McGill Dobson Chronicles

Subscribe to McGill Dobson Chronicles feed McGill Dobson Chronicles
Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the McGill Community
Updated: 13 hours 59 min ago

Mentor Spotlight: Kathy Megyery (Health Sciences)

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 09:05

Editor’s Note: At the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, we got the chance to interview Kathy Megyery, one of the judges for the Health Sciences Track.

Kathy Megyery is partner at Pivot responsible for the Pharma & Payers practice. She specializes in strategy, market access and policy design for the healthcare and life sciences sectors with over 25 years-experience both as a consultant and a pharmaceutical industry executive.

During her tenure at Sanofi, she successfully spearheaded strategic initiatives to capture opportunities around the emergence of specialty pharma, the increased focus on wellness and prevention as well as the growing role of payers. During the past year, she developed the payer strategy to support the commercial launch of a new vaccine. Kathy holds an MBA from McGill University and a Master’s degree in Economics from Concordia University.

On the value of education for entrepreneurs & the McGill Dobson Cup

I think regardless of whether you want to be an entrepreneur or not, education is important. There are few other places where you’re exposed to big ideas, learn how to think creatively – both of which are crucial. I don’t think you necessarily know right at the beginning of your studies whether you will be an entrepreneur or something else. Being exposed to other smart people and discussing ideas are things that are relevant for everyone.

In my family, education is highly valued. It’s really helped me guide and cultivate my curiosity – I mean just look at what I’m doing right now: I’m not here at the Dobson Cup as an investor, yet I’m grateful for the opportunity to see and judge the pitches. Why? Simply because it’s interesting to me.  Going through an educational process can definitely be an important element to feed that curiosity.

I found the McGill Dobson Cup incredibly refreshing.  The creativity, passion and commitment of the teams left me very energized.  I heard several proposals that address providing better, more accessible health care and as such, provide value to patients, the healthcare system and society overall.

With this Dengue vaccine, Sanofi decided to flip the model on its head and target the people who really needed it first.

On being a part of the team that developed a Dengue vaccine and how they flipped the traditional business model on its head

Sanofi Pasteur, the company I worked for previously, developed the first vaccine against dengue. Dengue, believe it or not, affects 50% of the world’s population. It’s very endemic in emerging countries – parts of Latin America, Africa, Asia Pacific. Pharmaceutical companies typically market vaccines to richer countries first – basically selling to to business people and tourists that are traveling to recoup their money, and then taking it to the poorer countries. With this Dengue vaccine, Sanofi decided to flip the model on its head and target the people who really needed it first. Their first market was the Philippines, and then Brazil. In other words, we decided to help people first, and then figure out the business model after.

It was a 15 year process, and the manufacturing plant was built at risk – meaning the company took the risk of building the plant even before we knew that the authorities would approve the vaccine.

In terms of results, 2 dimensions are important to look at: mortality, and hospitalizations. I’m proud to say it was very effective in reducing both deaths and hospitalization rates, which is important for these developing countries that don’t have a lot of money to spend on healthcare.


Many thanks to our #HealthSciences Track judges in the @McGillU #DobsonCup yesterday! Super pumped for #SocEnt Track today! @DesautelsMcGill

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 15, 2017

Where the health industry is headed next

I think we’re really heading towards a place where “The 4 P’s of medicine” will really begin to become the focus. They are: predictive, personalized, participatory, and preventive.

Gene sequencing and rapidly advancing medical technology are allowing us to make some major changes in the way people are treated. We’re moving towards preventing people from getting sick in the first place, and if they do get sick, finding the most appropriate, targeted, treatments because that’s the only way to keep the health care system sustainable – you can’t just send everyone to the hospital.

Today we pay for drugs, not health outcomes.

Her next projects

At Pivot Strategic Transformation, I am working on a number of initiatives related to tying payment for healthcare to value and not just volume.  By way of example, in the area of pharmaceuticals, this requires rethinking the way we pay for drugs.

Today we pay for drugs, not health outcomes. But this unit-based pricing model is too one dimensional for the evolving market needs.  Given the high cost of specialty medicines, the rapid growth of this segment is challenging the sustainability of the current model of paying for medicines.

This is impacting the entire healthcare ecosystem.

For pharmaceutical companies, value-based agreements provides a game-changing opportunity as they are increasingly facing price pressures based on discounts and rebates not linked to the value of the product. By tying the price of drugs to agreed-upon outcomes, pharma companies will be able to demonstrate the full benefits of their products.  Private payers want to secure more competitive prices for their clients.  And finally, it is an opportunity for intermediaries to leverage data analytics capabilities as data is the cornerstone of value-based reimbursement.

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:300px;}
/* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.
We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */
Get insights about the Montreal entrepreneurship scene delivered right to your inbox: Just enter your email! * indicates required Email Address *

Email Format

  • html
  • text

(function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';fnames[1]='FNAME';ftypes[1]='text';fnames[2]='LNAME';ftypes[2]='text';fnames[3]='MMERGE3';ftypes[3]='text';fnames[4]='MMERGE4';ftypes[4]='text';fnames[5]='TEXTYUI_3';ftypes[5]='text';fnames[6]='TEXTAREAY';ftypes[6]='text';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true);

Sign up for StartupFest 2017 while there are still tickets left!

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 09:15

Go to:

Startupfest has grown into a global gathering of the world’s best entrepreneurs, founders, investors, and mentors. It features world-class content, from back-of-napkin ideas to champagne-popping exits, across three days of keynotes, interactive how-to sessions, thought-provoking predictions, and a healthy dose of irreverence.

See our Sizzler videos!

See All Premium Fests
• Every aspect of our content is hand-picked and carefully crafted, and ranges from inspiring lessons from seasoned entrepreneurs, to informative how-to sessions, and interactive panels.

• We offer tangible investment opportunities and prizes, from top accelerators, looking to fill their next cohorts, to world-renowned VCs- in 2016, over $500,000 worth of investments and prizes were awarded at the event.

• Whether you’re looking for exposure, to acquire new talent, connect with investors, corporates, or different sectors of the industry- you’ll find it in our tent village, where people are gathered under relevant themes.

“I was here 3 years ago, and pitched Onavo, my company, and we picked up one of the top prizes and 3 years later we get picked up by Facebook. It’s awesome.” – Guy Rosen, Facebook


Kimberly Bryant
Black Girls CODE
Ben Rubin
Life On Air, Inc (Houseparty)
Robert Scoble
Transformation Group
Melinda Richter
Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS
Montreal is the cultural capital of Canada, and as soon as you get here you’ll understand why. The city has an unbeatable festival vibe, and is second to none in the summertime, especially this year, as the city celebrates its 375th! As the city thaws, it becomes a vibrant, diverse, cultural hub and is North America’s number one host city for international events. Between the european charm, unparalleled nightlife, arts, culture, and world class restaurants- Montreal makes the perfect stomping grounds for Startupfest. Hotels are in high demand this year! Book your travel NOW to ensure the cheapest rate.

Coming to Startupfest

Presented By:
In Partnership With:
fasken-martineau Resize_QB_IntuitLogo_Horiz_RGB_reverse montreal gouv-quebec gouv-canadaIn Collaboration With:
bdo tourisme-montreal karibu arsenault
About Startupfest
Past speakers
Coming to Startupfest
The Tent Village
Get Involved
Apply to Pitch Onstage
Apply to Speak
Become a Tent Champion
The Starving Startup – Patron Program
Roadtrips to Startupfest
Open House Day 2017
Sponsors, Partners and Friends
Contact Us
Registration: Montreal 2017
Code of Conduct
Premium Fests
Premium Fests
Startupfest Version Française

Vent Over Tea in the Gazette! (McGill Dobson Cup winner 2016)

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 08:54
Montreal’s Vent Over Tea is free service offering empathetic listener CHARLIE FIDELMAN, MONTREAL GAZETTE
More from Charlie Fidelman, Montreal Gazette
Published on: June 13, 2017 | Last Updated: June 13, 2017 6:00 AM EDT

When Montrealers Chloe Chow and Sarah Fennessey were undergraduate students of psychology at McGill University, they waited months for an appointment with a campus mental health counsellor.

“This was incredibly frustrating, but I knew I was far from alone,” recalled Chow. “The wait room during exam time had people crying.”

As the Montreal Gazette reported last month, universities across the country are facing a mental-health crisis on campus  because of an explosion in demands for services from students who feel hopeless, depressed and suicidal. Also, campus resources mirror challenges seen in the public health-care system at large. Demands for help far outstrip availability of services.

Frustration over lack of accessible resources for students who just want to talk to someone, “a real human, in person,” prompted Chow and Fennessey, now with degrees in psychology, to create Vent Over Tea. It’s a free service that pairs people who need to vent with an empathetic listener, in any café in the city, as quickly as the next day.

“It’s in a casual and approachable environment, meetings take place in cafés so to an outside observer it looks like two friends catching up,” Chow said. Meetings usually last about an hour, and that’s it — no follow-up or strings attached, just one hour of authentic human connection, she said.

“I started this service because it was something I wished existed while I was in university,” Fennessey said. “I wanted there to be an outlet for people whose problems ‘weren’t serious enough’ for immediate support at McGill mental health.

“I wanted a service for those who were struggling, but didn’t necessarily have a mental illness or need professional help. If only there was a way to find a great listener, removed from your network of friends and family, who would be willing to lend an hour of their time to just listen to you vent.”

Vent Over Tea, which last year won the annual McGill startup competition, is not a replacement for mental health therapy that psychiatrists and psychologists can deliver. But the response has been wonderful, Chow said, because finding community is harder in a big city compared to a small town.

About three to five people a week contact Vent Over Tea to get something off their chests. “Ventees” book online, selecting a time and a café, and then a volunteer confirms via email.

Chow and Fennessey screen potential volunteers who apply online. “We choose people we would feel comfortable talking to, and being vulnerable with,” Chow said.

Volunteers are trained in workshops to be active listeners. Some people come to the service seeking advice or solutions to their problems, but that’s not the role of Vent Over Tea. Chow and Fennessey teach volunteers to “redirect so people come to their own conclusions,” Chow said.

Vent Over Tea is a drop in the bucket considering the need for services, even for a sympathetic ear.

The Canadian Psychological Association is calling on all provinces to make access to psychological services a priority.

The association is concerned that such services are not covered adequately through public health plans and private insurance, said Dr. Karen Cohen, CPA’s CEO.

“There are huge wait lists and part of the problem is how we fund health care,” Cohen said in a telephone interview. “Some plans only cover mental health with few hundred dollars. It’s like saying, ‘Here’s 10 cents, go buy a loaf of bread.’”

Last year, local mental health groups circulated a petition that garnered 3,000 signatures calling for the government of Quebec to add psychotherapy to the basket of health and social services.

“People have no access unless they have insurance, or they are rich,” Ella Amir, executive director of AMI Quebec (Action on Mental Illness) said last February.

