While it is important to be sensitive to the needs of investors, sponsors and policy makers, at Startup Weekend, we believe it is crucial to always listen to the community of entrepreneurs in every ecosystem. After all, Startup Weekend is a grass-root movement.
Building a Startup Community
After a successful customer survey campaign among the UP Montreal Startup Community of close to 3 thousand individuals, we have identified a need to focus on industry-vertical editions, rather than generic and open editions.
Usually, in new “emerging” startup ecosystems, entrepreneurs and wanna-be-entrepreneurs prefer to participate and support generic hackathons and Startup Weekend (SW) editions. The lack of existing industry vertical cluster in the local ecosystem seems to be the main reason for that, but also the lack of experience among the startup community of entrepreneurs. After all, on average, it takes 3 to 4 Startup Weekend editions to turn a wanna-be-entrepreneur into an entrepreneur, .and to turn a startup community enthusiast into a startup community leader.
Let’s not forget that Brad Feld mentioned in his book Startup Communities: ”It Takes a Village to raise a startup”. Without a community of subject matter mentors, industry partners and inspiring successful entrepreneurs, it is very hard to motivate, train and accelerate a new wave of entrepreneurs.
Montreal has fortunately passed that stage and it now forms part of the “evolving” startup ecosystems alongside Seattle, Chicago, Toronto, Waterloo and many others. At this stage, it’s where the community starts the process of sophistication to develop its own industry vertical clusters.
Clusters: EdTech as the big winner
The unexpected big winner among all industry verticals is the one in Educational Technology. Unexpected because there’s a complete lack of other grass-root events (meetups, hackathons, bootcamps, and incubators) specialized in that field. Just like Hacking Health (Luc Sirois) is building a great cluster around Health Tech that it is spreading globally, I believe Educational Tech might be another great pole/cluster to be built in Montreal. After all, Canada has always focused its public policies around Health and Education as a way to enhance the quality of life. It is intrinsically linked to our Canadian Values. Thus, it is normal, not unexpected, to have passionate wanna-be-entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs willing to improve and disrupt the current Educational system. That being said, our public infrastructures are way to slow to move and it requires time and patience to penetrate that field. Some local Montreal EdTech entrepreneurs like GradeSlam and Erudite Science have found fastest accessibility to the US market without having the need to relocate.
Last December, a Startup Next graduate, Phil Cutler (CEO, Gradeslam), who’s developing an amazing EdTech venture agreed to talk on “How to Launch an EdTech company” during a Founder Institute meetup event. It was a success! A room full of 100 people with educators, developers and enthusiasts attended the session eager to learn the process on launching EdTech ventures. The survey and the meetup event convinced EdTech entrepreneurs Phil Cutler and Patrick Poirier to lead the path for a Startup Weekend Montréal EdTech by Q2-2016. Stay tuned!
Sustainable City = Smart City and Sustainability
Surprisingly, the Smart City vertical had lower demand or appetite despite the presence of a Montreal tech accelerator specialized in that field. On the other hand, a new topic, “sustainability”, seemed to have slightly more traction than the precedent one. As a result, local community leaders decided to merge both topics to create the first Canadian “Sustainable City (Smart City + Sustainability)” edition (January 29-31, 2016).
Despite the challenges of the topic, in a very short amount of time (around 3 weeks), the Montreal ecosystem responded incredibly well with a high level of engagement. Some 100 entrepreneurs decided to enroll to that edition and there was even a “waiting list” of around 20 business persons. Quiet a success!
IoT and Financial Technology industry verticals
Thanks to the great effort of two amazing Montreal-born grass root movements, WearHacks and NeuroTech-X, that have managed to mobilize hundreds of enthusiasts in 2014 and 2015, there is definitely an interest to foster the Internet of Things cluster. Last November 2015, a successful Startup Weekend Montréal “Internet Of Things” edition captured the interest of 100 entrepreneurs focusing on building real businesses out of a multitude of hardware prototypes. More efforts to consolidate this cluster will set the grounds for establishing a striving IoT tech hub in Montreal.
Last but not least, FinTech has been identified as a very much popular topic around entrepreneurs. Actually, last Fall, Founder Institute tested in Montreal a “FinTech Fellowship” as well as meetup “How to Fundraise for your Fintech Idea” done in collaboration with FinFusion and Bitcoin Embassy. Despite the great interest, conversion to individuals willing to launch a company was not at the Rendez-Vous. Let’s face it, Financial Technology is more complicated due to legal regulations, entry-barriers and cost of implementation. Despite the challenges, a group of community leaders behind “Congrès Maghrébin du Canada” are willing to bring the 1st Startup Weekend FinTech to Montreal.
