Bruno Morency Joins Techstars as Managing Director for Montreal AI Accelerator

Link to French version

In March, Techstars announced its new AI focused accelerator in Montreal. Today, it’s a great pleasure to share with everyone that I will be Managing Director (MD) of this program. In this post, I’d like to share the reasons why I’m so excited about this challenge and talk about what an AI-focused program in Montreal means.

Being a Managing Director

As managing director, I’ll be in charge of recruiting the best teams to join the program and help them realize their vision. That help starts from the moment they become a Techstars-backed company, during the intense weeks of the program, and continues well beyond. By “helping” I mean way more than being a mentor myself. It’s connecting you with even better mentors from the Techstars network, finding the right connections to get that meeting with a prospective client, get that intro to the awesome candidate you want on your team, and whatever else is needed to help you succeed.

As an entrepreneur myself, with my share of duds and more successful attempts in the past 15+ years, I’ve learned how critical help can be even if you are convinced (maybe rightfully so) that you can do this on your own.

People I’ve met in the last few years in the local startup ecosystem know my passion for building tech products and the companies based on them. Since the acquisition of ContextIO, I’ve had the chance to mentor entrepreneurs at FounderFuel and Founder Institute and developed lasting bonds. The best part about those relationships is they begin with you providing help based on past experience but quickly morph into a source of learning for both parties.

I’ve probably learned as much from the startups I’ve advised in the last few years as I have leading my own startups! Becoming a Techstars MD means I can now do this full time, on a much grander scale, backed by a world-class network and organization. What more could I ask for?

AI will profoundly change our lives

Artificial Intelligence is a term that generates excitement as much as it generates fear. When faced with something that can deeply and irremediably transform the way humans live, both reactions are justified. This must have been how people felt when the first steam engines and human-built machines got to a point where it became clear that production of goods and life in general would never be the same. It turns out that humanity adapted and the change was for good. We used to clear snow from the streets after a storm with people shoveling it in sleds pulled by horses (this program is in Montreal after all). Does anyone think that’s better than how we do it today?

I have worked in a startup that uses AI to make preventive screening for early detection of skin cancer something people can do from home on a monthly basis, rather than in a clinic every year. I’ve also worked on projects automating removal of personally identifiable information from purchase receipts so they can safely be used for aggregated reporting of e-commerce activity.

Add to those all the founders I’ve met applying AI to solve problems we can’t currently solve at scale, and I’m convinced a few decades from now, people will wonder how we could ever have lived without the changes AI is bringing upon us.

Techstars in Montreal

Montreal has always been a great city for university students with the highest concentration per-capita in North America. This both reinforces and feeds off the creativity of people living here. With top engineering and science faculties, training wasn’t the problem, but retaining talent was. It used to be only those who were stubborn or deeply in love with the city (or with someone living in the city) who refused to move out. Not anymore.

In recent years, we’ve seen AI focused labs in local universities establishing themselves as world-renowned leaders in the field. The AI ecosystem in Montreal grew organically from its academic research roots and Real Ventures, the main partner for this program, has been instrumental in this growth. It is now the most active early-stage venture fund in Canada. In addition, leading corporations like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, Thales, and others have invested millions of dollars in AI labs across the city.

Now, Techstars amplifies this ecosystem to make Montreal the place to launch and establish the most ambitious AI startups. As Managing Director, I want to make it a gateway that brings more talent and ambition to our beloved island as much as it will be a path for local talent to shine internationally.

I’m inviting entrepreneurs interested in applying to the Techstars Montreal AI Accelerator to check out the Application Toolkit and Apply now

We’ll be hosting an AMA session on April 17th to answer questions you may have about the program, register here to join us.








Miser sur Techstars et Montréal

Lien vers la version anglaise.

En mars dernier, Techstars a annoncé l’arrivée à Montréal d’un nouvel accélérateur centré sur l’intelligence artificielle (IA). C’est un grand plaisir d’annoncer aujourd’hui que j’en serai le Directeur général. Dans ce billet, je partage avec vous mon enthousiasme face à ce défi et l’impact que ce programme Techstars aura pour l’écosystème montréalais.

