Startup Weekend AI is Returning to Montreal

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour competition designed to provide an amazing experiential learning opportunity for AI enthusiasts, developers, designers, and business-minded individuals to come together to create a business. Join us for a weekend event centered on ACTION, INNOVATION, and EDUCATION.

Startup Weekend 2017


Article by: Amir Abushanab

For some, the weekend of November 23rd will be just another chance to relax, maybe even enjoy a long weekend, before heading back to daily life on Monday. But for those with a drive for entrepreneurship, an eye for innovation, and a love of tinkering, it’s time to get busy. Each year, these people gather to attend the world’s largest business innovation competition: The Global Startup Weekend.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour long contest that brings together hustlers, hackers, and hipsters of all backgrounds for the chance to prototype and pitch a complete business idea to a panel of mentors and veterans. The very first Startup Weekend was held at Boulder, Colorado in 2007 by Andrew Hyde. The volunteer driven organization has continued to grow, eventually being picked up by Techstars in 2015, and now operates in a staggering 1000 cities worldwide.

The flagship Startup Weekend’s ‘Global’ moniker isn’t just for show; more than 15 Startup Weekends, spanning from Hong Kong to Paris to La Paz, will be taking place simultaneously from, after which the winners from each city will duke it out on a global stage.

As of today, the most notable success to come out of Startup Weekend is Rover, a startup for dog owners. While once a simple idea at one of the many Startup Weekends, it’s now a thriving business valued at over a billion dollars. However, with all the buzz and potential of AI, there may be a new top dog soon.

Startup Weekend AI 2017’s winning team, Skip the Line


As this year’s flavor of The Global Startup Weekend is themed around AI, Montreal is uniquely positioned to overtake the competition. With over $300M invested in AI in the last 3 years alone, it’s no wonder the city has become a hotspot for AI research and startups. Last year, the Montreal team ‘Skip The Line’ made it all the way to the final round in Paris, and this year looks to be no different as the AI scene continues to explode and the city overflows with top talent.

That’s not all Montreal has going for it though.

“There is something very unique about Montreal” says district m CMO Adrian Pike “I’ve been lucky enough to live in lots of places, and no where do you get the sense of community and desire to give back like you do here. C’est Incroyable. We’re very happy to sponsor an initiative that supports our young entrepreneurs”

With backing from big multinationals like Accenture, IBM, Bell Canada and BDC Capital, as well as fast-growing startups like district m, Dialogue, Element AI, and Lighthouse Labs, this year’s AI Startup Weekend is poised to be the best yet.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. While it’s a great opportunity for personal and professional growth, at the end of the day Startup Weekend is still a competition, one that’s been likened to “a hackathon on steroids”; not only do the participants need to go through the herculean task of developing their prototype over a weekend, they also need to back it up with a solid business plan and a flawless pitch.

“I’ve seen things get very heated. You need an immense amount of focus, dedication, and skills to make something happen,” said Michelle Yu, one of organizers for last year’s Global Startup Weekend and this year’s organizing lead. “However, Startup Weekend participants thrive under this pressure, and form connections that take them down very exciting paths in their lives. Whether you want to make new friends and connections in Montreal community, or you’re someone looking for your next co-founder, I can’t think of a better place to find these diamonds”

Regardless of the outcome of the projects, one thing you can be sure of is that this weekend will be one to remember.

Want to get involved? All the info you need can be found here.

Me Zineb Kouidri soutient les startups

Montréal possède une incroyable communauté d’entrepreneurs ainsi que de nombreux évènements et réseaux d’organisations qui servent à promouvoir cet esprit entrepreneurial. Suite à notre participation au Startup Weekend édition FinTech à Montréal, nous avons constaté que lors de cet événement, de jeunes entrepreneurs peuvent se rencontrer et créer ensemble une richesse qui peut répondre à des besoins existants dans la société.

J’ai récemment eu l’honneur de mentorer les équipes du startup Weekend afin de leur apporter un soutien juridique dans la réalisation de leur projet.

Apporter sa touche particulière à cette communauté entrepreneuriale est vraiment gratifiant. Malgré la pression, le manque de temps, ces jeunes entrepreneurs étaient dotés d’une grande volonté de réussir. Ils avaient en eux la volonté d’innover, de s’associer et de s’exposer afin de réaliser leur projet.

BTK Avocats s’implique sans hésitation dans le monde des Startups. Beaucoup de nos clients sont des startups qu’on accompagne du stade embryonnaire jusqu’à la réalisation complète de leur projet. C’est pourquoi j’ai choisi de soutenir l’évènement du startup Weekend édition FinTech en offrant un prix aux équipes gagnantes ainsi qu’à tous les participants.

De plus, j’offre une promo spéciale pour les Startup de cinq ans et moins sur mes services ; c’est une façon pour moi de soutenir cet esprit de créativité et cette hargne d’innover.

Je remercie Startup Weekend et Startup Canada d’offrir une aussi belle opportunité aux jeunes entrepreneurs ainsi que d’avoir mis sur pied un tel évènement.

Au plaisir de revivre une telle expérience l’année prochaine.

