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.

 

An urban backpack to innovate your daily life

Montreal might be known for its long white winters but it can rain a lot too. Montrealers tend to wear several layers of garments and especially young generations that walk and bike are in search for waterproof yet ergonomic and stylish accessories to “pimp their style”. The Animus backpack from Aeer is exactly designed for them.

 

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With its anti-pickpocket design and removable hood, the Animus is adapted to the needs of the new generation and of its founder, Marc-Antoine Rivet.

Designing new ideas

At only 22 years old, this self-educated young entrepreneur is launching his second venture, Aeer bags, all by himself.

“The idea came to myself when I was in CEGEP and needed a practical object, I kept losing my things.”

Indeed, Marc-Antoine was a busy teenager, he launched his first venture when he was 15 to pay for his driving lessons. He started buying paintball equipment and selling it back and one thing after another, he progressively built a paintball company.

aeer bag

What makes Aeer bag different from other innovations is its removable water-resistant hood with adjustable sizing, which helps to protect users from the rain and its ergonomic design that helps balance the weight and minimize back pain.

Raising awareness

Aeer bags have already raised interest from Canadian sport stores like Sport Experts and  outside Montreal, in Toronto and in the US. The entrepreneurship community in Montreal is very supportive, especially when working on similar projects (It is in fact through John from Kinesix heating jacket that we have discovered Marc-Antoine).

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Last week, Aeer launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter after several months of preparation and hard work. It is exactly the kind of products that make the Montreal entrepreneurs community so unique – it is realistic, innovative and affordable.

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