Le rôle de directeur général

En tant que directeur général, ma principale responsabilité est d’attirer les meilleures équipes à joindre le programme et les aider à réaliser leur vision. Cette aide commence dès le moment où l’équipe joint le réseau Techstars, s’intensifie durant les 12 semaines du programme puis continue à vie. Concrètement, cette aide, c’est bien plus qu’être personnellement un mentor. C’est jumeler les entrepreneurs avec des mentors extraordinaires, trouver le bon contact pour obtenir cette rencontre avec un gros client potentiel ou encore dénicher la bonne introduction auprès de ce candidat rêvé pour joindre l’équipe. Bref, faire l’impossible pour aider les entrepreneurs à réussir. J’ai démarré différentes startups au cours de 15 dernières années, avec ma part d’échecs et de succès. J’ai compris avec le temps à quel point s’entourer est capital, peu importe le stade de l’entreprise ou l’impression qu’on peut y arriver sans cet appui.

Ceux que j’ai côtoyés au cours des dernières années connaissent ma passion pour le développement et la commercialisation de produits technos. Depuis l’acquisition de ContextIO, j’ai eu l’opportunité d’être mentor pour FounderFuel ainsi que le Founder Institute à Montréal. Cette implication a mené à des relations solides qui durent toujours. Ce qui est intéressant avec le mentorat c’est que le partage de son expérience avec les nouveaux entrepreneurs laisse éventuellement place à un apprentissage mutuel. J’ai probablement appris autant des startups pour lesquelles j’ai été mentor que celles que j’ai moi-même démarrées! En devenant DG de Techstars Montréal, je fais de cette implication bénévole mon occupation à temps plein, à un niveau supérieur et avec l’appui d’un réseau et une organisation mondialement reconnus. Que demander de plus?

L’intelligence artificielle changera profondément nos vies

L’intelligence artificielle est un terme qui génère l’enthousiasme autant que la peur. Face à une technologie qui peut profondément et irrémédiablement transformer la façon dont nous vivons, ces deux réactions sont justifiées. Ce sont probablement ces mêmes émotions que nos ancêtres ressentaient face aux moteurs à vapeur et machines mécaniques qui s’apprêtaient à transformer pour de bon la production de biens et la vie en général. L’humanité s’est adaptée et ce changement a été pour le mieux. Il fût un temps où on déneigeait les rues après une tempête en pelletant la neige dans des chariots tirés par des chevaux. Qui voudrait retourner à cette époque?

Je suis convaincu que nous verrons l’impact de l’I.A. de la même façon dans quelques décennies. J’ai travaillé au sein d’une startup qui utilise des algorithmes d’I.A. pour le dépistage et la détection précoce du cancer de la peau grâce à des vérifications mensuelles à domicile plutôt que des rendez-vous annuels en clinique. J’ai aussi mené un projet qui appliquait d’autres algorithmes pour détecter et effacer l’information personnelle contenue dans un reçu d’achat avant d’inclure cet achat dans la production de rapports sur l’évolution du commerce en ligne. C’est sans compter les nombreux entrepreneurs que j’ai rencontrés qui utilisent l’I.A. pour résoudre des problèmes à une échelle et une efficacité qui seraient impensables d’atteindre sans elle. Dans un avenir pas si lointain, on se demandera comment on vivait sans les changements qu’elle amènera.

Techstars et l’écosystème montréalais

Montréal est reconnue depuis longtemps comme une ville de premier choix pour les études universitaires. C’est ici qu’on trouve la plus grande densité d’étudiants post-secondaire en Amérique du Nord. Cette population nourrit le courant créatif de notre ville autant qu’elle s’en inspire. Avec quatre facultés d’ingénierie et de sciences de haut niveau, former le talent n’était pas un problème, le retenir ici était une autre histoire. Il fut une époque où les seuls qui refusaient de partir étaient les entêtés amoureux de notre ville ou d’un partenaire qui l’était! Plus maintenant.

Au cours des dernières années, des centres de recherches universitaires en I.A. ont atteint une renommée mondiale. L’écosystème local a grandi de façon organique avec l’aide  d’acteurs tel Real Ventures, partenaire principal de ce programme Techstars. Real Ventures est aujourd’hui le fonds de capital de démarrage le plus actif au Canada. Puis Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, Thales et d’autres entreprises ont établi des laboratoires d’I.A. à Montréal avec des investissements privés de plusieurs millions de dollars. Maintenant, Techstars vient amplifier l’écosystème pour faire de Montréal la viIle où démarrer les startups d’I.A. les plus ambitieuses. En tant que DG, je veux faire de ce programme le pont qui amène encore plus de talent et d’ambition vers notre île tout en permettant au talent local d’aller conquérir le monde.