Me Zineb Kouidri,
Avocate & Associée chez BTK Avocats

GradeSlam, a Techstars Startup Next Montreal Alumni, Raises $1.6M

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GradeSlam, a Techstars Startup Next Montreal alumni in the Education Technology field, has successfully raised a $1.6 Million Seed Round led by Birchmere Ventures

Founded by a former educator Philip Cutler, the Montreal-based EdTech startup GradeSlam is the online learning center that specializes in humanized adaptive learning for students K-12, and has facilitated over 350,000 tutoring sessions with students in over 80 countries. Their personalized educational support equips teachers and administrators with actionable insights on how students learn outside of the classroom.

The tutoring industry’s business model has always been to charge students by the hour for each session. But that model is flawed, according to Philip Cutler, CEO of GradeSlam: “Students shouldn’t pay for the hour,” he says. “They should pay to have access to these people whenever they need them.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.31.17 AM

Gradeslam is a startup graduated from Techstars Startup Next Montreal cohort. Other startups from the Montreal program include NavutLogrrMakerbloksNukernAsk-PamCrema AppRentHunt and many more.


At Techstars, we believe in the idea that no one is “too far along” for Techstars. Conversely, nothing is too early. Techstars has a program for every step of the entrepreneurial journey – from startup programs like Startup Digest, Startup Week, Startup Weekend and Startup Next to later stage offerings, including the accelerator program and venture capital for add-on funding.


Startup Weekend – The Sharing Economy @hecmontreal

A lot of great ideas were pitched on Friday night. We counted 42 fire pitches!

Just take a look of what the event was like:

And here are the ideas chosen by the participants during the vote:

  • Food club
    Catering collaborative app
  • Thirsty
    Workshop on different specialized subjects
  • Liber
    App to sell and rent books
  • Station service
    Online store – Renting designer clothing
  • Meet Ur Mate
    Match making app for meeting roommates
  • Grow 2
    Making it easier and cheaper to find medical marijuana
  • Yucy 
    App suggesting bars/restaurants/clubs…
  • Swapii
    App showing which stores allows the users to pay in a different currency.
  • We build
    Platform allowing company to increase their social responsability by helping employees to take part in real OBNL social projects.
  • Groopme
    Platform allowing neighbors to find people to clean their houses.
  • Green app
    App aiming to make it easier to find a student to mow grass.
  • Regit
    Collaborative app to create music and link and users.
  • Impact trackr (Out-of-Competition)
    Matchmaking platform for NGOs and impact investors/CSR departments of companies


Honorable mention: WEBUILD
3rd place: THIRSTY
2nd place: GROW2
1st place: GREEN APP

Well done to all of you and thank again for coming!

The Startup Weekend Team!

Road-map of Startup Weekend Montreal in 2016

Startup Weekend Montreal
UP Montreal: Startup Community

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

Startup Weekend Montreal 2016 SurveyAfter 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

Startup Weekend Montreal EdTech

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!

Startup Weekend Montréal
Startup Weekend Montréal “Sustainable City” (January 29-31, 2016)

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.

Sharing Economy

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

Startup Weekend: Template for Final Presentations

Template for the Final Presentations on Sunday night:


Zone Montreal: A New Match-Making Platform for Entrepreneurs!

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?

Zone Montreal Inc

Congrats Fondation Montréal Inc. for this amazing project.

Montreal-based MakerBloks Hits Crowdfunding Goal in Two Days! Wants to Rethink How Kids Learn Electronics

MakerBloks 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.

Makerbloks Awards
Makerbloks Press Coverage

Originally posted in TechVibes Canada

Montreal-based Makerbloks Wins 2015 Silicon Valley CrowdPitch Competition!



Congratulations to Francois Poirier of MakerBloks, the winner of the 16th Founder Showcase CrowdPitch CompetitionMakerbloks 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.


François Poirier is a graduate of Silicon Valley Founder Institute as well as Google-backed Startup Next program in Montreal, Canada.

Originally posted on



Les gagnants du Startup Weekend Montréal: Ville intelligente

Après 54h de travail intense, voici les 3 équipes qui se sont démarquées!

Premier prix: Persili
Un service de livraison de plants de légumes à domicile.
Après avoir drastiquement pivoté, l’équipe nous a présenté le dimanche soir un site web déjà fonctionnel et des ventes en seulement 24h de travail.

Deuxième Prix: Pick n Play
Un système de réservation de terrains de sports en ligne.

Et un prix de dernière minute:

Le prix coup de coeur de LP Maurice qui tenait à offrir de l’accompagnement à Tribe, une plateforme permettant de donner nos fruits et légumes en surplus.

Bravo à nos gagnants et à toutes nos autres équipes:

-ArtVille: Pour trouver le bon artiste pour votre projet
-CardCoffer: La carte d’affaires digitalisée
-MTL Agit: Une plateforme pour matcher des bénévoles avec des organisateurs d’évènements
-Marche ta ville: Une app pour signaler de belles places en ville pendant des marches
-Pendula Project: La pendule interactive pour une expérience inoubliable
-MTL Urgence: Une app donnant un estimé du temps d’attente chez le médecin
-Spot&Park: Pour trouver une place de parking disponible