The sharing economy is right now changing paradigms in Canada. Edmonton is now the first Canadian city to legalize Uber and the Quebec Government is analyzing the situation. Montreal has recently produced some companies like FlatBook, Breather and ShareTheBus in that field. So,the Montreal entrepreneurial ecosystem seems to see this as an opportunity to disrupt several traditional opportunities.
Next February 19, the Quebec Federation of Young Chambers of Commerce (RJCCQ) will organize a huge public-private Forum on the “Sharing Economy” theme. The brave student association “SRA” at the HEC Business School has decided to push further along this bu launching the first Canadian “Startup Weekend Sharing Economy” edition. It will happen on March 11-13.
Laying the Foundations of Montreal startup ecosystem
In conclusion, 2016 will definitely be the “Year of the Verticals” in Montreal. It will be the pivot year to lay the foundations for important industry tech clusters critical to consolidate the startup ecosystem. Montreal is in the right path to catch up quickly growing and sophisticated tech hubs like Toronto, Boston or Seattle.
[Tweet “”The best #entrepreneurs follow their passion to solve a real pain in their lives, not a trend””] – Sergio A. Escobar, Global Facilitator Startup Weekend, Techstars Startup Programs
Welcome to Zone Montreal Inc., the matchmaking platform designed to help you meet and learn from other members of the entrepreneurial community!
What is it?
It’s Brain Dates for learning humans, where you can find like-minded people interested in sharing knowledge face to face, one-on-one.
How it works?
Congrats Fondation Montréal Inc. for this amazing project.
A Montreal startup that wants to teach children about electronics is seeing strong success on Kickstarter, reaching its $25,000 goal on the second day of its crowdfunding campaign. MakerBloks are colourful blocks that allow children to create real electric circuits. A Kickstarter campaign to fund their creation launched on Tuesday morning, raising over $20,000 within 24-hours and reaching its goal on Wednesday afternoon. Francois Poirier, the CEO and creator of MakerBloks says he got the idea while working as a product designer. Clients would come to him with little more than a circuit board and his job was to make the products look good and be easy to use, but he says, “I actually had no idea what they had in their hand, the [printed circuit board] itself was a mystery to me.” Poirier says his then-seven-year-old niece was developing a strong interest in science and technology at the same time so he thought it would be fun for the two of them to learn about electronics together.
“I looked at all the different ways to do it, software, books, DVDs and toys,” he says, but nothing fit. When it comes to toys, he says, “they are all bad, they are all using outdated technology.” He says the toys on the market might make sense to engineers but they don’t make sense to a six-year-old. Having worked as a consultant for Mega Brands, he thought about creating an educational tool that involved bright plastic blocks.
One of the MakerBloks kits being launched as part of the Kickstarter campaign also includes a augmented reality feature – a mirror that attaches to an iPad’s camera and allows children to solve puzzles in a virtual game using their real-world blocks. It’s another thing that Poirier says sets MakerBloks apart from other electronics kits on the market. “They don’t use what the kids are using,” he says. “I thought it was important to adapt to the kids of today.” Still, Poirier says MakerBloks won’t be going entirely virtual. “For me it’s really important to always have the hardware piece, the blocks,” he says. “Because if they are more interested in electronics when they are 10, 12-years-old and they actually want to pick up a soldering iron and build real circuits, it’s always going to be a physical world.” As part of the Kickstarter campaign, MakerBloks is offering several different kits as individual perks, that will help guide future developments from the company. “I think the Kickstarter campaign will actually give us a really good idea of what our audience wants,” Poirier says. That’s a big part of why he decided to launch his product through a crowdfunding campaign. “Gaining visibility and validating the product is the major reason we’re doing the Kickstarter, for sure the funding will help but it’s not the main goal,” he says. “Dollars are the best feedback you can get.” While delivering the MakerBloks on time and living up to the promises made in the Kickstarter campaign is Poirier’s main goal right now, he’s also got his eye on the future. He wants MakerBloks to be the flagship product of a company that’s focused on science, technology, engineering and math learning for kids.
Originally posted in TechVibes Canada
Congratulations to Francois Poirier of MakerBloks, the winner of the 16th Founder Showcase CrowdPitch Competition! Makerbloks creates small, reactive building blocks that allow anyone to learn and build electronic circuits without any technical background. The company took first place at the Montreal TechCrunch Pitch-Off, which led to them attending TechCrunch Disrupt in New York to showcase their new product.