J’invite donc les entrepreneurs intéressés à soumettre leur candidature pour Techstars Montréal AI à consulter les ressources d’aide puis d’appliquer avant le 13 mai prochain. Nous organiserons une séance de questions-réponses en ligne le 17 avril à midi, inscrivez-vous ici pour vous joindre à nous.








Techstars Amplifies Montreal’s Burgeoning AI Ecosystem

BOULDER, Colo., – March 12, 2018 – Montreal is the capital of Artificial Intelligence in Canada, boasting one of the largest AI academic communities in the world. It’s no wonder why Techstars is opening its third Canadian mentorship-driven accelerator in Montreal: Techstars Montreal AI Accelerator.

Techstars is grateful for the support from Real Ventures, Canada’s most active early-stage venture fund, for their assistance in bringing this accelerator to Montreal. Element AI, a Real Ventures portfolio company, is a key player in the AI scene in Montreal and abroad (Toronto, London, Singapore).  

“As a Montreal native, I’m thrilled to bring Techstars to my hometown,” said David Brown, founder and co-CEO of Techstars. “Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed and, with the support of Real Ventures, entrepreneurs in our program will have access to AI pioneers to help guide and mentor them. Montreal has all the ingredients that we look for as we expand our mentorship-driven accelerator programs – strong community of innovation, access to capital and the support from major corporations.”

Participating startups will benefit from the most concentrated pool of AI researchers worldwide with guidance from people like Yoshua Bengio, one of the founding fathers of AI, who is based at the University of Montreal. In addition, leading corporations like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, Thales, and others have invested millions of dollars in AI labs across Montreal.

“Building on our long-standing relationship with Techstars and the positive experience Real Ventures has had in Toronto with the first Techstars Accelerator in Canada, we felt it was vital to bring an AI-focused accelerator program with global reach to Montreal,” said Real Ventures partner, John Stokes. “With Techstars’ reputation and international network, it will be possible to attract extremely high-caliber and globally-minded startups to the ecosystem and create a positive feedback loop that will lead to greater success all round.”

Applications for the program open today and the deadline to apply is May 13, 2018. The program kicks off in September 2018 and will conclude with Demo Day in December during NIPS 2018 in Montreal.

Investing in Artificial Intelligence

Techstars Montreal AI Accelerator will select startups that advance the development and application of artificial intelligence across all industries and markets.

AI technologies and business applications continue to evolve. Startups focused on the following themes are encouraged to apply.

  • Deep Learning, machine learning, reinforcement learning
  • The advancement of image recognition and other domain/industry specific applications
  • Speech recognition, linguistics and natural language processing
  • IoT / sensor systems and autonomous vehicles / drones
  • Predictive analytics and recommendation systems (domain/industry specific applications)
  • Diverse application of AI in control systems, agent enablers and cognitive computing
  • “Augmenting” human experts across industries including supply chain, advanced manufacturing and robotics; smart mobility, transportation and smart city; cybersecurity, automated vulnerability assessment and intelligent remediation; health and medical advancement, from personalized medicine to genomics data processing; financial modeling, fraud prediction and detection; media creation, production, distribution and monetization

Interested in Becoming a Corporate Partner?

Techstars is looking for corporate partners to join the burgeoning ecosystem in Montreal. Corporations interested in partnering with Techstars to double down on AI in Montreal should email morgan.berman@techstars.com. For entrepreneurs interested in applying to Techstars Montreal AI Accelerator, please check out the Application Toolkit.








Reflections on my Hometown of Montreal, Canada

I spent most of last week in my hometown of Montreal and it was a really great experience.

I left Montreal in 1990 because at that time, support for people like me (crazy entrepreneurs) was very limited. I had met some American entrepreneurs and found them to be kindred spirits and much more supportive. When offered the opportunity to join a startup in Miami, I jumped at the opportunity and moved within three days.

How times of changed!

Previously, I’ve gone back to Montreal a number of times, but it was to visit family, not to be in the community.