There are other free services similar to the one provided by Chow and Fennessey in an attempt to fill a gap. For example, in Montreal, Centre de Relation d’Aide de Montréal, which trains relationship therapists, will offer a series of 10 free sessions with students (under supervision) who are in their final years of study.

The centre’s therapists-in-training use a “creative non-directive approach ,” explained the Centre’s Émilie Girard Paquette, also a therapist. The method helps clients find their own ways to solutions for such issues as grief, job loss and broken hearts, she said. “Mental health problems are beyond our capacity and we refer to medical professionals.”

There are also mobile telephone applications that can help combat chronic stress, for example iSMART, developed by the Université de Montreal.

As for Chow and Fennessey, they’re about to embark on a two month bus tour in the United States to gauge interest in starting Vent Over Tea in other cities.

“The most important element of  Vent Over Tea is the accessibility of support,” Fennessey said. “You can book the next day, and get everything off your chest.”

McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 2 (2017)

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 16:29


Welcome to Week 2 of the the McGill X-1 Accelerator!

  • Hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the McGill X-1 Accelerator is an intensive 10-week summer program between June 5th and August 11th designed to accelerate later stage McGill startups towards investment readiness and launch, until the Demo Days which will take place in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City in Fall of 2017.

The focus this week was on Customer & Market segmentation, here are some of the highlights.

Kicking Week 2 off with Luc Giguère from @CentechMTL giving a talk to our McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 cohort! #entrepreneurship #mcgill

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) June 12, 2017

Luc Giguere who’s an entrepreneur-in-residence Centech came in to give a general talk about entrepreneurship and marketing:

  • Marketing: Measure everything, all the time (then use the data to make decisions and take action – data without action is useless)
  • The “expressed need” (what the client says first) is not always what the client wants. Find the real need (what the client really wants to say). How? Ask questions and just listen.

Disciplined Entrepreneurship Workshop #2 by @renjie and @ayammaher at @mcgillu. Thanks to @EshipMIT for the guidance! #Entrepreneurship

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) June 14, 2017

We also continued working through the Disciplined Entrepreneurship workbook with the cohort, specifically on the sections that cover Market Segmentation.

Mike Ross from Juniper came in to lead a Design thinking workshop. Design thinking is a methodology for coming up with creative solutions, that can be broken down into 5 steps.

  • 5 steps: Learn, Frame, Create, Build, Iterate
      • Learn: empathize, observe, ask. Iceberg top is observable behaviors. Bottom is preferences, knowledge, beliefs, values.
      • We talked about using in-depth interviews with potential customers to see who they really are below the surface and what drives them. Getting to know them at a deep level will help you understand how best to design a product for them. 

Fantastic #DesignThinking workshop this afternoon led by @mikerossca @JadeVaill and Scott from @JuniperAdvisers with the #McGillX1 startups

— renjie butalid (@renjie) June 14, 2017

In this week’s Grilled by CEO, we had Randeep Singh come in – he’s a cofounder at AON3D, which makes industrial 3D printers. He grilled each team on their pitch, and he also did some Q&A at the end.

  • He mentioned “It’s okay to set a large, arbitrary goal not based off of anything. Angel investors will often throw a number at you to see you scramble to reach it and sometimes, even if you reach it halfway, that can be a substantial achievement.” He also mentioned you have to almost have an annoying level of confidence, to break investors out of autopilot and show them how large the potential of your startup is.

That’s it for now, we’ll see you back here for week 3!

Thanks to Randeep Singh – founder of @AON3D and @ycombinator alum., for participating in our 2nd #X1GrilledbyCEO session for 2017!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) June 15, 2017

Our very own Ashwaq Al-Hashedi (2D-CrystaLab) was named Mitacs’ Outstanding Entrepreneur!

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:20

TORONTO, June 8, 2017 /CNW/ – Six up-and-coming Canadian entrepreneurs received recognition, and a total of $25,000, for their groundbreaking industry contributions that are helping to improve the lives of Canadians. They were awarded at the 2017 Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards tonight at MaRs Discovery District in Toronto.

Mitacs launched the awards in 2015 as a way to celebrate start-up companies founded by outstanding former Mitacs interns, postdoctoral fellows, and training participants, who have gone on to lead their respective fields as independent business owners.

Applicants for the 2017 Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards were evaluated according to their ability to demonstrate sound business planning, entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to continued excellence in research and innovation.

The 2017 Mitacs Entrepreneur Award winners are:

Next 150 Entrepreneur: Yaser Roshan, a former PhD student at Simon Fraser University and co-founder of Vancouver-based Ophthalight Digital Solutions, a company whose first-of-its-kind eye exam headset makes it possible to administer routine tests quickly, accurately and remotely — a first for teleophthalmology — and helps with early detection and prevention of diseases such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and eye cancer. The company’s flagship product, O-Glass, will be available in the Middle East this summer and in Canada by the end of the year.

Social Entrepreneur: Arash Samimi, a former PhD student at Queen’s University and co-founder of the Toronto-based Livelihood Project, a not-for profit organization that has developed a state-of-the-art, science-backed career coach app. The technology helps refugees and under-skilled workers find meaningful, long-term employment in today’s challenging work environment where jobs are at risk due to advances in automation. The company’s innovative program includes mobile technology that works like a Fitbit to keep people on track with their career goals, and shifts the mindset of employment services from job matching to job readiness.

Global Impact Entrepreneur: Asha Srinivasan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia and co-founder of Vancouver-based Boost Environmental Systems, a company that is working to safeguard the world’s water quality through the commercialization of a novel approach to treating dairy farm manure and sewage sludge. Called IMPACT, the breakthrough technology is solving urgent problems facing the worldwide agricultural and wastewater treatment industries and is positioning Canada as a frontrunner is clean tech solutions for sustainable waste management.

Outstanding Entrepreneur: Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University and co-founder of 2D-CrystaLab, a company that is working to improve dental health among seniors through the commercialization of advanced toothpastes that prevent infection and improve long-term hygiene of tooth implants and dentures. The toothpastes use a food-grade nanomaterial — developed in partnership with scientists at Université de Montréal and Harvard University — that is 20,000 times thinner than a human hair but that has shown to be more effective at cleaning dental implants compared to existing conventional toothpastes. The product is a first-of-its-kind in North America and represents a breakthrough innovation in dental implant hygiene.

Change Agent Entrepreneurs: Ilyass Tabiai and Rolland Delorme, PhD students at École Polytechnique de Montréal and co-founders of 3D TRIP, a company that specializes in 3D printing. Capitalizing on the rapidly growing 3D printing industry, 3D TRIP is developing new advanced polymers and composites that will help companies to advance 3D printing of plastic materials from prototype to production line.

Alejandro Adem, CEO and Scientific Director, Mitacs
“Mitacs is building on Canada’s strengthened commitment to technology and innovation by continuing to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Our programs equip researchers with the career skills they need to successfully transfer breakthrough technologies, community and educational improvements, and environmental solutions from the lab to the business world.”

Quick facts:

  • Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 17 years to support industrial and social innovation in Canada.
  • Mitacs’ research internship programs connect graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with industry and not-for-profit partners for collaborations supervised by faculty.
  • Mitacs acknowledges the Government of Canada, along with Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support.

SOURCE Mitacs Inc.

Strategic plan 2021: For a more innovative, cleaner and inclusive Quebec economy

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 09:00

Canada is the fastest developing nation in the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) both in terms of population and economy, so you’re probably wondering: “How will this affect startups?”

Well, the CED (Canadian Economic Development) has a plan prepared on how the country will allocate some of this growth towards fostering sustainable innovation, specifically in Quebec.

Their Strategic Plan 2021 sets out CED’s key directions until 2021. They plan to focus on innovation, clean growth, economic diversity and the development of a more inclusive economy.

  1. Innovation: Support growing and innovative businesses.
  2. Cleantech: Support businesses and regions participating in a clean-growth economy.
  3. Economic diversity: Support communities to foster their economic diversification and their participation in an inclusive economy.
  4. Inclusive: Foster the participation of Indigenous peoples in CED programs and the economic growth of Quebec.

Click here for the full plan!

Strategic plan 2021 at a glance: Top priorities are on innovation, cleantech, economic diversity, and inclusivity.


McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 1 (2017)

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 10:03



Welcome to the Week 1 Recap of the the McGill X-1 Accelerator. Before we jump into what happened, let’s first summarize what the X-1 involves.

Hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the McGill X-1 Accelerator is an intensive 10-week summer program designed to accelerate later stage McGill startups towards investment readiness and launch.It’s going to take place from June 5 to August 11, 2017, prepping for the Demo Days which will take place in Montreal, Boston, and San Francisco in Fall 2017.

Some of the benefits include:

  • $5,000 available for each eligible co-founder based on milestones achieved
  • Dedicated startup space available all summer at McGill.
  • World-class mentorship and resources
  • Opportunity to pitch to investors at Demo Days in Montreal, Boston and San Francisco.


The focus this week was: Value proposition & Team-building


Day 1:

The cohort came in for breakfast, we introduced them to the program, everybody in the cohort met each other for the first time, we showed them their space, did some quick icebreakers, had lunch, and let them start working.


Day 2:

Jean-Nicolas Delage came in to talk at legals. He’s a partner at Fasken-Martineau, which helps startups from pre incorporation all the way to exit. Startup package includes incorporation and organization for share and being VC-ready, along with 2 hours of free consultation per month and all the templates you need to jumpstart your legals.

3 simple rules to use IP to your benefit:

  • Own what you say you own with clear assignment language in contracts
  • Spend your first dollars on trademarks.
  • Keep your house in order
    • Store your documents
    • Document your Open Source Policy

We also introduced the cohort to the Disciplined Entrepreneurship workbook by Bill Aulet, which uses his framework developed at MIT – this is going to be an extremely valuable companion for the startups throughout the accelerator as a roadmap that asks them to actively think through their processes and answer difficult questions.

Day 3:

Lisa Cohen gave a talk on team – extremely important. The way you hire & fire can literally make or break your team)

TMPF meetings: Internal X-1 team had meetings with each startup to really dig deep into what their goals are and how we can help achieve them. Each week, we’ll be holding internal meetings with the startups talking about the team, their market, their product, and their financials.

Day 4: 

Thibaud Marechal who first developed the X-1 after visiting MIT, came in to give a talk and a workshop on value proposition. He helped the teams come up with good answers as to why their product matters, why they’re credible, why now, and why people should join their cause.


Day 5:  

First Grilled by CEO session: Helge Seetzen (TandemLaunch) listened to each pitch and grilled them on their weaknesses. 

Helge’s takeaway: Manage risk. If you take risk in one area, be damn sure you’re minimizing it in other areas. For example, if you’re taking an R&D risk by making a brand new technology, don’t take market risks. 

