These solar watches offer a sustainable and refreshing fashion alternative

Millennials are all about making a difference in our world, consuming wisely, giving up on some habits. But it does not mean that they give up on quality. This is the mission statement of Solios Watches, a young Montreal company founded by Alex Desabrais and Sam Leroux. We met them in the confessional at Fondation Montreal’s Grand Messe on 27 March 2019.

Where it all started…

Alex and Sam met at HEC Montreal during their Bachelor of Finance. They shared a common interest in case competitions and entrepreneurship. 

When graduating, they were looking for meaningful experiences. Alex joined District M, a tech startup, where he developed his sales leadership and learned how small companies were able to grow. Sam started working at Snowdon partners, an entrepreneurial investment fund, and realized that this smaller ecosystem was exactly what he was looking for. 

Both of them spent 4 years in their respective companies, learning, growing and … maturing their entrepreneurship project. They then started designing their dream watch in-house and building their business plan which, two years later, launched through one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of 2018.

Choosing entrepreneurship to make a difference in the world

When you are not an engineer or a developer, when you are not a millionaire, it is more difficult to find an idea for your startup. But we knew we wanted to focus on an eco-friendly idea.

Why solar watches? The technology is already well established and recognized, and it is a way to improve a very traditional consumer item. Also, in the watch industry, the affordable luxury watches market is the only part currently growing because consumers are aware that quartz watches are not sustainable.

Rather than offering direct consumption goods, fast fashion items, we want to make a fashion and sustainable statement. 

Responsible production

Sam in Hong Kong, checking on the production process

Eventually, Alex and Sam want to develop a portfolio of responsible products, with full transparency on the sourcing of materials. They work hard to create a relation of mutual trust with their suppliers and distributors and travel regularly to Hong Kong and Japan. Each component, each manufacturing process behind Solios Watches is carefully chosen to be as sustainable as possible while maintaining the quality, from the choice of packagingto the coloration of steel and the choice of bracelets.

People think that vegan leather is sustainable but in fact, it is made of plastic and petrochemicals, which is eventually polluting. Instead, we use silicon leather which is not vegan but more sustainable.

Responsible consumption

The team obviously aims at selling their products, but their goal goes beyond that sole purpose: they want to educate consumers and change behaviour patterns and common beliefs (yes, a solar watch can work in the UK where the sun does not always shine bright).

For now, the team has just received the first batch of orders from their Kickstarter campaign and started delivery in April 2019. You can order their products online.

5 startups disrupting eating and drinking habits at Montreal Grand’ Messe

We, humans, have never been so self-conscious about the way we eat, for better or for worse! We eat differently, we seek innovations in the products we choose, we want to be healthier, but while having fun! If you recognize yourself in the “we”, you should discover these 5 Montreal startups.

Innovation MTL discovered them during Fondation Montreal Inc. annual event, La Grand’ Messe. For this 3rd edition, 100 startups were gathered to present their newly crafted products to investors, media, influencers, and the general public.

Mushup coffee

Do you also have that colleague who decided to cut off his coffee consumption because he was experiencing chest pains, insomnia, anxiety? Perhaps he or she would be interested in Mushup coffee… quality and fair trade coffee beans, roasted in Montreal, but without all the negative effects of coffee thank to a magic ingredient: mushrooms! Not magic mushrooms, but medicinal mushrooms extracts that add healthier virtues while enhancing the taste of coffee beans. Who knew that the coffee industry still had room for innovation? Try it out, it is delicious (and the branding is gorgeous too)!

Cultur’ dough

Eating is about so much more than feeding yourself or even indulging, it is about living new experiences. If you cannot afford a trip to an exotic destination perhaps you can at least experience that change of scene during a handful of seconds by biting in one of Cultur’ dough cookies. You can jump from Japan to the Mediterranean, from Mexico to the Middle East, without any visa, directly from your taste buds to your imagination. For those who seek something different from regular cookies, it is definitely worth it.

Choco de Lea

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Chocolate is a guilty pleasure in so many ways: it is rarely fair trade, it is a calorie bomb, it uses animal products, and often comes in non-recyclable packaging. Léa wants to solve (almost) all these problems with her craft chocolate bars. Using soya milk and gourmet ingredients, she advocates a more responsible consumption of chocolate. We had the opportunity to taste the camomile and cherry flavoured white chocolate. It was surprisingly delicious. It is brand new, so follow her adventures on Instagram!

Haumana

Haumana produces baobab natural energy bars. If you wonder what a baobab is, it is a tree that grows in Africa. People there consumes the citrusy fruit that comes from the tree after drying it and making a powder out of it. It is said to have true health benefits. Haumana is working with a cooperative of women in Senegal to produce their vegan, raw and gluten-free energy bars. The light sour taste gives it a funky twist. And don’t worry, there is an option with chocolate too, it is available here.