Last week, I attended FounderFuel demo day. There were about 1000 people in attendance and the companies were great. John Stokes of Real Ventures was very kind to bring me up on stage and reminisce at how he had come up with the idea after coming to Techstars demo day in Boulder in 2009. They have now graduated 10 classes and their companies have raised over $100M. Quite an accomplishment!

For the rest of the week, I attended Startupfest, an incredible festival now in it’s seventh year, celebrating entrepreneurs from around the world. I gave the keynote and attended many panels and discussions, ranging from the future of accelerators, to diversity and inclusion and more.

The comment I heard most often was how nice Canadian entrepreneurs are, and how they don’t let that be a disadvantage at all.

Techstars is excited to expand our presence in Canada, with the addition of our new accelerator program in Toronto, which will have applications opening July 24, 2017. We have long run Startup Weekends in the region and I had the pleasure of hanging out with about 25 fantastic community leaders at an event last week. All were excited about the opportunities for Canadian entrepreneurs.

In this time of immigration uncertainty in the United States, it’s great to have neighbors to the north that are providing an inclusive and startup-friendly environment.  

Oh, and I got to visit the home I grew up in. I admit that I got a little choked up.








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.”

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

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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.

 








Announcing the Techstars Startup Next Montreal Class of 2016

We are thrilled to introduce the five tremendous companies that have finished the 3rd annual Startup Next program in Montreal! 

Startup Next is a “pre-accelerator” program that prepares companies for acceleration and/or seed investment by providing high quality mentorship and leveraging the global network of Techstars. A Demo Day was realized mid-June in New York to showcase Canadian companies in the NYC ecosystem.

Among the 20 cities running the program worldwide in four continents, Montreal is the #1 Startup Next city with the highest concentration of graduates at Techstars Accelerators! Over the last 9 months, four Montreal startups have joined Techstars Accelerator programs: TS Boston (NavutHeddoko), TS Barclays NYC (Logrr) and TS Target Minneapolis (Makerbloks). 

As usual, this year, Startup Next Montreal has received a vast number of applications from all around the world (Vancouver, Kiev, Bloomington, San Diego, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Montreal, etc). Without further ado, please join me in welcoming the 2016 Startup Next Montreal companies:

Nukern
Nukern sets web hosting businesses on autopilot. Through Nukern’s unified SaaS experience, web hosts can deploy cloud hosting resources concurrently from providers like; DigitalOcean, AWS and VULTR. And with Nukern’s white label self-service portal, web hosts can resell these resources to clients and automate account provisioning and recurring billing. Nukern is currently setting web hosting businesses on autopilot in more than 45 different countries.

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Ask-Pam
Ask PAM is a cloud-based CRM for the hospitality industry that centralizes in one platform the day-to-day Concierge operations, providing a better customer experience. It is the only platform that is tracking and analyzing Concierge performances allowing them to better connect, manage and collaborate while optimizing the cost of customer service.
Ask PAM is currently operating in 15 cities worldwide (Montreal, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Dubai, Berlin, Accra and many others) with over 100 Concierges servicing 100k clients yearly.

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CREMA
Crema is the new digital reward program and payment solution for coffee shops. We are providing Starbucks Coffee Technology to small independent Coffee Shops. The app gives the ability to prepay coffee plans redeemable at the best coffee shops in town.
Crema is available in Montreal, New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Berlin and Paris.

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Rent Hunt
RentHunt is an AI-powered messaging service that helps people find rental apartments. By specifying their search criteria, RentHunt provides renters with a curated and personalized set of listings. The service is currently available by SMS and on Facebook Messenger.

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Wealth Tab
WealthTab is modernizing the wealth management industry. Our modular platform offers solutions for client onboarding, portfolio analytics and portfolio visualization to help financial professionals deliver the best client experience. WealthTab is currently assisting over 50 professionals who collectively manage more than $2 Billion.

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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!

 

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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 http://fi.co/posts/15771

 

 








Lavery And Its GO Inc. Program Join Forces With Startup Next Montreal

Lavery LawyersLavery 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.

Google and Techstars backed Global Pre-Accelerator Program
Google and Techstars backed Global Pre-Accelerator Program

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 CapitalInteraction 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.

48H Entrepreneurs – JCCM, RJCCQ

“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.

Lavery Lawyers