There is such thing as unnecessary creativity. Take risks in the area where there’s huge reward. But it’s a smart move to be conventional and follow pre-existing templates in others.

That’s it for this week, we’ll see you back here for week 2.

Innovating with McGill: Additive Manufacturing – New materials and production methods

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 08:21
are pleased to invite you to a BREAKFAST CONFERENCE on: INNOVATING WITH MCGILL:
New materials and production methods Thursday, June 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. GUEST SPEAKERS Damiano Pasini, Ph.D., M.Eng. Professor, McGill Univ., Dept. of Mechanical Engineering Damiano’s main research thrust is the development of structures with controlled micro-architecture, where materials and/or space are optimally structured at the microscale to obtain unprecedented physical properties at the macroscale. His work finds a balance between fundamental and applied research, where Nature is often our object and source of inspiration. Joonphil Choi, Ph.D. Post-doctorate Researcher, McGill Univ., Dept. of Materials Engineering, Laboratory for Processing and Additive Manufacturing of Advanced Materials, led by Prof. Mathieu Brochu Joonphil is conducting processing-related research to increase the utilization and service performance of real-scale components fabricated from powder materials. His work focuses on preparation and synthesis of metallic powder and development of net-shaping technology of metallic powder including metal injection molding and additive manufacturing. Fiona Zhao, Ph.D., M.Eng. Assistant Professor, McGill Univ., Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
Director, Additive Design and Manufacturing Lab
Fiona’s research interests are focused on two central and connected themes, Sustainable Manufacturing and Additive Manufacturing (AM), to explore and discover applications for new and emerging additive manufacturing technologies, within a sustainable manufacturing perspective. Her research program includes the exploration of new multiscale and multidisciplinary design methods as well as part consolidation design for AM, the use of advanced technologies, and the integration of better computer software and metrology tools to improve production. Matt Kinsella, Ph.D., M.Sc. Assistant Professor, McGill Univ., Dept. of Bioengineering Matt’s research group has expertise in micro- and nanotechnologies for medical applications, applications of materials at the interface of the fields of Biology and Medicine, development of analytical and automated platforms for diagnosis, sensing, and monitoring of biological processes at the scales of molecules through tissues, and rapid prototyping technology for tissue constructs. Katya I. Marc, M.Eng., MBA McGill Univ., Industry Liaison Manager, the McGill EngInE Katya manages the McGill Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (EngInE) hub whose two-fold mission it to grow the R&D interactions between industry partners and the McGill’s Faculty of Engineering, and to encourage technological entrepreneurship through education, advice, mentoring, and funding. She has worked at McGill as a commercialisation and technology transfer officer, and has previous experience as an Industrial Technology Advisor with NRC-IRAP and as an engineer with Eastman. She holds bachelors and masters degrees in chemical engineering and an MBA, all from McGill University. OBJECTIVES

Is your business leveraging the extensive knowledge and creativity of Montreal’s unique university community to speed the development of your products?

Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing how we think about designing and producing new products. From customizing material properties or manufacturing biological tissue at the micro-scale, to rapid product prototyping, to mass product customization, to more material and energy efficient production of complex assemblies, these new technologies are triggering innovation in a vast array of applications ranging from surgical materials to prosthetics, from architectural and building materials through to jet engines.

Join us to learn how the multi-disciplinary talent at McGill University can be deployed to support your innovation.

The leaders of four McGill development teams focused on the technologies and applications of additive manufacturing will discuss their accomplishments in the field and their departments’ capabilities available to work on your specific projects.

Mrs. Katya Marc, McGill Industry Liaison manager, will discuss how McGill makes it easy for SME’s to work with McGill efficiently and effectively, with concrete examples of work done in the past.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how you can take advantage of McGill’s resources and to connect, one-on-one, with the experts who can help you bring your new products to market faster.

AUDIENCE Managers and founders of start-up and emerging companies LOCATION CEIM
20 Queen Street, 3rd floor
Montreal QC H3C 2M7 RSVP

Free entrance but registration is mandatory.

Nicole Bigras
Tel: (514) 866-0575, extension 200

Montreal tech company Oohlala Mobile tackles college-dropout problem

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 08:53
JUNE 1, 2017 5:47 PM

The problem with university is that it’s easy to drop out.

In Canada, up to 20 per cent of college students ditch school, according to the most recent post-secondary dropout rates. In the U.S., more than 30 per cent of first-year college students drop out.

Stress forms the foundation of most students’ reasons to leave — financial stress, emotional stress, bad grades and conflicts between school, work and family obligations. What’s clear from the attrition rates is that somewhere in the university pipeline, there is a failure to catch students before they drop out.

Danial Jameel has some theories about how, why and where in the university process students disengage. As the founder of a Montreal-based software company called Oohlala Mobile that makes university engagement apps, Jameel believes his solution will help straighten out the kinks in the pipeline and keep students in class.

Originally from Pakistan, Jameel came to Canada in 2005 to study economics and political science at the University of Toronto. He dived into student life: He lived in a dorm, chatted with his resident advisers, consulted a guidance counsellor and got involved in student politics. But, Jameel says, not every student has the desire or the ability to navigate universities’ sprawling bureaucracies and parse out services and activities relevant to them.

“When I was at (the University of Toronto) I was involved with student unions, and one of the biggest goals that we had were engaging freshman students. How do you engage them? How do you make sure they feel part of the community?” Jameel asks. “The problem from students’ perspectives is that everything is fragmented.”

That experience eventually led him and co-founders Alice Dinu, Peter Cen and James Dang to develop software that unifies and centralizes university information, events, resources and other student must-knows and presents it in a user-friendly app. The first iteration of their company, developed in the U of T basement, focused on social media within a college context. After moving to Montreal in 2012 to join the FounderFuel startup accelerator program, the founders worked to refine its focus on the student-university relationship.

Oohlala is now focused on helping students feel connected to their institutions, their peers and their professors. The company works with more than 200 postsecondary institutions, including Harvard Law School, Rutgers University and McGill University.

Although Jameel was tight-lipped over profits and the cost of the software, American tech-news site TechCrunch reported in 2016 that “the company charges $50,000 across a total addressable market of 60,000 schools — or a $3B potential market” and that “the company has around $1.5 million in annual recurring revenue and tripled in size year over year.” Though it’s a revenue-positive business, Oohlala recently took a venture-capital investment of $5.3 million to help evolve its product and grow its customer base.

Some of the features Oohlala has developed for customers include wake-up alarms, campus maps, forums, student housing and job boards and security notifications (its app helped direct students during the 2015 Paris attacks). Students can also consult the app to, for example, find out more about physical, sexual and mental health issues and where on campus to get help.

In 2014, McGill became one of Oohlala’s earliest customers. Like with most institutions, it had been grappling with how to improve its online presence. Ollivier Dyens, McGill’s deputy provost of student life and learning, says the McGill website had been built organically over time — meaning modules were added on an as-needed basis, and not particularly well-integrated with the overall site. “Sometimes finding information on our website takes time,” he says.

McGill hired Oohlala to help the university streamline access to its services, in turn reducing student anxiety and clearing administrative bottlenecks. The original thought, says Dyens, was that most of the low-intensity questions would be answered by the app — “so students would get 24/7 access to a lot of the questions that are still stressful for them but are low-intensity (for us to answer).”

According to Oohlala, the app had a 95 per cent adoption rate among McGill’s first-year students. The company is currently working on the McGill app to include access to course information and homework assignments, as well as allow students to give feedback on university events and services.

Although Dyens says attrition at McGill is low — 84 per cent of students there graduate within a six-year span — Jameel says Oohlala has helped curb attrition at other postsecondary institutions. In an April press release, the company announced that its pilot at Kentucky’s Lindsey Wilson College had reduced the first-year dropout rate by 17 per cent. “Since introducing Oohlala on campus, we have seen an immediate uptick in our first-year semester-over-semester retention rate,” Lindsey Wilson College dean Chris Schmidt said in the release.

Improving student retention is a major selling point for Oohlala. Colleges and universities want to keep students in school for financial reasons — especially at high-tuition institutions — as well as societal ones. “Having a student who’s taken a loan — because most students take loans and have debt — and they have debt but they don’t have a degree, that’s a huge cost to society. That’s how we see it and how the institutions see it,” Jameel says.

Tracey Lindeman, Special to the Montreal Gazette.

Recap: Payments Canada Summit (FinTech)

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 08:30

Editor’s Note: From May 24 to May 26, 2017 Payments Canada held the 2017 Edition of the Payments Canada Summit. We sent our writer Amir Nosrat, who is doing his PhD in Strategy at McGill University and is interested in FinTech, to learn more. Here’s a recap of what he got out of the event, along with his personal commentary.

Hi, Amir over here. In this blog post, I will be talking to you about all the exciting things I learned at the 2017 Payments Canada Summit. I know that sounds like a hard sell, but essentially Payments Canada is going through a big facelift and that is great news for people who want to become involved with startups in the financial services industry – or FinTechs. But before we get there, I need to provide you with some context.

Check out these highlights from the #PayCanSUMMIT 2017! ⚡️

— The SUMMIT (@thesummit) May 26, 2017

First, I want you to know that I knew nothing, nada, zilch about FinTechs or financial services before I attended the summit. I’m a PhD student at McGill who studies the impact of climate risk in energy sector investments. The reason I ended up attending the summit is because I’m trying to learn about FinTechs in Canada and about the most cutting-edge developments in Canada’s financial sector. I’m actually taking a 3-day break from my thesis to do this. This collaboration has been incredibly fun and rewarding and I encourage you to reach out to the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship if you want to find events and opportunities to learn more about a particular topic or industry.

It took me 15 minutes to realize “Wow – the payments sector is really the backbone of the global economy and I should pay attention to how things are changing here.”

I have to be honest: when I first heard about payments, my first reaction was “Wow, this is really boring”. But it only took me 15 minutes to realize “Wow – the payments sector is really the backbone of the global economy and I should pay attention to how things are changing here”. What’s more is that Canada is just on the starting edge of a big wave of change in how financial transactions are done which essentially means there’s lots of great opportunities for FinTechs to step in here. What I hope to do, through this blog post, is to walk you through my findings at the summit and share some nuggets of info for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to operate in this area.

Project Jasper: Are Distributed Wholesale Payment Systems Feasible Yet? #fintech #Blockchain #PayCanSummit

— Bank of Canada (@bankofcanada) May 25, 2017

Which leads us to the second piece of context – for this blog post to make sense, we need to have a common understanding of what the payments sector does. Simply put – the payments sector makes sure that value from one individual is successfully transferred to another individual in exchange for some product or service. Let’s reflect on this for a moment. Imagine that you want to buy a thousand potatoes for $500 dollars. Now those are some premium potatoes. You whip up your cheque and hand it over to the potato farmer who then puts the money in their bank account and both of you very quickly move on with your lives. Now – unbeknownst to you and the potato farmer – there  was a VERY complicated legal and technical system which made sure that value in the form of $500 dollars leave your property domain and ended up in the potato farmer’s property domain. How did you guys agree to transact in this way? It’s because you both fundamentally trust the checking system here in Canada.