Blue Pearl Distillery

Last but not least, if you want to make that old gin & tonic look rejuvenated and more exciting, while supporting a Montreal based company, Blue Pearl Distillery has created a surprising, delicious and funny product to try. With 100% Quebecois ingredients, their Bleu Royal gin has a flowery flavour (it is distilled with juniper berries and coriander) and a natural blue color (apparently it comes from the butterfly pea flower) and… when you mix it with (1642) Tonic, it becomes pink. More than an ordinary liquor, Blue Pearl wants to offer experiences, and magical ones, preferably. You can find Bleu Royal gin at the SAQ.

Tero: Designing products for more sustainable habits

Elizabeth Coulombe and Valérie Laliberté are two Product Design students who made the choice of entrepreneurship to bring their innovative and sustainable design to the world. Elizabeth talks about human-centered design, sustainability and R&D.

 Building on the recycling trend

The idea emerged as Elizabeth and Valerie were doing their Bachelor in Product Design, a new programme at Laval University (Quebec City). They had to work on resolving a social or environmental issue. 

Traditional composting

In Quebec City we do not have an organized compost collection system from the city. People who want to compost have to take lessons but it is not so well-known. We wanted to design a new product that would make composting easier. 

Food Cycler in Korea (c) Amazon

A similar product was already designed in Korea – the Food Cycler is a machine that grinds food waste to reduce it up to 90% of it’s original volume and make it odourless. Indeed, food waste management is already well-advanced in South Korea, where the government initiated a “pay as you trash” policy: the heavier your trash bag, the more you pay. 

Composting with style

Drawing inspiration from Korea, the two Quebec students started designing a smaller and more ergonomic product:

We want Tero to be like another household appliance, something that you will feel comfortable leaving on your kitchen table.

Closing the loop of the circular economy

The final product should turn one kilo of food waste into 100 grammes of fertilizing powder within three hours through a dehydration process – it is a quick and odourless process.

We worked with agronomists and academics to find the best way to recycle food waste. We did not want to burn it. The dehydration process allows to retain all the nutriments to use as a fertilizer for gardening

It is one goal to design an innovative product, it is a completely different one to launch your first company after only three years of studying! The two entrepreneurs are still studying today – Elizabeth is doing an MBA – and working with engineers to make the best and most affordable product (through partnerships with Solutions Novika and the Center for industrial research support in Quebec – CRIQ), But entrepreneurship is also about finding investments, selling products, marketing…. 

From designers to entrepreneurs

We remain designers – we always focus on putting the user at the center of conception and development.

When the product is finalized, you will be able to order it through a crowdfunding campaign. In the mean time, you can follow Tero’s adventures on their website or Facebook page.

When in Mexico City, using rainwater can save your life

Last week in Mexico City, I got to discover new innovations, which triggered back my inspiration!  Did you know that Mexico City, this giant urban territory, used to be a lake but it was drained by the Spanish in the 16th Century? Yet, today, it is facing one of the most serious water shortages in an urban space but fascinating projects are being launched by civil organizations to help people access water. One of them. Isla Urbana, has developed a system that collects rainwater and purifies it for drinking purposes and more generally for all other uses in the house, and it is equal or better quality than tap water in Mexico City!

Designing for communities

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Is drinking rainwater innovative? It was probably one of the most ancient ways of surviving, but today with pollution and air contamination it has become dangerous. Thinking of sustainable solutions to water shortages in Mexico City, the team at Isla Urbana came up with a system designed to harvest rainwater and purify it.

 

Today, 36% of families in Mexico City do not have adequate access to water and spend up to 20% of their incomes to buy trucked water. United Nations

A team of young engineers, urbanists and ecologist decided to come together and develop a new industrial design system for rainwater harvesting: a blue tank collects and filters rainwater which is then pumped into a house. The household system is $1,100 for the complete installation and $150 annual maintenance costs.

The average harvesting in the city for a 60 m2 roof is 45,000 Liters (11,888 gallons) per year to harvest de average rainfall in the city of 750mm per year, which covers an average of 5 to 8 months of water needsRenata Fenton, Director of Design, Isla Urbana

Beware of the “megacorte”

This will definitely be useful next week, when the public water service will be completely suspended for three days (this is the “megacorte” or “mega cute”). Starting 31 October 2018, 13 boroughs of Mexico City and 13 municipalities of México state will be completely dry. This is to allow maintenance and repair work on the Cutzamala pipe.

Earning trust for the future

So far, and after 10 years, Isla Urbana has installed about 8,700 systems, which provide water to more than 52,000 users. The kits are designed to provide different types of water quality (from water for toilets and washing up to purified water for drinking), for different types of buildings and roof sizes and for both the urban and rural context.  

The real challenge now is to change the community’s perception of rainwater, teach them to trust the rainwater collected, to use it. Renata Fenton

Also, by storing increasing volumes of water, families can then become completely independent from unsustainable sources of water. The empowering nature of the benefit is crucial.

What makes this project so innovative is its realistic nature. Isla Urbana does not aim at solving the water issue in Mexico City in one day, it aims at providing solutions to everyday problems.

 

5 Montreal social innovation startups in urban agriculture

Last Friday we got to discover truly innovative startups at a 5@7 organized by Quintus, a communication agency dedicated to sustainable projects. This edition of Quintus@7 was dedicated to urban agriculture.

