Last Thursday, if you were walking on Monk boulevard in Montreal and passed by the beautiful church on number 5959, you would never have imagined what was happening inside… 100 Montreal startups were presenting their products and services to media, corporations, influencers and the general public.
In an old church transformed into Theatre Paradoxe, you could discover various innovative ventures in the food, travel, services, marketing, design or fashion industry. This 3rd edition of the Grand Messe was organized by Montréal inc and presented by Bell. Startups were pitching their ideas in confessionals to the media who symbolically awarded a benediction to their favorite emerging startup.
Innovation Montreal’s team was on the ground and discovered 5 innovative products:
Brwski, the first in-store digital beerologist that simplifies how grocery customers discover beer in-store. They invented a unique machine to help beginners and beer geeks look for the perfect beer in store.
Sagafrika, offering the first range of African frozen dishes cooked in Quebec. We met with Sandra, the founder, and tasted a delicious cassava leaves sauce from Congo.
Perla Paletas, bringing typical healthy Mexican ice-cream and Popsicle to Canada. Made with real fruits and no additive, they offer an original healthy snack for summer days. We tasted their lime and cucumber Popsicle and their chocolat and raspberry frozen yogurt. Perla has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule to extend her product line.
Reunion D Sens
With the same healthy concerns in mind, we got to admire a bicycle made of wood, Picolo Velo. The wooden bike frames have been designed and built in Montreal with social, environmental concerns. We also discovered that the same sustainable concern was shared by corporations : Reunion D Sens offers companies two innovative locations in the heart of Montreal to organise meetings. These locations offer a unique experience that stimulates creation and helps to lower stress levels and increase confidence.
Stay tuned for more in depth stories on some of these innovative startups!
Montreal is considered as an international hub for artificial intelligence, a lab for innovation. What are the urban implications of this reputation? What is the social impact of artificial intelligence in the city? We have discussed all these issues yesterday at Newcities roundtable on the subject.
At a time when technology and big data are blurring the limits of privacy, when academic research is driven by economic priorities, how can AI and innovation in general positively impact the lives of populations?
Cybersecurity and avoiding data deserts
The main social concern with AI applied to the city is to avoid data deserts – areas where certain groups do not have data regularly collected about them. And a prerequisite to answer this concern is to educate citizens to the relevance and benefits of sharing their data in a well-defined framework.
Damien Silès is the Head of the Quartier de l’Innovation, an experimental laboratory supported by the four Montreal universities, the Federal and Provincial government and corporate partners. Its mission is to experiment with urban innovations in downtown Montreal.
We want to break down silos and make this neighbourhood a collective lab where private, public and academic actors collaborate. Only then can we truly protect data.
Artificial intelligence by and for the community
There are already great initiatives to improve the social and ethical impacts of artificial intelligence. Last November, a dedicated conference was organized by AI Alliance Impact (AIIA) and headed by Valentine Goddard. AI on a social mission presented best practices of companies applying AI in sectors like mental health, education, social work (Myelin was part of them).
During Newcities event, Valentine lead a roundtable on the subject with participants from various backgrounds: Cisco, IBM, HEC Montreal, the French Chamber of Commerce…
Today, we are beyond technological challenges when it comes to AI. Challenges are ethical. We need to present innovations as solutions to concrete problems
AI can be a real solution to transportation issues: location-based search engines like Google Maps can allow to make predictions so that bus drivers spend less time on focusing on their route and more time on strengthening the social link with passengers.
When it comes to artificial intelligence, there is a fundamental gap between researchers and the general public. This gap is more than ever visible in the city.
For people to adopt AI tools, it is important to educate them – not explaining the algorithms but showing how data can impact their daily lives.
There will never be too many startups to find against food waste in a city like Montreal. Coriandr is a website that provides you with recipes to use what you have in your fridge and maximise food utilisation, i.e. giving a second life to that last tomato and half broccoli.
Not just another culinary search engine
On Coriandr you will be able to enter every ingredient you have in your fridge, add search options (preferences, dietary restrictions) and find the optimal recipe to cook. The Coriandr database offers 8000 recipes from partners. This is the purely technical part of the innovation.
However, there is more: Coriandr wants to provide a tool that helps every key actor of the food industry. This is why an interactive map will be added to geolocate the nearest grocery store. And if you really do not want to use an ingredient, instead of throwing it, you can make a good action. Coriandr has partnered with the Food Banks of Quebec to facilitate donations of food or cash to the Food Banks of Quebec to support heir activities.