This is important to take note: in order to exchange value, you need some trust mechanism. You and the potato former have implicitly relied on a really complicated trust mechanism that makes sure the right value is transferred in a safe and secure manner from you to the potato farmer. The payments sector is essentially that system – they are in the business of designing and enforcing various trust mechanisms that ensures value gets transferred from its rightful source to its rightful destination. In fact, they are so good at what they do that they do this for nearly $3 million every second. I’m pretty sure I haven’t generated $3 million in my entire lifetime.

Now checking is only one form of payment. We have cards, e-payments, wires, etc. Every country has some entity that tries to prevent these payment systems from breaking down. In Canada, federal legislation has empowered an association of banks and other financial service providers with this task. That entity is Payments Canada. They are a not-for-profit organization based out of Ottawa with the legitimacy to convene and coordinate all the stakeholders in the Canadian payments ecosystem to make sure Canadian individuals and business can transact with each other and the rest of the world.

Depending on who you talk to, Payments Canada is the de facto regulatory body overseeing the payments sector or it’s the voice of the Canadian payments sector. Maybe it’s a bit of both. If you didn’t know – which I’m pretty sure you didn’t – Payments Canada is pushing for a major ‘modernization’ effort. Modernization has become so important that, according to one employee of Payments Canada, the modernization team has grown from a few dozen to nearly half the organization over the last 2 years. I’m not really sure anybody knows what modernization exactly entails but you can try reading this really serious neo-propaganda document to make sense of it for yourself.

The Payments Canada Summit is Canada’s largest payments conference and 2017’s defining event for payments, Blockchain, and Digital ID.

Great – now that we’re on the same page, let’s talk about some important innovation trends that are going to be important for aspiring FinTechs to pay attention to, especially as it relates to this big modernization push. Here’s what I did to arrive at these findings. I listened to a whole bunch of panels  and talked with dozens of participants and asked every single person I met on where they thought the payments sector would go under modernization and how entrepreneurs could ride this wave.

In short, I found three key trends that are really shaping future of the Canadian payments sector. I also looked into early stage startups that participated in the FinTech Cup and saw very clearly how they are riding these three trends. As I’m going to talk about each trend, I will also be showcasing how each startup is in fact a solution to problems associated with these trends.

1. Transactions need to get faster

First stop: speedy transactions. Let me begin by emphasizing that EVERY SINGLE PERSON I talked to brought this up in one shape or another. So if there’s anything you walk away with, let it be this: FinTechs can bring a lot of value by figuring out how to make payments quicker without compromising security of that transaction. Why? Because there is an unbelievable amount of consumer demand for quick and painless financial transactions. Think about it – if you had to pick between the clunky process of settling a debt with a taxi driver and the the near seamless money-grab by Uber – which would it be? (Hint: you’d go for the near seamless money-grab by Uber).

But to make payments quicker is no walk in the park, which is great news for FinTechs. There’s essentially two bottlenecks in payment processing speed. The first is the ‘clearing’ process. This is like payments purgatory. You’re not quite settled but, you and whoever your transacted with can move on with your lives while the real underlying value is being moved to and from your property domain. That underlying value movement where money is physically moved from one place to the next is called ‘settling’, the second bottleneck. Currently, Canadian banks settle once a day using the ‘Large Value Transfer System’, while they clear individual transactions using the ‘Automated Clearing Settlement System’. Remember the potato farmer? The cheque you gave to the farmer was the user end of a large clearing system which would then take a couple of days to settle between your bank and the potato farmer’s bank. It’s more complicated than it needs to be, I know.

Here’s the thing, Payments Canada knows the sector can do better and they are pushing to completely overhaul this clearing and settling system and move towards instantaneous payments by 2019! That’s really quick and will probably not happen in time. Regardless, this means you as a FinTech have a lot of work to do to make sure that the process of instantaneous clearing and settling is smooth and effective. Essentially, if you can figure out how to make payments for a particular demographic frictionless and secure, then you’ve got money in the bag, my friend. You’re probably wondering, ‘don’t credit cards already that?’ Uhhhh, yes and no. They are essentially taking advantage of the incredibly painstaking clearing and settling process of most payment types (think cheques, wires, money transfers etc.). Credit cards make the experience of transacting very easy (though not completely frictionless), while charging businesses (and by extension, consumers) exorbitant fees to transact. But all of that is going to change because payments is going to get so easy that we won’t really need credit cards as much as we used to. Credit card companies know this and are well underway in diversifying their business models.

As a FinTech, there are two areas that you can bring value to this modernization push. First, you can help reduce friction in a payment process (i.e. on the clearing side instead of on the settling side). Second, you can make sure that those transactions remain secure despite becoming quicker.

Shout out to @scottldwalker for bringing home the #fintechcup! #PayCanSummit

— (@finnforbanks) May 26, 2017

Let’s look at a couple of the startups who are very much focused on these two fronts. Payment Rails, which won second place in the People’s Choice award for the 2017 FinTech Cup is essentially catering to the freelancing/small business community’s payments need by integrating all the different payments systems across the world into one seamless experience for the user. If you’re a small business, you have a lot of transactions to deal with and no time. Essentially, Payment Rails does a great job at getting payments out of the way for the freelancing/small business end-user. They are in the business of creating frictionless and fast payments for a particular demographic.

Now let’s look at Zighra, which also got to present at the FinTech Cup. They are essentially integrating multiple data classes – biometrics, behaviour, social networks, etc. – to make sure that if and when a payment is made, it’s done very quickly at a level of security that no current technology can do. These guys are very much covering the digital security aspects of making payments transaction quicker. As a FinTech, these guys are in the business of making sure that payments are safe as everything is becoming instantaneous and digital.

Enough about speed – let’s move on.

The event was filled with valuable keynote speakers, and expert panelists.

2. Data-rich transactions need to be tamed

Second stop: data. This section is particularly pertinent to all you artificial intelligence geeks out there in Montreal. Not only are payments getting faster, but they are becoming impregnated with data. Which means someone’s got to figure out how stay on top of them. Currently, the amount of information embedded in a payment is about the same as a Twitter post. But there has been a push by banking clients to install more data-intensive payment systems compatible with ISO 20022. Yep – it’s as boring as it sounds. But what you really need to know is that the the ISO standard, when implemented, transforms the Twitter-sized payment data into a transaction LOADED with data which presents all sorts of opportunity for AI applications.

But I have to point out that not everybody was as gung-ho about data enrichment as they were about transaction. This could be partly due to previously failed attempts at enriching transactions with data. In Europe, for example, ISO 20022 has been mandated by legislation because payment system clients initially were not interested in spending their time and money on this standard. In Canada, on the other hand, ISO 20022 uptake has been driven by private actors. But even putting aside ISO 20022, the financial sector has become overwhelmed with a patchwork of different data oceans… and they’re not quite sure how to deal with it all. Think about it – 20 years ago, all that banks could know about a payment was its immediate origin and destination, and any basic identity information related to the parties involved. Now, they can pin down who is the ultimate debtor, who is the ultimate creditor, who their friends are, who they’ve done business with, what their credit rating is, etc. The payments sector is essentially going to do financial transactions as to what Facebook has done to our individual identities – we are analyzed with hundreds of data points that we don’t even know about ourselves.  The point is that data is taking over the financial sector in an exponential manner and those poor banks need lots of help stay on top of it.

You can be sure that there are already a whole bunch of FinTechs who are riding this data wave. MindBridge, who won the first place for the people’s choice award, are essentially using artificial intelligence to detect fraud. Now that’s bold, but it’s the type of strategy that a FinTech can use to help bankers deal with all the data they’re being drowned with. Consider, which won the actual cup (not selected by lowly people, but by VC heavy judges). These guys essentially enhance the banking industry’s ability to manage their interaction with customers by using – guess what – artificial intelligence! How about Cerebri, third place amongst the plebeians? They’re also using artificial intelligence (what a surprise!). The take-away here is that the banking industry is thirsty for solutions that can help them stay on top of the sea of data and if you are an AI dudess or dude, then you better be figuring out how to satiate that thirst.

There were also various FinTech startups set-up advertising their work.

3. The inevitable turbulence of Blockchain technology

Third and final stop: Blockchain revolution. Had Karl Marx been alive in 2017, he would have probably attributed the inevitable fall of the bourgeoisie to Blockchains instead of the working class. Now, I don’t want to suggest that the banking elite will actually fall, but I would dare say that Blockchain technology is to banks as the internet was to communication companies. The big banks of today are like the Nortels and AT&T’s of the 1990s and they’re eventually get going to pushed aside by the banking industry equivalent of Yahoo!s, Facebooks and Googles. The scary part is that while there is lots of talk about banks becoming disrupted by Blockchains, we can’t even conceive exactly how this will happen. As any good academic would do, I’d like to point out that I don’t really think Blockchain technology is really necessarily going to make things better or worse (whatever those things mean). They’ll just make things different. Think about the internet. We can go on and on about its benefits and disadvantages, but we can only agree on one point – that it really changed things.

Here’s why I think this. You probably have heard of Blockchain technology through the now popular digital currency, BitCoin, and its crazy anonymous inventor(s), Satoshi Nakamoto. Lots of people talk about BitCoin and the various problems associated with that currency. We’re not interested in BitCoin here because it is the wrong pony. It’s the technology behind BitCoin, Blockchains, that are really going to shake things up. Let’s go back to your transaction with the potato farmer. When you gave away the cheque, you and the potato farmer relied on the bankers to deal with the impossible task of moving value from your property domain to that of the farmer’s. But imagine for a second that you didn’t need the bank. You and the potato farmer and all the other potato farmers and potato buyers could independently verify that the potatoes were exchanged for a mutually accepted value. None of you need the bank anymore (at least in its current format), rather you depend on each other to determine whether or not the transaction and all other transactions were legit. Instead of the bank, your potato trading community is now enforcing the trust mechanism and not the bank. Et voila – your relationship with the banking sector is now fundamentally changed, i.e. you don’t need them anymore in their current format.

If this potato farmer thing isn’t working out for you, go check out this IBM boilerplate on Blockchain. Also – if you need someone to evangelize Blockchain for you, I recommend “Blockchain Revolution”. The author, Dan Tapscott, who wrote the book in collaboration with Alex Tapscott, his son, was the keynote speaker at the summit, which suggests that there are a lot of people thinking about how to integrate Blockchains into the financial system. The Blockchain trend isn’t as imminent as the first two trends, but I do want to point out that there are a LOT of people in the banking sector who are keeping an eye on this technology. And one of the interesting features of some innovations is that if a community thinks about something long enough, it kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Blockchain could be one of those self-fulfilling innovations where we don’t really know what the hype is about but we’re going to do it anyway because everybody is moving in that direction. If you want to be a part of a FinTech in this space, you have to think hard about how things will be different with Blockchain and how you want to end up on the winning side of that different thing. won the FinTech Cup 2017; Mindbridge won the People’s Choice Award this year.

