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

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(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.”

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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

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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.

 

Engineers are innovating the wine experience in Montreal

More and more studies of drinking patterns in Canada show that consumers are moving toward premium beverages and especially towards wine. Following this trend, two young engineers have decided to create the first mobile application that makes wine more accessible to the general public.

Techies that love wine

The seed was planted back in 2011 when a trip to Napa Valley sparked Terence Kao’s passion for wine. Upon his return, he found conventional channels of wine education, such as internet, books and tasting classes, too costly, time consuming and hard to understand. To combine his passion for wine and expertise in mobile, Terence enrolled into an entrepreneurship program at ÉTS, where he met his associate, Jérôme Combet-Blanc. Both came from engineering backgrounds and had a common objective: to democratize access to wine.

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This is where Jessica Harnois comes in the story – indeed, to become a reality, the project required a wine expert and Jessica, a renown sommelier, was looking for a technical partner to develop her idea of a wine tasting game. Chance allowed them to meet and the team was born.

With a starting grant from the BDC in 2016 and support from organizations such as Centech, SAJE and Fondation Montréal inc., the Vegas Tasting mobile application was born.

A blind tasting game and much more!

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Launched in December 2016, Vegas Tasting is the first mobile application focused on making wine tasting more accessible to the public through a game. The app is divided into two parts.  In the first part, the user learns to taste like a pro in 3 simple steps while blind tasting a wine: 1) visual analysis 2) olfactory analysis 3) gustatory analysis.  In the second part, the user starts with 50 tokens and is invited to bet on the characteristics of the wine, such as the grape variety, country and vintage.  This interactive game is the funnier part of the app. To complement this app, Jessica made instructive videos to help players improve their tasting techniques.

A marketplace for tasting products

Wineout is relying on a very smart and innovative business model by offering Vegas Tasting as a tool for wine and beer companies to promote their products and educate their customers.  Considering the very restrictive and regulatory environment that governs the sale of alcoholic beverages, it is indeed an innovative way to disrupt the industry.

Growing the business

biere.jpgWineout has started to think of ways to expand and added a beer tasting game to the app, which received much positive feedback at Mondial de la bière 2017. They are also exploring partnering opportunities to add other beverages such as coffee, spirits, and tea.

In addition, Wineout is also collaborating with Professor Jeremy Cooperstock from McGill University to create an artificial intelligence to provide users with personalized recommendations based on their taste preferences.

Stay tuned for their next monthly event on 1st November 2017 at Wework. They will be presenting Vegas Tasting for an exciting wine and beer tasting event.

Montreal, the smart city to be this summer

So much is happening in Montreal in Summer. You might definitely have heard of the Jazz Festival but did you also know that there was one of the biggest international Startup Festivals? Innovation Montreal is happy to introduce you to this unique event and give you some glimpse of the action throughout a week.

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Introducing the “Startupfest

Quick facts – this is already the 7th edition, 4500 people are expected, coming from 20 countries, invading the Old Port district of Montreal July 12-15. There are exclusive events happening –premium mini-events, hackathons, but also traditional keynote sessions, networking breakout sessions, a giant tent to present innovative projects including, last but not least, the Grandmother’s tent, where entrepreneurs will have to pitch their projects with such simple words that grandmas should be able to understand! Quite a challenge, right?

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Creating wins

Of course, the festival is about showcasing innovative projects, but they main idea is to connect entrepreneurs with investors, but also with corporations, to strengthen the community. It is a unique opportunity for Montrealer startups to meet with international investors and to create synergies between international startups. For Matt Kanas, a blogger recalling previous editions,

It was a visceral example of how a community can truly help and support itself with a singular purpose: achieving a prosperous future for Canada’s startup community.

Montreal, a global smart city

This is also a great opportunity for the city of Montreal to show to the world all its potential as a hub for innovation in North America. People often think of the Silicon Valley, or New York or Toronto as dynamic technological hubs but Montreal is also a smart hub with dedicated programs like Montréal Smart and Digital City Action Plan (2015-2017) and as the city celebrates its 375th anniversary, it is more than ever in the mood for showcasing how digitally-savvy its people are, how the city bustles with new projects and how it creates opportunities for financing and development.

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A glimpse on the program

On Wednesday, dedicated sessions in French will require a separate registration but from Thursday July 13, things will seriously get started with Best Pitch competitions, Brain Dates, “How-to” sessions where notorious speakers will be sharing their experiences, “Future-of” sessions where they will be discussing what will be a key differentiator for entrepreneurs moving forward – automation, finance, augmented human intelligence…

Stay tuned for pictures, quotes and exciting discoveries on our Instagram and Twitter accounts and more articles to come!

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”

Uber brings innovation to entrepreneurship in Canada

In Canada, like in several places around the world, Uber is raising polemic conversations around its paid collaborative services. Today, it had the brilliant idea of turning attention towards what it does best: innovation.