Originally posted on http://fi.co/posts/15771
Lavery is pleased to announce its involvement in the Startup Next Montreal program that is allowing selected Quebec entrepreneurs to participate in one of the most renowned pre-acceleration startup program in the world and to also benefit from a special session on the legal issues that startups face, offered by the lawyers of Lavery’s GO inc. Program.
The Startup Next Montreal pre-acceleration program runs from February 23 to May 2, 2015 and is aimed at priming four startups for success in their search for financial backing either from seed or accelerator funds. The four selected companies are Makerbloks, led by François Poirier, Logrr, led by Julien Denaes, Elysia, led by Vanessa Cherenfant, and Heddoko, headed by its founder Mazen Elbawab.
Startup Next is a global program implemented in 40 cities around the world and backed by Google for Entrepreneurs and the Global Accelerator Network. Lavery is hosting six consecutive and mandatory weekly sessions of three hours each, plus one special session dedicated to the legal issues associated to business startups. During these sessions, entrepreneurs meet with company founders as well as with experts who share their own experiences in growth-company management, get to make their elevator pitch before a panel of mentors who provide feedback and are paired with mentors who help them delve more deeply into strategic issues. The entrepreneurs had the opportunity to be mentored by top professionals like Bob Dorf, Startup Trainer and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School, LP Maurice, CEO of Busbud and Partner at Interaction Ventures, Chris Arsenault, Managing Partner of iNovia Capital, and Sean Brownlee, General Partner at Rho Canada Ventures.
The best Montreal entrepreneurial teams will be invited to present their start-up companies to investors or accelerator funds like XPND Capital, Interaction Ventures, Global Silicon Valley fund Expansive VC, to angel investors like Anges Québec, and to decision makers, as well as to the Jeune chambre de commerce de Montréal (JCCM) and the Regroupement des jeunes chambres de commerce du Québec (RJCCQ) business community during Startup Next Montreal’s presentation night at the 48h Entrepreneurs event.
“With its GO inc. Program, Lavery targets dynamic and innovative startups that stand out from the crowd. Our partnership agreement with Startup Next Montreal helps us reach out to several of the most promising technology startups in Quebec,” said Don McCarty, the firm’s Managing Partner.
“We are very pleased that the Lavery GO inc. Program is partnering with Startup Next Montreal, because it is essential that entrepreneurs understand the main legal issues they will need to manage in order to successfully grow their company. We added a training session to the program specifically to address this topic and provide entrepreneurs with the best tools possible for the challenges that lie before them,” added Sergio A. Escobar, Startup Next Montreal Program Facilitator.
“Lavery is delighted to welcome the entrepreneurs selected by Startup Next Montreal. The members of the Lavery GO inc. Program plan will analyze with them the major legal issues related to their startups,” stated Étienne Brassard, lawyer in charge of the Lavery GO inc. Program.
The Lavery GO inc. Program provides personalized support to selected businesses over a wide range of legal services needed during the start-up process, including incorporation, trademark and domain registration, service agreements and various internal company policies.
Featured in the Blog of The Founder Institute
Logrr is an Identity as a Service platform for enterprises that connects employees to their cloud business applications without using passwords. The security tool startup ventured through The Founder Institute’s first Canadian cohort in Montreal 2014, and it is now part of Startup Next Spring 2015 cohort.
If you’re tired of constantly having to remember and retype passwords, learn more about Logrr while their pitch to top Silicon Valley investors at Founder Institute first Virtual Global Demo Day (video-recorded).
Logrr wants to cut the costs of identity management by 50% and increase the level of security. Logrr’s mission is to connect employees to cloud applications through a Single Sign On, using digital signatures. Founder Julien Denaes states:
“We started by thinking about two facts: People always have their smartphone with them and passwords are weak…From there we decided to create a platform that enables you to authenticate without using password at all.” – Julien Denaes, CEO at Logrr
Logrr is currently enrolled in the Spring 2015 cohort of Startup Next in Montreal. The program is managed by UP Global Facilitator Sergio A. Escobar, a former entrepreneur who’s also Mentor for Accelerator programs around the world (Silicon Valley, UK, Singapore, Canada, Latin America). In 2014, Escobar graduated Navut, a startup from Montreal that helps people find the neighborhood that’s best for them, efficiently, and stress-free. Since completing Startup Next in Montreal, Navut has been able to attract $500,000 in seed funding.