Rest assured, we have FinTechs in this space already. One of the FinTech Cup participants was the one and only Nuco. These guys are essentially building a commercial platform on top of blockchain code, Ethereum. If Ethereum is C++, Nuco is kind of like Microsoft. They enable businesses to use this technology in a variety of applications. These guys are in the business of rolling out bitcoin applications to different markets. Just last week, TMX announced they will be using Nuco to apply Blockchain to their natural gas commodity trading to “cut costs and reduce paperwork.” I’m willing to wager a few BitCoins that they won’t be the last to sign up for Blockchain technology.

Wow. Uplifted and inspired after @jpilbauer‘s closing remarks. Must watch!@thesummit @PaymentsCanada @AequilibriumInc #PayCanSummit

— Dorfam Mirgharavi (@dmirgharavi) May 25, 2017

A Guide to Incubators

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 09:00
Incubators are sprouting up everywhere. Would you know how to pick the right one for your business project? Our country is becoming a hotbed for entrepreneurship, with a whole ecosystem developing to support it. Business incubators illustrate this trend and are multiplying in Montreal. However, each has its own characteristics. Here is a guide to help you make the right choice, with tips from Christian Perron, Executive Director of PME MTL, a network of experts in financing that supports entrepreneurs in the city.

GradeSlam, Founder Institute announce new MTL edtech Fellowship grant

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 18:00
By Joseph Czikk
Published on May 19, 2017 Phil Cutler is bullish on Montreal’s future as an educational technology hub. He thinks a “revolution” is coming in edtech, saying Montreal’s growth over the past 16 months within this space has planted the roots for a healthy future.Just this week, Cutler’s GradeSlam and the internationally-known Founder Institute accelerator program together announced the MTL Edtech Fellowship, essentially a US $3,000 grant that pays for one Montreal-based edtech company to attend Founder Institute Montreal. It’s worth mentioning that Founder Institute takes equity in teams, but the program now possesses a strong track-record in preparing startups for selection at some of the best accelerator programs in North America.“There is momentum and support behind this and we need to give those entrepreneurs the tools to succeed,” Cutler told MTLinTECH. “GradeSlam relied heavily on the Montreal startup ecosystem in our early days. Now it’s our chance to give back and create the next generation of edtech entrepreneurs. Rising tides raises all boats: the more we have that the better its going to be.”Founder Institute Montreal managing director Sergio Escobar helped guide GradeSlam through the Techstars Startup Next pre-accelerator.

“I saw Phil’s passion and devotion working countless hours. It’s contagious and he’s solving a real problem,” said Escobar. “Through this edtech fellowship we want to inspire, identify, train and launch new edtech businesses. It’s good for business, but more importantly, it’s good for the society.”


Founded in 2014, GradeSlam is an educational technology company that powers “personalized learning” in schools.

According to Cutler, the new MTL Edtech Fellowship grant came about after several factors contributed to the city’s growth over the past year. GradeSlam raised nearly $2.5 million in funding, grants and awards in 2016, while Oohlala, a startup that develops mobile apps for universities with the goal of improving student retention and graduation rates, raised $5.3 million in series A money in January.

Cutler also lauded the success his own MTL EdTech presented by GradeSlam meetup, which has been gathering anywhere from 25 to 100 guests every month. Finally, at McGill University’s Dobson Cup competition this year, about at least 15 edtech student startups pitched.

To become a “hub” in anything requires much more overall success than what Montreal has experienced in edtech. Cutler told MTLinTECH that, like many industries in technology, the city still needs a couple big players to “catalyze the industry.”

Outside investment tends to follow the success of the big players, just liked we’ve seen in Montreal within the field of artificial intelligence and deep learning. But Cutler warned that the city still needs more collaboration within the ecosystem, calling it “fragmented.” Still, he hopes one day to see a major international edtech conference call Montreal home.

But perhaps the new MTL Edtech Fellowship grant can serve as a stepping stone for Cutler’s big dreams. The CEO said there’s too many favourable factors at play, including the city’s four top universities constantly churning out intelligent grads.

“For a long time edtech has seemed like this academic, very bland industry, but that’s changing quickly,” said Cutler. “The new possibilities in machine learning and AI innovation are very applicable here. There’s a lot of very cool, advanced stuff that’s happening. I’ve met a number of young edtech entrepreneurs and their ideas a really innovative – we’re talking really cool stuff that I’m quite bullish on. We have an opportunity right now.”

As for the future of learning, it’s another subject Cutler could discuss at length. Given his company’s success in the United States with its “personalized learning” approach for students, the CEO believes a revolution within the educational system is coming.

“It’s going to happen, it’s going to be painful and there’s going to be changes in the educational system. This stuff (like personalized learning) is coming, whether we like it or not. And I think its really exciting to be a part of a community that’s fostering these ideas. It’s going to be an exciting few years.”

How Montreal aims to become a World Centre of Artificial Intelligence

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 13:03

It might seem like an ambitious goal, but key players in Montreal’s rapidly growing artificial-intelligence sector are intent on transforming the city into a Silicon Valley of AI.

Certainly, the flurry of activity these days indicates that AI in the city is on a roll. Impressive amounts of cash have been flowing into academia, public-private partnerships, research labs and startups active in AI in the Montreal area.

And hopes are high that a three-day conference starting May 24 — AI Forum — will help burnish Montreal’s reputation as one of the world’s emerging AI advanced research centres and top talent pools in the suddenly very hot tech trend.

Topics and issues on the agenda include the evolution of AI in Montreal and the transformative impact AI can have on business, industry and the economy.

For example, researchers at Microsoft Corp. have successfully developed a computing system able to decipher conversational speech as accurately as humans do. The technology makes the same, or fewer, errors than professional transcribers and could be a huge boon to major users of transcription services like law firms and the courts.

Setting the goal of attaining the critical mass of a Silicon Valley is “a nice point of reference,” said tech entrepreneur Jean-François Gagné, co-founder and chief executive officer of Element AI, an artificial intelligence startup factory launched last year.


To read more, head over to

Gary Vaynerchuk was in Montreal and we met him – here’s what you missed!

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 12:05

Editor’s Note: Last Friday, Gary Vaynerchuk spoke at the InfluenceMTL  conference and we sent two of our writers to cover the event. After a full day of panels, Q&A sessions, and keynote speakers, Sharanya Venkatesh – one of our most prolific writers got to meet her hero – Gary V. Here’s what happened at the conference.

There’s a question that every novice entrepreneur has – “Where can I meet people to help me get ahead?”

And there’s one answer: Conferences.

Although many people try to connect with like-minded people and mentors through email, social media, or even cold calls, no technology is able to create the same depth of connection between two people you get through a real life meeting. That connection is exactly what gets participating entrepreneurs like Mariya Pampova so excited.

The panel we went to was centered around online branding for influencers.

The Online Branding for Influencers panel was composed of people like Chuck Lapointe (CEO of Narcity Media) Olivier Kult(Maison Privee), JP Shoiry (republik), and Milca Les Curls (Youtuber)

Everybody has a different take on it – here were some key takeaways:

Each person has a different touch – that’s what creates their following. If you try to influence everybody, you won’t reach anybody. – Olivier Kult(Maison Privee)

Pay attention to who the influencers are influencing. Is it 14 year old boys? Are those the followers that you want? – JP Shoiry (republik)

Tout est branding. A share, a photo, a comment, even a like – anything you do online becomes part of your brand and the image you project to others. – Chuck Lapointe (CEO of Narcity Media)

Chuck Lapointe (center) is the CEO of Narcity Media, of which MTL Blog is a subset.

Next, we went to watch a keynote by Daniele Henkel, whose company provides non-surgical products for the professional health and beauty industry.

Great keynote by @daniele_henkel during @influencemtl! #jsuisinmtl

A post shared by McGill Dobson Centre (@dobsoncentre) on May 22, 2017 at 4:37pm PDT

In between panels and keynotes, we hung out and met some of the startups that had set up their booths.

MaxyMedia is an online marketing platform specializing in Facebook advertising that helps you generate leads and find your target market.

EZ-Couture provides high quality custom menswear and accessories for the timeless gentleman.

Last but not least, Gary Vaynerchuk gave us the talk we all needed to hear.

Thanks for the amazing event! @influencemtl #jsuisinmtl . . . . . #mcgill #montreal #entrepreneur #dobsoncentre #socialmedia #socialmediamarketing #hustle #garyvee #mtl

A post shared by McGill Dobson Centre (@dobsoncentre) on May 20, 2017 at 5:13pm PDT

Here were the key takeaways from Gary’s talk:

  1. “Know your shit.” – Work on your craft, that’s the best way you can become an influencer.
  2. Google “How do I build an Alexa skill” to futureproof your skillset
  3. Everybody will be consuming way more audio this next decade, so get started on your podcast – it’s a timeless medium

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:300px;}
/* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.
We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */
Want us to fill you in on other cool entrepreneurship events in Montreal? Subscribe below! * indicates required Email Address *

Email Format

  • html
  • text

(function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';fnames[1]='FNAME';ftypes[1]='text';fnames[2]='LNAME';ftypes[2]='text';fnames[3]='MMERGE3';ftypes[3]='text';fnames[4]='MMERGE4';ftypes[4]='text';fnames[5]='TEXTYUI_3';ftypes[5]='text';fnames[6]='TEXTAREAY';ftypes[6]='text';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true);

Silicon Valley on the St. Lawrence River?

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 11:45

Posted on Monday, May 15, 2017

Leading academic institutions and businesses form new committee to create a strategic plan to further the development of Artificial Intelligence

By McGill Reporter Staff

At a news conference earlier today (May 15, 2017), it was announced that the Quebec government is investing $100 million over the next five years to plan how to make Quebec a world leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

At the conference, presided over by co-director of McGill’s Reasoning and Learning Lab, Joëlle Pineau, Premier Philippe Couillard announced the creation of a blue ribbon 12-member orientation committee co-chaired by Pierre Boivin, president and CEO of Claridge, and Université de Montréal rector Guy Breton. The committee will develop the strategic plan for a pan Quebec Artificial Intelligence Hub. “We have the talent, we have the savoir-faire,” the premier told a gathering of media and stake holders.

“In Quebec, as elsewhere in the world, the 21st century will witness a wave of deep-seated changes whose scope we are only beginning to grasp. In this context, Quebec must participate in this new economy and knowledge-based society and turn new challenges into opportunities,” continued Premier Couillard. “The establishment of a cluster will position Montréal and Québec City even more advantageously as leading economic and scientific hubs in respect of research, training, technology transfers and the creation of value-added products in the artificial intelligence sector. Together, we will continue to transform Quebec.”