Quintus@7 are free networking events organized throughout the year by Quintus marketing. They highlight best practices in sustainable living. In 2018, five events will be organized focusing on how can we become change catalysts.

Stefany Chevalier, CEO of Quintus defined change catalysts as entities that work towards changing society with a social or environmental impact and that encourage consumption patterns that are innovative and sustainable. Quintus helps change catalyst to promote their activities through accessible communication tools – videos, events, communication campaigns.

“Our intention is not to get people to consume more but to consume more sustainably.”

Among the great initiatives that we discovered last Friday were: 

Crickstart & La Mexicoise, two startups that are changing eating habits by promoting the use of insect-based products. Crickstart’s mission is to open people’s minds with flavourful products made out of crickets. Yes this is pretty unusual but it is also one of the most sustainable – crickets are used in their entirety with zero waste, unlike in traditional livestock farming and meat processing, and healthy ingredient – the protein in crickets is rich with amino acids.

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Daniel from Crickstart and Christelle from La Mexicoise © Quintus

Chicza, a 100% natural, certified organic, biodegradable and sustainable chewing gum ever made. It is made out of chicle, a natural gum extracted from tall Chicozapote tree followingMayan traditions. This is truly innovative as most gums on the market carry no more than 5-7% of gum base, if any at all – the rest is plastics (artificial, petrol-based polymers). If you really want to get scared, you can watch “The Dark Side of the Chew” a TEDx talk by Andrew Nisker on the subject. We tasted the mint flavoured Chicza and really liked it. Other flavours include Lime, Cinnamon and Mixed Berries.

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Chicza team © Quintus

Mamie Clafoutis– to be fair, we already knew Mamie Clafoutis’s products (traditional French bakery) but it was very inspiring to listen to its co-founder Joseph Sabatier talking about organic flour and organic bakeries in Quebec. Did you know that only 2% of Quebec bread is made out of organic flour? And Mamie Clafoutis is part of that small figure. As such, it is a real innovator and pioneer in the sustainable food industry in Canada.

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Joseph. Founder of Mamie Clafoutis © Quintus

Vrac sur Roues, a zero waste online grocery store with bike delivery. Launched by ambitious 21-year old Simon, this new player in the sustainable urban market allows you to buy dry and liquid goods delivered by bike to your door and poured in your containers. Simon is a carpenter but he wants to bring more than wood furniture to society – as the sole manager and employee in his startup, he takes care of all aspects (website, order preparation, delivery) and has assumed all cost with his job as a carpenter, not relying on subsidies or loans. We found his passion and mission truly inspiring.

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Simon, Founder of Vrac sur Roues © Quintus

The next Quintus@7 will be held on June 8 and focus on eco-living and ecotourism. You can already get free tickets.

 

Cook, eat and do not leave any crumb with A dévorer!

Montreal is thriving with innovative ideas to fight against food waste. A dévorer is the new player in town. It offers special food kits to buy at your local supermarket to prevent products from perishing.

Chloe, an electrical engineer, did not plan on becoming an entrepreneur in the food industry and yet, after her MBA, she decided that she wanted to do something useful. Knowing that every Canadian family throws $28 worth of food every day (yes, that’s $1500 per year), food waste was a perfect challenge to tackle. But A dévorer has another social aspect: it helps retailers avoid losses while strengthening the link between retailers and consumers.

Chloe a devorer

After improving her project in startup incubators (Entreprism 2016 at HEC Montreal) and pitching it in entrepreneurship competitions (Mouvement Novae 2018), A dévorer was ready to conquer Montreal.

Not just another meal kit

Yes, meal kits have become quite trendy but most of them are based on a delivery model: you order a kit of fresh vegetables or fresh products and get delivered every week. A dévorer sells kits in supermarkets so that retailers can benefit from the deal.

It’s not a meal kit, it’s an “anti-food-waste kit”.

The process is very simple: when doing your grocery at your local supermarket, you can find A dévorer kits with all the products required to cook a specific meal in less than 30 minutes. Kits are packed in a minimalist environment-friendly recycled material.

a devorerRecipes are focused towards healthier eating habits. They will change regularly and adapt to consumers’ preferences and feedback. Kits are offered for a recipe for 4 people and always include a vegetarian option.

Changing perceptions, innovating habits

“We want to get consumers involved in the process: they can solve a real environmental problem in a recreational way.”

It is common to consider perishable products that are close to the expiration date as “old” and less fresh. But they are just ready to eat and even better: they are discounted!  The kit system allows to make these products more attractive and to show how cooking can be a fun, quick and easy process.

Instead of choosing ready-to-eat meals, you can eat fresh products and spend 30 minutes of your time in your kitchen, discovering a new recipe.

A pilot project in Montreal

A dévorer has managed to secure a partnership with one of the leaders in Canada food retail: Provigo. As of April 23, you can find the first line of kits at Provigo Eric Boivin, near metro Crémazie.

 

5 exciting findings from Grand Messe startup invasion

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.

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!