Startup Next Montreal First ShowCase Demo with the entire cohort will take place at Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec on May 2 during 48H Entrepreneurs.
Startup Next is the #1 global pre-acceleration program powered by Google for Entrepreneurs and supported by Techstars. The program, which helps startups prepare for accelerators or seed investors, gives participants access to the high-impact mentorship, best practice tools and resources, plus the opportunity to gain access to capital through an extensive network of accelerators and seed investors.
Education Entrepreneurs Workshops launched during the summer of 2014 and have already spread to three continents: North America, Europe, and Asia. In Canada, fellow UP Montreal community leaders Noor El Bawab, Diana Cheptene, Marek Zaluski, Charles Gedeon and Mirjam Sulger organized the first one in the Province of Quebec.
Workshops help you teach key education entrepreneurship skills to your community. We provide you with all the materials, so you’re well equipped to create a valuable experience. You can either host a workshop 1-3 weeks before a Startup Weekend Education event, or as a stand-alone event any time during the year.
If you are passionate about education innovation, learn the foundational skills you need to launch and scale an edtech venture at a workshop near you.
Education Entrepreneurs Workshops are two hours of engaging instruction, quality guest speakers, and hands-on activities designed for an audience of about 50 people. The two Workshop topics we offer so far are:
- Edtech Business Models, and
- Customer Development and Empathy in Education.
Startup Weekend Education gives you the unique opportunity to show people in your community how to launch a startup in just one weekend. Coming together on Friday night to pitch ideas, participants from a variety of fields (e.g. educators, students, developers, designers) quickly form teams and spend the next 54 hours working together to build innovative solutions to important education problems.
GOOGLE, TECH STARS AND STEVE BLANK-BACKED NEXT PRE-ACCELERATOR PROGRAM TO HIT MONTREAL
By Joseph Czikk. Originally posted on Betakit.
Montreal’s Real Ventures, the FounderFuel accelerator program and Blakes Law Firm are all ready to launch the NEXT pre-accelerator program in Montreal. The program is a five-week session designed to take promising startups through the more difficult early stages of the entrepreneurial journey.
It was designed by Steve Blank, Startup Weekend, Techstars, Global Accelerator Network, F6S and Google for Entrepreneurs, providing a hands-on, mentor driven program approach to the customer development framework. It also covers other important topics for early stage startups looking to go through an accelerator. Moreover it prepares them for a tangible milestone, such as an accelerator, investment, or sustainable product launch.
Those teams accepted to the program will take part in 3-hour weekly sessions for five weeks to help them validate their customer’s core problem and building the right solution. Through hands-on mentoring and weekly training, “teams will secure an understanding of their customer development strategy, market size, competitors, MVP, fundability, and pitching.”
“We are very excited to bring this initiative from Silicon Valley to Montreal for the first time,” said NEXT co-director Sergio Escobar. “Early stage startup teams often become caught up with building out an idea, product or service, and raising capital, instead of customer development, achieving product-market fit and gaining traction. NEXT Montreal is a program dedicated to making this happen.”
Mentors include Ian Jeffrey, general manager at Founder Fuel; David Nault of iNovia Capital; Tricia Kuhl, Entrepreneurs-in-Residence at Blakes Law Firm; marketing expert Beth Thouin, COO at Brendan & Brendan; LP Maurice, CEO at Busbud; Raff Paquin, head of technology at Frank & Oak; Mike Lee, CEO at Fundica, and others.
Real Ventures’ Gabriel Sundaram explained that there was a gap in the Montreal ecosystem for companies just getting started. But “a world-class program like NEXT (particularly Steve Blank’s teachings) will help entrepreneurs find a more meaningful trajectory,” he said.
Sundaram said there’s “great synergies” between NEXT and the FounderFuel program. “Most early-stage startups we come across are too focused on developing a product that they think is valuable, instead of seeking insights from talking to customers,” he said, hinting at something NEXT will focus on.
NEXT Montreal happens March 17 to April 14 at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP offices, and applications will be accepted until March 12.
Teams who finish the NEXT program successfully will be eligible for the “NEXT First Look Forum Event”, which is a post-program “global showcase event” aimed at generating exposure for the strongest NEXT graduates to accelerators, early stage investors, and media.
NEXT has already held 60 programs globally since starting in November 2012 with plans to run in 40 cities globally during the spring of 2014.