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.”

 

Shaking the world of food entrepreneurship, meet Amélie Morency

“When I was 8, I started selling potpourri baskets in the street one day, and I got 50 bucks out of it. I thought: that’s it, I’m an entrepreneur!”

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Amélie Morency is 24 today and she has already launched two startups, and one on the way. This time, she is ready to change the face of food entrepreneurship in Montreal through the FoodRoom an innovative culinary co-working place to open this spring.

Entrepreneurship, a means to achieve independence

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photo by Foodivine Photography

Amélie is impatient, passionate and ambitious. Entrepreneurship has always been her way of achieving autonomy. Realizing the importance of earning money at 8, she had a bank account to keep her savings at 14 and started a landscape gardening company while studying. Her family gave her great examples: her father and grandmother were entrepreneurs and have always been supportive. “I didn’t need to do all this, but I have so many aspirations and I always want more responsibilities, more challenges”.

When her mother wanted her to go to university, Amélie preferred the more pragmatic Cegep program. She then graduated from Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) and started working in a restaurant but moving up the ladder was too slow for her, she needed to achieve her goal faster and the solution was in entrepreneurship.

Amélie knows that entrepreneurship is not for idealists and sometimes you will break your neck. However, she did succeed in launching a successful first startup, A toutes les sauces, an eco-friendly catering company, and she earned several prizes and awards from the prestigious Founder Institute, Coop HEC and Fondation ITHQ…

The FoodRoom, an innovative solution to entrepreneurs’ problems

When Amelie launched A toutes les sauces, she quickly faced a major issue which wasn’t cash flow but a stable location to cook to meet the needs of her clients and fulfill impending contracts. Lack of infrastructure is what inspired the FoodRoom.

Other similar shared kitchen initiatives exist in Europe and the United States (the San Francisco’s Underground market was a pioneer). Montreal is a fertile ground for such innovative initiatives: Amélie is part of a broader community of young immigrants and Quebecers willing to build a food patrimony for themselves (on this subject, read Alix Food’s terrific blog), and she wants to provide her fellow entrepreneurs with the physical and social infrastructure to create delicious products, build partnerships with producers.

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The 7500 sq feet coworking space will be located in the Ahunstic area in Montreal. Half of the space will be dedicated to cooking and half will be transformed in offices and a multipurpose hall to organize events and trainings.

“We want to become more than a kitchen rental project, we want to create a community with high quality equipment”.

Through monthly subscriptions, members will get access to customized services. Caterers, small-scale producers (salsa, cookies, ice cream), chefs or food-truck owners’, everyone need a space to cook and in fact, the FoodRoom has already secured 23 contracts with clients and 65 are on waiting list.

“Getting investors to believe in you and your company is the toughest part.”

Investments for the FoodRoom came from Amélie’s private funds, from private investors and bank loans, but today, more than 500 000$ have been invested in the company and the building permit is settled so nothing will stop this exciting project from blooming this spring!

For now, you can visit their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and you can meet Amélie at La Gare co-working if you’re in the area.

Bastien Poulain, innovating the cola industry

It might be cold in Montreal but the city is bustling with hot innovative projects. Bastien Poulain is one of these dynamic young entrepreneurs surfing on the wave of innovation. He has launched 1642, the first cola made of maple syrup, in a country where the soda industry is clearly dominated by multinational firms.

Entrepreneurship? It runs in the family

bastien-poulain.jpgBastien is not from Montreal but his heart now belongs to the city. Born in the French city of Rennes, he was raised in Brittany in a family of entrepreneurs.

“My father and grandfather were both entrepreneurs. It runs in the family. I spent my childhood immersed in this world. Every Saturday morning, I opened the cheques with my father and gave him the amounts.”

However, Bastien knows that having childhood memories is not enough: to be an entrepreneur, you need to have an original idea, and be passionate about it. Bastien started his professional life in China and Montreal in the hotel industry and the idea of a Quebec cola only came to his mind in 2013.

Innovative financing tools

Like many startupers and entrepreneurs, Bastien had to juggle with several financing tools: although he had put money aside before the project, he launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and raised $7,111 CAD in a month. He also earned a grant from Fondation Montréal Inc, and credit from Banque Nationale and from private investors through the TV show “L’Oeil du Dragon”. Bastien knows that money is the backbone of his effort: “financing is a continuous goal that we have to consider on a daily basis to manage our growth”

Producing a local soda through social entrepreneurship

bouteille1642.pngProducing alternative sodas is not a new idea and there are many examples in the world, such as Breizh Cola, a soda launched in Bastien’s original region of Brittany, but what is so innovative and special about 1642 is that (almost) everything about it is local.

“In Quebec, we have the chance of having the most natural and healthy sugar so when we asked ourselves what we would put in our cola, the answer was crystal clear”.

Not only is the product local but it is also perfectly adapted to the changing market: Today, consuming local products is not a trend anymore, it is a fact.

Bastien is dedicated to working with quality local actors: his company is the only one in the soda industry working with the best Canadian micro-distillery, Le Domaine Pinnacle. All providers and employees are local. The cola itself is named after the foundation date of Montreal, and Bastien has already developed strategic language elements and strong communication.

“We want to tell a story with our 1642, a story for all Montrealers, whether we were born here or made it our home. This is the story of our proud city”.

Consumers become influencers

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Bastien started his adventure by targeting the Canadian market and neighbour states who have a good image of Canadian products. His target consumers are in their twenties and thirties, they are striving for innovative products and they like to tell all about it. “1642 is not a luxury product, it is a quality product”. Although an individual bottle will cost around $2 CAN in Canada, it is distributed in more than 600 locations in Quebec (you will find a helpful interactive map of Montreal on the website), in prestigious restaurants (Le Toqué, l’Européa in Montreal), in supermarkets and delicatessen shops. 1642 wants to create a niche on the fizzy drink market.

Next steps?

There is no doubt that 1642 will continue to grow in Canada but the company wants to develop sales in Europe, China and the US. They have also started to expand the range of products with 1642 Tonic, their new soda. In the short term, communication and PR remain a key issue and Bastien will represent Canada as a delegate at the G20 Young Entrepreneur Summit (G20YEA) in Beijing in August 2016, along with 16 other entrepreneurs.

1642 is sold in more than 600 locations in Quebec and 20 in France and Belgium, you can also buy it online. It is very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Personally, I have tasted it at L’Intermarché Universel, 89 av. du Mont-Royal Est.