From traditional retail to tech innovation
How did this all happen? Initially, David worked as a Business Developer in the wine and spirits retail in Montreal. He did not have any background or particular interest in cooking or technology and yet he decided to become an entrepreneur. His experience volunteering at the Youth Chamber of Commerce of Montreal (JCCM) clearly triggered his interest in entrepreneurship. and gave him the confidence and methodology to structure his idea:
You have to be a little crazy to launch a business but also lucid: it is important to put money aside and question the viability of your project
David started by learning IT basics. He took part in the Lab 12 program, an initiative from Les Pitonneux, a non-profited hosted by Notman House. During 12 weeks, this bootcamp program gives learners an opportunity to become proficient programmers and developers and access to mentors and networking opportunities.
Financed by the people
Now that he had the skills, he had to finance his project and decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign in January 2018.
It was a real challenge to raise money on a crowdfunding campaign when I was not selling a concrete product, only an experience
Using La Ruche, a crowdfunding tool dedicated to supporting new projects that have a social impact in Quebec, Coriandr raised $5,290 from 89 contributors from Canada, the USA, France and Italy in 45 days. Even better, it got selected by the Fonds ADM / 375 Idées of the JCCM and received 3,750$ in microdonations.
Supported by a community
After less than a year, David has already built a lot. Through the Youth Chamber of Commerce (JCCM), La Ruche and Montreal Network against Food Waste (REGAL), Coriandr is part of a community dedicated to growth, innovation and social impact. David draws inspiration from role models and best practices like Hardbacon or Smarthalo. He has many other ideas to make Coriandr a smart tool for food inventory purposes. For now, the official launch of Coriandr is set for Spring 2018.
If your mission goes beyond selling your product, you will sell more products. That was the first lesson learnt from listening to David Côté, VP of Loop Juice. He discussed entrepreneurship, alive food, fermentation, health, circular economy and innovation at HEC Montréal…
Trekking, traveling, food experimenting
David has always been interested in health, nature and plants. When his father wanted him to follow his footsteps and become a doctor, David was yearning for more – more passion.
He had a revelation when trekking the Appalachian mountains and eating candy bars to get his daily dose of energy. He was surrounded by natural beauty but he was eating unhealthy transformed products. He decided to travel and test all kinds of food habits from fasting in a cave in Hawaii, to experimenting raw food habits. Eventually, after 8 years of traveling and working on organic farms throughout the world, he came back to Montreal with the goal of changing the world.
Entrepreneurship, a way to change the world
“I learned to be an entrepreneur. Starting a venture was not my original idea, but it became the most relevant means to deal with the issue of healthy food and eco-friendly products.”
With his friend Mathieu Gallant, David was experimenting with new food habits taken from his travels in Hawaii and California: making vegan no-bake energy balls and brewing Kombucha in the kitchen. He started delivering lunch boxes made exclusively with raw food to companies and decided to create two startups – a restaurant to promote raw-foodism (Crudessence) and the first Quebec Kombucha company (RISE Kombucha)
“With Crudessence, we wanted to innovate eating habits and give back to people the ability of better feeding themselves.”
In 2016, after 8 years of managing two impact-driven ventures, David decided to sell his shares. His mission was accomplished. He had democratised the fundamentals of raw-foodism and provided an alternative to traditional soft drinks.
More than a serial entrepreneur, a serial world-changer
45% of all the fruits and vegetables produced in the world are wasted
David and Julie decided to open a cold-pressed juice company to fight against food waste. They met Frédéric Monette from Courchesne Larose, a historical player in the Canadian fruits and vegetables industry. When they found out that the company was throwing 16 tons of fruits and vegetables every day, their mind was set and LOOP Juices was born.
Looping around a circular economy
Some might say that it is a project “dans l’air du temps”, that circular economy is nothing but a green washing concept. Maybe. But what David wants to prove that it is possible to provide valuable solutions to a problem.
Everything in LOOP is targeted towards recycling and reusing food waste: one bottle of juice is made out of 1.5 kg of unused fruits and vegetables. But the circular process goes even further: The residual but still nutritious high-fiber pulp is then reused by a pet food company, Wilder & Harrier.
Loop is revolutionizing the value chain by making it circular. It is also providing a model for conscious capitalism.
Limitless innovation possibilities
Starting next week, LOOP is launching a partnership with Sobeys to blend cold-press juices exclusively with products from the giant food retailers. In two months, they will launch their first beer, brewed with dry unsold bread. They are also thinking of making milk out of brewers’ spent grain and flavored water out of leftover essential oils…
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.
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.
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
Renaud 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.
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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, YOUNGand ENVIRONMENTALLY COMMITTEDproduct.
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?
Isabelle 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
Teenagers 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
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 !
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
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.
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.