The new committee will help promote research and innovation in the field of artificial intelligence, as well as the creation of related businesses, to consolidate Montreal and Quebec as an international centre of AI. Couillard said that the Hub will help Quebec and Montreal to position themselves as a world-leaders in scientific and economic centres for research, training, and in the creation of high technology products in the artificial intelligence sector.

“Quebec firms must rely on innovation to bolster their productivity and competitiveness at the international level,” said Dominique Anglade, Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation and Minister responsible for the Digital Strategy. “Artificial intelligence is a decisive factor that will affect ways of doing business and the business models of companies. Innovations stemming from artificial intelligence will change society as a whole.”

Montreal is a world leader in research in Artificial Intelligence, with over 150 researchers at McGill and Université de Montréal.

The Hub will train, attract and keep the best talents in AI in Quebec. It will create a business environment in which start-ups, and small businesses in AI will grow and thrive in collaboration with each other. It will also study and assess the ethical and social impact of AI technologies on people.

McGill will be represented on the committee by Martha Crago, incoming VP for Research and Innovation. Doina Precup, Associate Professor of Computer Engineering, will also participate as an observer.

The following are just some of the AI projects currently underway at McGill:

  • McGill’s AI experts and their students are already collaborating with professors and companies from across Quebec and Canada to apply their research for social benefits, with a particularly emphasis on healthcare. In collaboration with partners at the Institut de Recherche Clinique de Montréal, they are developing an artificial pancreas which learns to calibrate the dosage of insulin that must be delivered, based on real-time readings of blood sugar levels.
  • Working with researchers and doctors from hospitals across Montreal, Precup is using her AI research to helping deliver better radiation therapy for cancer patients, control epileptic seizures, improve outcomes for patients with major depressive disorder and monitor premature babies. She is also the associate scientific director of McGill’s Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives, a research initiative recently awarded $84 million by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund of the federal government.
  • The lab of McGill’s Joëlle Pineau is developing an AI wheelchair that combines robotics and artificial intelligence to give disabled people more autonomy and increase their safety.
  • Professor Geza Joos’ work on the Smart Electrical Grid and Micro Grids, in collaboration with Hydro Quebec, aims to quickly fix, or even prevent power failures, and to better utilize renewable power such as solar and wind.
  • AI is also being used at McGill in the analysis of topic bias in culture in Professor Andrew Piper’s lab .txtLAB.

Speed Learning & Networking Event in Montreal – Blockchain Edition (60% off)

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 13:48

To skip straight to the event and get exclusive tickets at 60% off, click here!


Speed learning et networking – Le Blockchain, une nouvelle monnaie ou un réseau distribué d’entreposage de données?

Speed learning and networking – The blockchain, a new currency or a distributed network of storage?

The event is an invaluable occasion to be a part of the discussion about what could be the currency of the future and an excellent opportunity to network with the flourishing Startups’ scene of Montreal. This event is a part of the Speed Learning Series whose goal is to cover rapidly and efficiently crucial topics that are essential for Startup Entrepreneurs’ growth.

17h – Inscription/Networking 18h20 – Mot d’ouverture

18h30 – Raison d’être des séries Speed Learning. Purpose of the Speed Learning series – Louis Cléroux, Fondateur de Leadweb

18h40 – Intro par notre maîtresse de cérémonie – Laviva Mazhar – VC analyst, Ferst Capital Partners

  • Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) landscape: Pascal Leblanc – Expert en cryptocurrencies & entrepreneur Blockchain
  • Marché énergétique décentralisé avec Ethereum : Jonathan Hamel – Consultant Blockchain
  • Les objets connectés et le Blockchain: Travis Patron – CEO, Diginomics
  • Comment naviguer l’environement législatif avec un projet Blockchain: Tara Mandjee – Stikeman Eliott
  • TBC – TBC
19h40 – Panel de questions avec les invités – Open questions to panelists

19h50 – Mot de clôture et prochain événement. Closing note/ Next event details

20h00 – Networking/Réseautage

20h30 – Fin de l’événement. End of the event

Les sujets seront livrés dans un format rapide et condensé sur 5 minutes chacuns.

The subjects will be delivered in a quick and condensed 5-minute format.

Objectif des séries Speed learning – Objective of the Speed learning series :

La série Speed learning a pour but de livrer des sujets éclairs d’intérêt pour les entrepreneurs et les intervenants du marché. L’objectif de l’événement est de promouvoir l’écosystème de Startup à Montréal en rassemblant les personnes clés de l’industrie.

The speed learning series aims to deliver quick and condensed topics that are key for Startup Entrepreneurs. The objective of the event is to promote the Startup ecosystem in Montreal by putting together market influencers.

Réservez votre place dès maintenant!

Reserve your spot now!

**Des hors d’oeuvres et breuvages seront servis

**Refreshments and snacks will be served

Get tickets, click here!

Startup Spotlight: Myco-Rise – Disrupting Culinary Mushrooms

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:15

Editor’s note: This week’s spotlight is on Myco-Rise, a young Montreal-based startup that transforms organic waste into nutritionally dense and gourmet mushrooms. Not only were they first-place winners in the Small and Medium Enterprise track, they also brought home a second prize: the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize, presented jointly by the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES) and the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE).

Dobson Chronicles contributor Charlotte Gauthron sat down with Marc Brettschneider and Louis-Philippe Dessureault for a long conversation about Myco-Rise, the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, gourmet mushrooms, and their vision of entrepreneurship.

READ ALSO: Winners of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017

On a sunny April day, I had the chance to escape exams for a day for a trip to the McGill Macdonald campus. It’s in one of the cafés nearby that the two founders of Myco-Rise met me for a long and rich interview about their business and vision of the world. The café was one they collect coffee grounds from: “We want to give back to the local community”, Marc told me to explain the selection of the place – a theme that would prove recurrent throughout our conversation.

Famous for their signature headbutt when they won First Prize at the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, Louis-Philippe Dessureault and Marc Brettschneider are the founders of Myco-Rise

Charlotte Gauthron (CG): Hello Myco-Rise! We are very happy to bring your story to the Dobson Chronicles readers! How are you both?

Louis-Philippe: We’re doing good! Things are going great, we’re moving towards a little expansion, so that’s going to be interesting. We’re climbing up the ladder, so to speak, and just trying to improve everything we are doing, the quality of our production, and our efficiency. Our main focus is on efficiency right now. And we are also preparing to have people come in, so that they can see the setup when it’s fully operational.

Marc: That’s actually happening in a few weeks, because we have an intern coming to help out during the summer. It’s our second expansion in one year. In one year, Myco-Rise went from my parents’ garage to a 2,000 sq. foot building. We’re moving in a few weeks! From garage to house, and from house to bigger facility.


CG: Can you tell me a bit about your respective backgrounds?

Louis-Philippe: As far as mushrooms and using worms to process waste  go, I never actually had any experience when I was young. However, I’ve been doing vermicomposting for about 7 or 8 years now. I am really versed in the art of transforming organic waste into nutritionally dense, organic fertilizer. I also studied a little urban horticulture and urban food production. Producing food locally has always attracted me.

I figured by the end of CEGEP that I wanted to specialize in that, which led me to enter the Bachelor’s Degree in Agronomy at McGill, over at the Macdonald campus. I also worked for Dr. Valérie Gravel, who teaches several classes at Mac. With her, I learned how to manage cultures in a lab setting, and from then on, I specialized in soil and water resources. Fertility is something that comes close to my academic studies. As of now, I am still a student and will graduate next year [2018], juggling with the company and my studies until then.

I took a course on nutrition and realized there is a fundamental problem: the population’s eating habits are very bad

Marc: I used to study marketing and finance at Concordia. I had a strong economics background. But I started to realize that economics wasn’t for me. I found it too cold, too dry. I took a course on nutrition and realized there is a fundamental problem: the population’s eating habits are very bad. We are purchasing food picked 5,000 miles away, not ripened on the tree, with significantly fewer nutrients that it used to have. I realized the existence of this crisis when I was in nutrition, and that’s when I figured I wanted to work in food production.

I found an unpaid internship in Horticultural Centre of the McGill Macdonald campus. I worked there for three months and ended up onboarding as a full-time employee. I stayed there 3 years, until I switched to poultry production, where I was exposed to very traditional, mass-production processes. Soon, I wanted to get away from this and try something different. I was curious about cultivating mushrooms, and started to leverage the people I knew and my friends at McGill to learn how to grow mushrooms. They taught me sterile techniques etc., and that’s how I got started.

Marc Brettschneider brushes off soil after picking carrots at McGill University’s Macdonald Campus Farm

CG: How did you guys meet?

Marc: We met at the horticultural center. I was working for the director of the center,  and Louis-Philippe was working for Valérie Gravel. We sort of met there, there was quite a bit of overlap between our work, so we were helping each other out. We realized that we were really like-minded and that’s how, at some point, we decided to join hands and just go for it.


CG: So the mushrooms were just an interest, a curiosity that you had in common?

Marc: I think we were both curious about it, but I had already begun working on cultivating them. We had small cultures at home, experimenting with it.

Louis-Philippe: Neither of us knew what the other was doing, and found out by a mutual friend that we were both trying to grow mushrooms on our own.

Marc: I already had the garage setup in place at that time. When we saw that it was going down a serious path, we became two people dedicated to doing the same work, and it started snowballing.

We’re like alchemists, transforming waste over and over, and trying to find new uses for it

CG: In a few words, for our readers, what is Myco-Rise?

Marc: It’s an urban farm that engages in permaculture [“practices targeted towards the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient”, Oxford Dictionary] practices and really aims to be as sustainable as possible while providing food in a carbon-neutral fashion.

Louis-Philippe: We collect industrial and post-consumer waste and grow mushrooms off it. Once that process is finished, we process our waste through a vermicomposting system which allows us to reduce our carbon footprint and provides us with nutrient-rich fertilizer that we can sell to local grow shops, people that we know, etc. That is called vermiculture [“the cultivation of earthworms, especially in order to use them to convert organic waste into fertilizer”, Oxford Dictionary]. It is very versatile and works with about any kind of organic waste. It means that there’s not only the waste that comes down from the production that can be processed, but also any kind of organic waste that we get our hands on.

Marc: We’re like alchemists, transforming waste over and over, and trying to find new uses for it.

Myco-Rise cultivates some rare mushrooms exclusively on post-consumer organic material and handle their own waste by feeding it to their worm composting system

CG: You work with restaurants to collect their waste, but who do you sell your mushrooms to? Restaurants, individuals, both?

