension by registering to the Security Exchange Commission.

“We want to analyse the market and provide recommendations to our clients. Ideally, the US version of the website will include a chatbot.”

You can know download Hardbcon on Apple’s AppStore.

Innovating hardware projects in Montreal, meet ADI

Startupers start from unique ideas but these young ambitious entrepreneurs do not always have the proper skills to bring these ideas to reality. Montreal is home to a unique accelerator where two magicians, Stephane and Christian, create innovations.

ADI – that stands for Acceleration Design Innovation – is an accelerator for hardware innovations that supports startups and SMEs to move from prototyping to mini-series and deliver a product that answers real needs.

Christian welcomed Innovation Montreal in his “batcave” – ADI’s production shop on Clark street, where all products are designed and invented, where you can find the first 3D printer in Quebec next to an old-school keyboard and PCBs for new smart products.

The beginnings

christian legos
Christian Beaubien

It all started in 2012. Christian and Stephane met during Mtl Mini Maker event. They immediately shared their interest in inventing products and helping new ventures to succeed.

Christian comes from a modest background and is 100% autodidact: a college dropout who loves making his own objects (he created his own version of a Meccano game when he was a kid). He progressively created his own network and became a key influencer in the hardware startups community.

Stephane has a master in engineering who started his first venture back in the 90s called RGB Technologies, a provider of quality software applications for small business that was then sold to Telus.

We complement each other to provide unique solutions to startups.

An accelerator for hardware

The concept is very simple and answers real needs: when startupers have an idea, they get excited but sometimes lack the skills and knowledge to properly design and produce. ADI helps them find the right material and create a cost-effective product. But they go even further: they provide useful advice for mass production and distribution.

“Startups want to go directly to China to produce massively at a lower cost but they need customer development insights”

To benefit from the support of ADI, there is a fixed entrance fee of $2000 for market and development research and risk analysis, which effectively results in producing two prototypes. Then, if you want to move forward, you can get a customized budget to produce a miniseries and a design brief. And then only, you can go to China for mass production.

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From the PCB to the final product

Smart objects for a smarter consumption

It is fascinating to learn how the most simple objects are made and to discover the inventions of the ADI team:

breatheThe Breathe 2 lamp (available at Neoshop, Quartier de l’Innovation) was first designed for yoga professionals. It is a smart lamp that helps regulate breathing through light variations. After testing the first version with early adopters and influencers, the team realized that there was a stronger demand for a simple meditation tool from the general public. Breathe 2 was accordingly redesigned.

img_0192.jpgPicGlu is a transparent adhesive membrane that allows smartphones to temporarily stick to pretty much all flat surfaces. You can then take hands-free selfies or film videos from a distance. This first version was created in 2015 but a few months ago, the ADI team started working on a new version called PicGlu Audio Stand. It provides a physical support to stick your mobile phone and to use for hand-free audio or video conversations. While the first PicGlu tool was for entertaining purposes, the new one answers more professional needs.

What’s next?

The ADI team is currently working with a regular customer portfolio of startups and SMEs from Montreal. Ideally, then would love to improve the distribution part of their support and help these entrepreneurs go international, providing them with the most efficient support.