#UBERpitch your idea!

uber_philly_uberpitch_blog-etemail_header_r2From 11am to 3pm, on April 7, Uber gave Montrealers the opportunity to pitch their ideas to renowned investors during a short drive. Similar operations were held simultaneously in Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary.

“UberPITCH is a collaborative project that facilitates innovation within local startup communities. We are pumped to help connect local entrepreneurs with the resources they need to accelerate the growth of their ventures,” you can read on Uber’s website.

Among the eight investors participating to the initiative, François Lambert, MP of Impulse Capital and Dany Vachon, Founder of Winner4Life both investors in the very popular Radio-Canada’s Dans l’oeil du dragon, or Edouard Gaussen, analyst at White Star and a leading figure of Tinder’s expansion.

A thriving demand from Montreal entrepreneur wannabes

In theory, if you were in downtown Montreal, Plateau Mont-Royal, Mile-End, Old-Montreal and Griffintown, you could enter a specific promotion code when requesting a car and if connected, the car would arrive to your location with one of the investors on the backseat and you would have 15 minutes to give the best pitch of your life to your investor. All this was obviously free and you are driven back to the pickup location. In practice, Uber received more than 3,000 requests in 30 minutes.

Demand was exploding and it was hard for thriving entrepreneurs to get a vehicle available. Some of them did not get the chance to present their exciting project, like John Robin, serial entrepreneur, who has already launched a few innovative projects including Rentork, a mobile app to rent your profile and get paid for all your visits and actions on the web.

A few lucky ones got the opportunity to get top advice from angel investors: Frederic Moreau was one of them. He already has a very specific idea to address the problem nomadic workspace – GAB. This virtual franchise would be offered to Montreal coffee shop owners to bring co-working space to nomadic workers, charging by the hour/minute, using a mobile app.

Grabing an UberPitch was quite challenging due to a huge demand in Montreal. Got the opportunity to pitch my idea to Francois Lambert. He told me it was a fantastic one, he could see the need and the value. Then he gave me a few specific advice as how, as an investor, he would tweak part of the business plan.”

 

Turning bikes into smart objects: meet SmartHalo

Did you know that a start-up project could actually collect $539.000 on Kickstarter? Discover the key to success and the exciting journey of Maxime, Xavier, Gabriel and Olivier, four high school buddies from Montreal who decided to make their way into the very innovative market of “the Internet of things”, and created Smarthalo, a local smart product made on the South Shore of Montreal, one of the most biking-friendly cities in North America with more than 350 km of bike paths.image

Innovating the cycling experience with simplicity

It all started during a road trip in Philadelphia: being avid cyclists and particularly obsessed with technology and innovation, the four buddies pointed out many shortcomings in the cyclist experience, especially in a city where you need to navigate on a GPS while watching out for cars. The four boys wanted to offer a project using the technology that people already mastered (a smartphone) and bring this experience a step further, without affecting the simplicity and purity of pedaling.

And this is how they took the leap of becoming entrepreneurs and developed the concept of SmartHalo: a device that is simple yet smart, and permanently fixed on the handlebars of the bike, connected by Bluetooth to the user’s mobile. You can watch this video to fully understand this great concept.

“The concept had to be simple: a circle with green and red LED to indicate the right and left”.

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A well-thought and well prepared crowdfunding campaign

What makes SmartHalo different than other entrepreneurial projects is the way it raised the awareness of urban population. The four friends spent a whole year preparing the crowdfunding campaign: “we spent our days talked about our projects, always asking questions and selling the concept to pretty much everyone in our immediate circle”, explains Xavier. They also applied for several funding programs (Montréal Inc, Concours Québécois entrepreneurial, HEC).

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An expanding market with an international public

The crowdfunding campaign was successful in many ways: obviously, it brought eight times more than the sum expected (67.000 CAN) but also it showed that a real community of urban cyclists existed and that it was fully implicated in terms of digital awareness and smart products.

Competition is high in this area – global companies are already developing GPS devices for bikes (like TomTom) and other similar startups create smart objects – but Xavier finds it stimulating as it shows that the market is strong and growing. Indeed, smart objects are trending nowadays: “the Internet of Things” is progressively making its way into our daily lives and the Kickstarter campaign’s success is a proof that demand is thriving and it’s only the beginning.

Pre-orders (the product will be available for delivery in May 2016) come from all around the world, especially from the United States, Germany, United Kingdom. Demand comes from countries where urban cycling is already well developed and where people use their bikes to commute to and from work.

“Only 15% of orders are placed in Canada. Kickstarter really helped to make our consumer base more international”

Next steps: launch and update!

Cycle Labs has already received 5000 pre-order requests. They intend to resume promotion but also update the options of the SmartHalo application to create a real community of users that will be able to connect to other “SmartHalo-ers”, perhaps create friendly competitions, games and many other interactional and innovative options.

You can pre-order SmartHalo for a discount price of $139. If you wait until May 2016, it will be $159