Marc: Both, but certainly we have one major client – the restaurant Carambola. The beauty with them is that they have this blackboard menu model and work with seasonal produce, grown local. Whatever mushrooms we have, they’ll take it and create a dish with it. It’s not on a contract basis, not a formal one at least, and gives us a lot of flexibility: it’s hard to streamline production, so having them adapt to our supply is amazing in this early stage.

Louis-Philippe: The rest of our clientele is mostly friends, family, and people from the Mac community. We communicate with everyone through the Facebook page. We can’t really keep up with the demand these days, it’s growing so fast!

We want to be as local as possible because we strongly believe in “voting with our dollar”

CG: Beyond being sustainability-oriented, what would you say are the values of your company?

Marc: For me, the biggest of all is the concept of local, in every sense of the world: locally grown, locally consumed, participating in the local economy, buying from local restaurant, etc. We want to be as local as possible because we strongly believe in “voting with our dollar”. For example, we work with the Macdonald campus students to design equipment for our production, even though it would be much cheaper to get it from a low-cost country. We want to give back to them: they built us. And just being local makes you more sustainable, because there’s no transportation involved.

Louis-Philippe: And of course environmentally-friendly! We want to provide alternatives to today’s production systems that are so detrimental to the world.

Myco-Rise’s primary client is Carambola which is situated in Hudson, Quebec and focuses on using local, sustainable ingredients.

CG: What is your vision for the company? What’s your ideal scenario?

Marc: We’re still tossing around ideas. For now, we’re focusing on our short-term goal, which is our upcoming expansion. But we talked about different models, and where to take it if Myco-Rise gets really big. One idea we came up with is the concept of a modular system. The whole production system would be built in a shipping container that could be moved, sold to different cities. That would allow us to keep the concept of a local production, which is at the core of our mission. Keeping true to our values while growing is really important to us.

Louis-Philippe: Along with the modular mushroom production facility would also be a modular vermiculture system, as in our current facilities. People would be able to reproduce our system for creating their own fertilizer, which is essential to agriculture in areas strained for natural resources and remote parts of the world. It could also help with reducing and reusing waste, which is an issue in several developing countries.

Marc: Going further with that idea, we have started working with nutritionists to adapt the type of mushrooms that is grown to a specific area where there are identified nutritional needs, for example a widespread lack of vitamin A in the population. But there are a lot of options! In the short future, Myco-Rise will also start working with medicinal mushrooms, whose use is becoming very popular. Mushroom-based supplements are a trend that is slowly picking up. We haven’t done anything about it yet, but we have started receiving inquiries, so we might get into that as well.

Louis-Philippe: Recreational use of mushrooms, for example to make beers (not psychoactive mushrooms) or other beverages is another growing trend. Being able to cater to that type of production system would also be very interesting.

Marc giving a speech after winning 1st place in the Small and Medium Enterprise Track, while holding the McGill Dobson Cup.

CG: Do you have any precise objectives you want to reach in the future? What’s your roadmap?

Marc: We’re taking it step by step for now. We will produce enough mushrooms to cater to the Montreal Greater Area market, which is already very large. And then, when we satiate that market, we’ll start talking about going abroad or producing those modular systems we were just talking about. Another thing is that we would like to become a carbon-neutral company. Every day, we look at what we are doing and try to improve our operations to reduce Myco-Rise’s carbon footprint.


CG: Is this your first venture, and do you think it will be your last?

Louis-Philippe: It’s certainly my first experience as an entrepreneur! I’m still in school, so I doubt it’ll be my last. I don’t know yet, but with Myco-Rise, once we have a standardized production and the right personnel to run the business, I might start something else! There are so many things to do out there, especially with the knowledge that we will have developed by then. For now, I really want to see Myco-Rise grow.

Marc: As for me, if I started another venture, it would probably be related to philanthropic work. If things really pick up with Myco-Rise, I would again focus on giving back to the community in any way I can. Maybe a non-profit.

Louis-Philippe: Yeah, I agree. There are so many things to be done in food security, for example. Even in Canada: up North the current situation is deplorable. If we had the means to address some of these issues, I would 100% go for it.

Myco-Rise won the First Prize of $11,000 in the Small and Medium Enterprise Track at the McGill Dobson Cup 2017.

CG: Do you see yourselves asking for venture capital at any point in the future?

Louis-Philippe: No we don’t, because we don’t feel like this is a sustainable way to go. Besides, receiving money from someone but being obliged to fit with that specific person’s vision and values is not how we see ourselves operating. We really want to be independent and keep our freedom to rule our business the way we want.

Marc: That’s a good point. Independence is really important to us, and actually, we haven’t even gone so far as to open a company credit card or take on a loan. Everything started with what we were able to invest to get to that minimum viable product, and then we reinvested the money over and over, and that’s the way we keep going. We don’t want any overhead. It could endanger your business: if every month you have to make large payments and for some reason you have less demand, or a problem with your production, you can’t pay. That can kill a small company: it could go 100 to 0 in three seconds.


CG: On a different note, how did you enjoy your experience with the McGill Dobson Cup?

Marc: Well, you know what we are going to say… of course we enjoyed it! The McGill Dobson Cup 2017 took us out of our comfort zone, and made us work on a lot of skills that we had not really developed, like financials: we had to really go back to the drawing board and start making calculations. We learned a lot about our business just by participating in the contest: we didn’t know what our profit margin was, and other things like that. We only had time for production. The McGill Dobson Cup made us take the time to sit down and look into it.

Louis-Philippe: We also developed our ability to speak publicly. Pitching to the judges was a really good exercise and we have a lot more of experience of that now. We had to get out there and promote our business. Having to stand up for ourselves and our project, and convince people that it was worth… that was amazing. Meeting the judges and getting their feedback on Myco-Rise was also wonderful, we gained a lot from their opinions.

One thing about the McGill Dobson Cup that we found fantastic was meeting all our competitors and seeing all the other ideas people come up with

Marc: One other thing about the McGill Dobson Cup that we found fantastic was meeting all our competitors and seeing all the other ideas people come up with. Something we noticed is how they were all centralized around the same themes. Food security and sustainable agriculture were very present, and it was very cool to see that people realize that a crisis is coming and that local is the way to go. It shows that other entrepreneurs are trying to tackle similar problems. It was a mind-opening experience: we got to see that we were not the only ones trying to find solutions, but that many other people are working towards the same goals.

Louis-Philippe: It was a nice surprise really, because with the food and waste crisis Myco-Rise is trying to tackle, it sometimes looks like a “David vs. Goliath” situation where small companies trying to start up are smothered by bigger, well-established companies. There are a lot of up-and-comers doing good and making names for themselves, it is encouraging!.


CG: And what are you going to do with the money you received from your two prizes at the McGill Dobson Cup?

Louis-Philippe: We are investing everything in our moving out and building the new facilities, and improving the efficiency of our production. That’s essentially purchasing new lab equipment, building a large pasteurizer and other things that will help us scale up.

Marc and Louis-Philippe eagerly waiting to see if they’ll win another prize at the McGill Dobson Cup 2017

CG: What is your advice for young entrepreneurs out there?

Louis-Philippe: Stay positive, stick to your vision. That’s what will make you different from other companies, especially if you’re targeting a trend or a service that is just picking up. And be super, super persistent, because hurdles are going to happen at every step of the road. Don’t let yourself get discouraged if things go wrong.

Marc: Yeah, be persistent! You almost have to be wired backwards: every time a sign says STOP, you have to continue and take it as a challenge, a hurdle that you are going to have to jump over.

Louis-Philippe: Some obstacles are actually opportunities for you to improve your production, your knowledge, to look at things differently. But you need to have the right mindset, and to do something you really like, that you think is making your world better.

Marc: Another advice I would give is to keep your costs down when starting up. Don’t just buy things, try to work around them. Ask yourself “how can I get to that minimum viable product with the least amount of inputs?”. At the beginning, you don’t have the kind of cash flows that allows you to make mistakes. You need to be extremely careful about spending, and be resourceful instead.

Ask yourself “how can I get to that minimum viable product with the least amount of inputs?”

CG: Have you identified any real, direct competitors to your business?

Louis-Philippe: Not over the area that we are servicing right now, but there are several others in the world, and even in the Montreal area, like Blanc de Gris. They also grow mushrooms out of coffee grounds from cafés, but their business approach is really different from ours. For example, they had to borrow a lot of cash because they decided to get into full-production mode from the beginning, which is something we wouldn’t have done.


CG: And my final question is the following: what are your favorite kinds of mushrooms and how do you prefer to cook them?

Marc: I like the pink oyster. It has a low water content so it fries up very well. It tastes like a mix of bacon and seafood, and the best way I’ve had it served was deep-fried in a beer-batter, covered in Parmesan cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. For the foodies out there!

Louis-Philippe: I would also go with the pink oyster, but harnessing its seafood-like taste by putting it in a paella… great stuff!

The beautiful Pink Oyster mushrooms

On my way back to downtown Montreal, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier’s famous quote came to my mind:

In nature nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything is transformed.   – Antoine Lavoisier

Myco-Rise’s ambitious plans to tackle both the food security and waste management crises at once shows growing awareness among the population about the challenges that will be ours to face in the future. For an environmentally-minded student like me, it was a pleasure and a relief meeting people that find solutions to today’s problematic consumption patterns.

Want to encourage Myco-Rise and taste their amazing mushrooms? You can connect with them on their Facebook page.

Take your startup to Denmark for the University Startup World Cup!

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:43
When the world’s best university startups are gathered, magic happens! 

(To skip straight to their website, click here: )

Each year, the Danish non-profit organization Venture Cup hosts a week-long world cup in Denmark where promising startups compete to be awarded the world’s best university startup. 

Universities around the world nominate and send their most promising startup to represent them and their country at the University Startup World Cup (USWC) where more than 70 startups participate. Besides the university partners, an open submission functions as wildcards and secures spots for startups who “just” have a great idea!

The startups visit relevant companies, pitch their idea to investors, participate in a large EXPO and network with like-minded startups from around the world. A jury network of 500 business people go through all business plans and the startups pitch twice to a panel of jurors before the most promising startup is found.

Each year, the Danish non-profit organization Venture Cup hosts a week-long world cup in Denmark where promising startups compete to be awarded the world’s best university startup

At the end of the week, there is a grand Award Show where H.R.H. Crown Princess Mary present the award to the most promising startup on stage in front of prominent persons from the ecosystem, business community and media.

Last year, Isara, ‘Uber for deaf people’, from Indonesia ended up winning the University Startup World Cup.

At the end of the week, there is a grand Award Show where H.R.H. Crown Princess Mary present the award to the most promising startup. Last year, Isara, ‘Uber for deaf people’, from Indonesia ended up winning the University Startup World Cup.

Here’s what Isara had to say about USWC.

Brief description of Isara:  

Isara is Duolingo for sign language and Uber for sign interpreters; it leverages the power of community to preserve, teach, and learn different sign languages.

The USWC experience:  

Aside from the constructive feedback and enthusiastic network of entrepreneurs, we believe USWC gives our project an enormous amount of credibility and assurance which is critical to solidify potential partnerships and investments.

The future:  

We are quite confident about the future. We are hoping to integrate more sign languages onto our platform and start operating our interpreter service as soon as it’s ready – and I personally think we would have not been able to boost this without USWC!

100% of the participants say that they would recommend participating

82% say that the week would help them build a successful business 

82% say that the new connections will help their startup grow

Read more here:

Mentor Spotlight: Andrea Courey (Grandma Emily’s)

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 14:57

Editor’s Note: 

Andrea Courey is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, lecturer and recipient of a McGill Dobson Fellow. She graduated from McGill, B Comm 1982. She worked in electronics, home décor and floor covering until 1997, when she founded Grandma Emily’s Granola – GEG. GEG manufactured homemade style granola cereals for the food service industry. The product line grew to include organic bars, snacks and gift amenities.

Andrea is now a member of the McGill Council on Palliative Care. Her first book, Conversations with Chloe, is being published and she is working on a second book. She continues to mentor and encourage entrepreneurs, young and old.

Andrea has kindly made her first book available to us here

Why did you you start Grandma Emily’s, and more specifically, why granola bars?

My case was one of the oldest case in the book; I was recently divorced and had three children to feed. I did not have a plan or money in the bank or a certain expertise but I definitely needed to start something. I needed money and flexibility in schedule, so I thought about what I was good at and finally based on my skills I decided to start a business. Now the question was, what was going to be my product? Granola was a product that I ate at home. I made it for my family, and before me my mother made it and before that, my grandmother.

It was one of those family recipes that I believed in and provided for my family. So it was a product that I already knew how to make the important bit was learning how to commercialize it. I did have a BCom from McGill University so I had a fair bit of knowledge about business. However, learning in class is very different to applying it in reality. You need to formulate it properly, scale it up and sell. It was a huge learning curve. But, I was so committed to the product that was putting in the market, that I managed to push through all the chaos.

Be really strong at home before you go to any other international city. Make sure you anchor your business at home and be financially secure before you move out of your own borders. – Professor Hamid Etemad

Why did you decide to keep your business relatively local?

I was asked multiple times to expand to the US as it is a close market and there is huge potential to do business. During my time at McGill University, I remember a quote from Professor Hamid Etemad’s International Business class. He said “Be really strong at home before you go to any other international city. Make sure you anchor your business at home and be financially secure before you move out of your own borders.” I remembered his words when deciding on the expansion and I finally decided to stay. For me, staying on my home turf was a smart choice because moving out would have been too precarious of a situation for me. I would have had to scale up so very quickly and risk putting so much capital and expenditure with potentially not enough sales. 

Left to right: (Top Row) Renjie Butalid, Jan Roos, Professor Gregory Vit, (Bottom Row) Phil Cutler, Andrea Courey and Richard Belitzky.

Did you miss our event about Women in Entrepreneurship? Find out more about Andrea’s story here.

What was one of the most important skills you learnt from your previous jobs that you used in your business?

The ability to manage people.  Every single job that I ever had taught me how to do that. Every crummy boss or every phenomenal boss, I ever had, served me in the way that I made a mental note of what I was never going to do that to my staff or something that I would want to try and nurture in my own culture. No matter how much technology started to take more place in marketing, it always still comes down to the relationships you build and the people you speak to.  50% of the success of the company comes down to the culture that the leader builds and the other 50% is the product.

Why did you decide to sell your business?

I started my business and kept myself going because my “why” was very clear. My “why” was to support my children to a point where they could support themselves and when I had accomplished that my goal was accomplished. After that I felt as though I was not having fun with my business. It sounds superficial to think that business is fun, but you have to remember to be passionate and that you are giving your 110% every single day. I got to a place where I was feeling like I was done with what I was doing with my business. I felt as though I was not the name on my business card. Being a founder was part of who I am and it is definitely something that I am proud to have accomplished but there are so many more things that I felt that I needed to do and which is why I decided to sell my business. 


Many thanks to our #SME Track judges in the @McGillU #DobsonCup yesterday! We’re excited for the #InnovationDriven Track today #startup #MTL

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 17, 2017

Check out what our judges from the McGill Dobson Cup had to say.


What did you do after you sold your business?

I decided to leave for a month on a vacation by myself and be the travelling gypsy that I have always been. During that time, I got a phone call that one of my children was ill with cancer so I rushed back to Montreal. 

I was so grateful at the time that I had sold my business because when I came back to Montreal and was able to give her as much care as I could. I was able to experience first-hand how to say everything that might have been left unsaid and give her the best care that I could give to her. After her passing, I decided to write a book of conversations that I had with her. It was a very healing process for me. Now I am on to a second book which talks about us having more a discussion surrounding death and living with dying and loss, which are now subjects that have become front and center for me.

This has given me almost a whole new mission. I joined the McGill Counsel on Palliative Care and working with the university to try and implement something called “compassionate community”. There is so much dispassion going on in the world and the idea of creating a community, for example, a foreign student who has suffered a loss and can’t go back home. The idea is to give other students tools to support and help that student. There are so many aspects to a compassionate community and so that is why I am coming back to do this work with McGill. 

Grandma Emily makes chewy and nutritious granola bars containing different mixes of organic granola, the finest oats, nuts and fruits.

What is one piece of advice you would give to young entrepreneurs?

Have a team.

Even if you really want to do it yourself and want to be completely your own boss, it really makes a difference when you talk out loud about what your plans are. In hearing it, you begin to understand yourself and you create new ideas. I would say share your ideas and don’t worry so much about people stealing your ideas. Don’t worry about trademarking your idea right away or about someone coming along and stealing your idea.

However, be careful with the people you’re going to work with. Surround yourself with people that you know you’re going to give you their honest opinion. I tried to do too much by myself and I really felt lonely to begin with and I did not have enough discussion with entrepreneurs and I could have really benefitted from having a team.

What are some of the challenges you faced being a woman in business?

  • Running a business and managing a family at the same time is tough.

I could not get any credit and had no credit rating and so I had to bootstrap this business. I had ideas and I would have loved to have created a much bigger business but I had to be home at 4:30pm to help my kids with their homework and dinner. The supermom thing doesn’t happen. Everyone has their own recipe but managing my time was was definitely a huge challenge for me. 

  • Choose your life partner wisely.

That is 80% of your happiness or your misery in life. If you have children with that partner, they have to be there 100% as well and you two have to be raising those children together. Having a partner that supports you will help you substantially.

What gives you courage?

I am a very positive person in general. We are so very blessed to be here. I always have fundamentally believed that. We have air, we have water, we have electricity, we have so many tools around us to make things happen. I think that’s what fires me up. 

Want to meet more judges from this year’s McGill Dobson Cup? Click here. 

Mentor Spotlight: Laura Avery (TSX) – Lead with a Story

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:25
Laura Avery was a judge and mentor at the 2017 McGill Dobson Cup Semi-Finals for the Innovation-Driven Enterprise track

Editor’s Note: Laura Avery worked at Fidelity Investment for four years after getting her MBA and completing her CFA. From there, she worked for several subsections of the TMX group. Now, she’s Vice President of Sales for her territory, where she provides companies with opportunities to raise capital and educate them on they can use them as a tool for growth.

This year, she was a judge and mentor for the Innovation-Driven Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup

This is your first time as a judge, how has that been?
It is exciting but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the day. But it passed by so quickly, I really enjoyed it and I would love to do it again. I think that this is phenomenal and much needed within the community. This makes me question why other universities are not doing something like this or getting involved in a similar way.  McGill has something very unique here, and I’m very happy to be a part of it.

So tell us a bit about yourself.
I started off by doing my undergraduate degree in Economics at Concordia University. After I graduated, I was trying to think of a way for me to use my Economics background in a career that I would also enjoy.  I realized that economics wasn’t really for me but I tried to assess the aspects of it that I did like. For me, I mainly enjoyed the math and business side. So I found a program at the John Molson School of Business called The Goodman Institute of Investment Management. From there, I got my MBA and also completed my CFA.

After that, I went into the finance world where I worked with Fidelity Investment for four years. It was a great introduction to working in finance with brokers in wealth management and investment planning. After that, I found the TMX group which is more on the business side and I worked with them for about two years. I primarily worked with helping public companies with trading and using various services offered by the TMX group, particularly the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange. After proving myself as a go-getter, I was offered a new opportunity a few months ago as a Vice President of Sales for the territory I was provided. In this role, I provide companies with opportunities to raise capital and educate them on who we are and how they can use us as a tool for growth.

As a judge, how are you looking at competitors at this stage?
During my MBA and CFA, I learned to approach business from a top-down perspective which is very focused on larger businesses and seed funding. A lot of the pitches have been the opposite and focus more on their immediate short-term goals which VCC funds and investors are looking for. As a judge, I’m trying to find the bigger picture and how they are going to project that initial focus into the future. A lot of them are not looking that far ahead and rightfully so because when you start a business you have limited resources. Their primary goal is just to get it off the ground which is interesting from my perspective.  In this way, I realized that thinking too far ahead can sometimes be counter-productive, it might be more beneficial to think within 1-5 years of the start-up.

THANKS to our #Innovation Driven Enterprise judges in @McGillU #DobsonCup yesterday! Finalists #startups announced next week Feb 21 #MTL

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 18, 2017

What are some trends you have seen so far?
A lot of the trends we have seen so far are very millennial-focused platforms based on social media marketing. The outliers for me were the ones that looked beyond social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat, and had a broader plan for getting their product to fruition which was just a handful. I was trying to find that individual who could go beyond that way of thinking to also consider different age groups and various applications through research. I think the others were very millennial-focused because they are young and are looking inward to find solutions for their current age group.  Using that approach and thinking from the perspective of millennials is very narrow focused because millennials will grow up.

Always lead with a story because it’s the best way to sell.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
It is tough for me to give advice because they are doing something I’ve never done. I’ve never had the risk tolerance to go out and start my own business. I really admire entrepreneurs. If you find a problem and are looking for a solution, you’re already a winner. We need that determination and perseverance from entrepreneurs no matter how much they may be knocked down. So just keep going.

For pitches, I would say to put your best foot forward and be honest with yourselves, don’t be nice. The pitch is your first impression so it is important to tell your partner if they are not doing a good job. Really put a lot of effort into practice because your pitch is something that investors will always remember. Take into consideration the slides, image, presentation, and structure. And always lead with a story because it’s the best way to sell.

Finally, what do you look forward to seeing from the competition?
From a company perspective, I would like to see more startups aware of the ability to go public and raise capital from a public platform because it is not limited to large companies.  About 35% of TSX Technology and Innovation companies are graduates from our TSX Venture Exchange which is like our incubator or public VC platform.


Follow McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship on: