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Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the McGill Community
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McGill Lean Startup Program 2017 Final Pitches

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 17:28

The McGill Lean Startup Program is a 10-week hands-on program that immerses early-stage McGill startup teams by having them test their business ideas and hypotheses outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, we deliberately trade off lecture time for students/teaching team interaction.

Since the end of September, 8 early-stage McGill teams have been going through the build-measure-learn customer development process and have been working on their pitches in preparation for this event.

On December 4, come join the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and the McGill Lean Startup Program as these 8 early-stage startups pitch their companies for the first time in public. This event also celebrates the end of the McGill Lean Startup Program 2017.

Come hear our teams pitch their innovative and disruptive solutions to real-world problems. From medtech to agritech, there’s something for everyone!

Register to Attend

On December 4 at 6PM, come join the @DobsonCentre as we mark the end of #LeanStartup program! Come hear our @mcgillu teams pitch their innovative and disruptive solutions to real-world problems. From #MedTech to #AgTech, there’s something for everyone!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) November 29, 2017

1. Composite Marker – Composite Marker stains white fillings but not the surrounding tooth, allowing dentists to replace and repair fillings more efficiently and safely.

2. Cura Therapeutics – Cura Therapeutics is developing a cure for pancreatic cancer with their novel immunotherapy technology.

3. DomeAge – DomeAge provides a kit that allows people worldwide to construct a personalized geodesic dome, effortlessly.

4. EBHnow – EBHnow is the hub of evidence-based healthcare data. We provide updated solutions for dental inquiries.

5. Informed Experiments – With our AI algorithms, we distill the complexity of gene networks to accelerate cancer research.

6. Inti Aeropsace – Inti Aerospace’s solar-powered platform helps farmers maximise crop yields by providing precise crop imagery at an unprecedented rate.

7. InVivo AI – InVivo AI is your clinical trial crystal ball, using the power of machine learning to predict failure through all phases of drug development.

8. PHIRE – Manage your medications for a safer, healthier family.

Register to Attend

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Introducing McGill’s newest entrepreneurship space

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 11:45

McGill University now has a new collaborative entrepreneurship space where McGill founders and startup teams can work on their early stage projects.

Located in our new offices at 3430 Rue McTavish, McGill founders and startups teams from across all faculties and schools at the university will be able to work with McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship staff and mentors to help turn their ideas into reality, in time for the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 competition this coming winter semester.

The drop-in collaborative entrepreneurship space will be open from 10AM to 5PM, Monday to Friday.

For more information on the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship space, please see the link below. We ask founders and teams to only fill out the form below on the day of using the space.

McGill Dobson Collaborative Entrepreneurship Space Registration Form

McGill Dobson Collaborative Entrepreneurship Space Registration Form The new entrepreneurship collaborative space at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship open 10AM-5PM, Monday to Friday at 3430 Rue McTavish, Montreal, QC

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Startup Spotlight: SmartAirFilters

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 10:00

Editor’s Note: Thomas Talhelm is a professor of behavioral science at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. His company Smart Air Filters is democratizing clean air by providing cheap, effective air purifiers for homes and offices. As a professor, he researches how southern China’s history of rice farming gave it a different culture from the wheat-growing north. His work has been featured on National Geographic, as well as The Economist.  He also teaches a course on negotiation strategy.

In this interview, he shares how he got started battling the air pollution problem in China at a micro level, as well as some tips on handling negotiations. To learn more about Smart Air Filters, go to their website here (China) or here. (India)

How he got the idea

A lot of people have the goal of starting a business. I didn’t. I didn’t care about business – I just wanted to solve a problem. The business aspect came after because I realized it was necessary so that I could help more people.

I had lived in China for several years and was there in 2013 on a Fulbright scholarship doing psychology research. And of course, the air pollution was bad. We had many “Airpocalypses”, where the Air Quality Index was above 500. Just to give you an idea of what that means, the World Health Organization’s annual limit is 10 micrograms. In Beijing, it was over 500 micrograms. I was coughing on and off for weeks, and had a recurring cold. Of course I was worried about the air quality outside, but then I started thinking about INSIDE. I mean, if the AQI is 800 outside and indoor air quality was about half of what it is outdoors, that’s still a dangerous 400 inside. Naturally, I was concerned about my health.

I Googled it and realized that an air purifier is just a fan and a filter

I did some Googling, and my first thought was: are air purifiers BS? So I bought a particle counter for a couple hundred bucks and started to run some tests. Now, a $1000 air purifier wouldn’t have been a reasonable purchase for me at the time given my budget, so I had to get creative. Once again, I Googled it and realized that an air purifier is just a fan and a filter. I then bought a HEPA filter from Taobao (the ebay of China) and stuck it on an old fan I had lying around.

Thomas’ first prototype looked like this – a fan and a filter tied together with measuring tape. This is a great example of how bare-bones a Minimum Viable Product should be. How he got his first customers, and grew organically

I published everything online: how I made the purifier, the particle counter I used, the test data, everything. Long story short, I ended up holding a workshop on air quality – so I bought 20 fans and velcro straps and filters, with no idea whether or not people would show up.

The event sold out. So I kept doing more workshops and eventually the media showed up, and I realized people care about this. People want to take measures against the air quality problem. I kept on getting questions about how to build these purifiers. So I thought, what if I just ship people the purifier, already built? My original intention was to manufacture a low-cost purifier, but that ended up taking a lot longer than I thought. I wanted to work on something more immediately.

I always feed the profit back into the company, so I can help more people.

As easy as it was to DIY it, a lot of people didn’t have the time or the patience to build it, so I shipped pre-made DIYs to people. I took these basic air purifiers – remember, just a fan and a filter – and started selling them on Taobao. There was no advertising involved – all my sales were through word of mouth. I framed the business like a social enterprise: I always feed the profit back into the company, so I can help more people. At this point, Smart Air has held over 200 workshops, we have 6 full-time employees, and offices in Beijing and Delhi. We even have a shipping company that warehouses and ships them.

SmartAirFilters got its first clients through doing workshops, teaching people how to build cheap air purifiers. Common mistakes people make when it comes to negotiations, and what to do instead

Mistake 1: People aren’t aggressive enough when they’re negotiating.

Most people go in and make an offer that they think is a reasonable final offer. In reality, you should make a more aggressive offer (one that leaves you better off), and then re-negotiate from there. That’s because the negotiating game is going to be played no matter what your initial offer is. If you start with a reasonable offer, you’ll end up having to concede further from there.

What to do instead: Start with a very aggressive offer.

Mistake 2: People think that making the first move is bad.

I poll my students every year, and the majority of my MBA students think you should let the other person make the first offer. People don’t like to make the first offer, but studies show that people who make the first offer tend to get better deals.

What to do instead: Make the first move.

Thomas suggests 2 things when it comes to negotiating: Be aggressive, and make the first offer. A few tips on negotiating better using the above strategies:

A lot of people don’t want to make an aggressive offer because they’re afraid of offending the other side – my experience has been that people are overestimating the offense. Also, you can always pull back and make a more reasonable offer if they outright refuse or ignore you.

If you can make the first move in a negotiation with an aggressive but educated offer, you’ll usually be better off making the first offer.

The second thing is, you need to do your homework and justify the offer you’re making – research and compare current prices, the costs & benefits, pros & cons of the deal. I’m not encouraging you to make the first move if you have no idea what you’re talking about. But if you can make the first move in a negotiation with an aggressive but educated offer, you’ll usually be better off making the first offer.

Learn more about SmartAirFilters here, and about Thomas Talhelm’s work here.

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The Story of Kiffin: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 21:40

Prologue (Editor’s Note)

Everybody likes good food. Not everybody has access to it. And not all good food is good for the planet, or the people preparing it.

That’s why McGill MBA alum Natasha Alani and chef Aaron Fetherston started Kiffin. They’re on a mission to make real food accessible to real people. And they’re doing it while running an operation that’s sustainable and ethical every step of the way.

They offer a farm-to-office food experience for workplaces. Their next move? Re-opening their restaurant.

This heroic journey spans across several chapters. It involves moving from San Francisco to Montreal, a building burning down, and what seemed like a potential lawsuit. As you read between the lines and see the pattern of Kiffin getting up every time they fall, you’ll see there’s more to it than a series of hardships.

It’s a story of resilience and renewal. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of its predecessor, Kiffin has gotten up every time it has fallen. And not only did they get up, they got stronger.

Before you turn to chapter 1, keep in mind Kiffin’s story isn’t over, and that you can be a part of it’s ongoing epilogue by signing up for their grand opening weekend’s pajama brunches with an exclusive discount. Just click here. (Discount code: DOBSON)

Support Kiffin and taste amazing food by signing up for their grand opening weekend’s pajama brunches with an exclusive discount. Just click here. (Discount code: DOBSON)

Chapter 1: Bienvenue à Montréal

When we were still working in San Francisco, I already knew we were onto something.

It was 2011 when I realized that the general public – especially the middle class in America, did not have access to sustainable, healthy food.

And that’s just not okay.

If what you put in your body affects your cognitive ability, and not everyone has access to high-quality fuel, how can you assume that everyone is playing on a level playing field with equal opportunity to be smart and productive? Education is an important piece of human development, but there’s more to it. We need to make sure people are eating well.

Based on past experiences in social work and non-profits, I realized that the best way to accomplish this was actually to build a solid business. Along with that, I needed to have all the social pieces in place.  If you drive enough demand, you can affect the system from within it.

What I found in San Francisco was that really, really wealthy people liked our food and could afford it. But getting it to people that needed it was hard, and expensive.

I needed to scale up to increase access to real food, and doing it there was so expensive I just couldn’t do it.

I had 3 options: I could either sell out, give up, or find another way.

And that’s when I decided to come to Montreal.

Natasha pitching Kiffin at DocuSign offices during Demo Day in San Francisco.

Chapter 2: The Fire

We had our grand opening in May of 2017. And for 6 days, things were great. We had people lining up outside for our food, staff that we adored, and more business than we knew what to do with.

The next day, I got a call at 7AM from the landlord. And she said “Natasha, there’s been a fire. Call your insurance, and you might want to come by.”

Nobody was hurt, and it didn’t happen in our space – it was next door. I actually thought it wasn’t that big a deal, and actually went about my day normally – I got a lot of things done. Then I called my insurance, and made my way to the place around 10AM

And that’s when I realized this was serious.

The ceiling had fallen in. You could smell the smoke – I couldn’t breathe. The kitchen and bathrooms were destroyed. As an entrepreneur, I was still optimistic and thinking I could handle this. I went and pitched the next day to the McGill X-1 Accelerator to get into the program for the summer as planned. But those first few days weren’t as bad as the next few months.

It took 2 months for us to get the news that there was asbestos in the building. We still didn’t know when we could begin to use the space again. We were a fledgling business at the mercy of everyone else.

And that’s a vulnerable place to be as a startup because I didn’t have money coming in from anywhere else. We understood more about how insurance works than anyone could ever want to.

I had to make sure that my village – all the mentors, customers, and champions rooting for us, knew that we were going to come out the other side okay. And I had to do that even though I wasn’t even sure we were going to be okay.

So we tightened up all our costs to prepare for the long storm, and we were lucky enough to be accepted into the McGill X-1 Accelerator. That’s what forced me to look past the tragedy of the moment, and keep my eye on the big picture for our business. That way, we could become investment-ready for Demo Days and extend our influence and get support from all over the continent.

Chapter 3: You’ve been served

When a setback happens, there are a lot of stakeholders. And all of them are in a bad situation, regardless of how big or small they are, because they’re worried about their livelihoods.

One night about 3 months after the fire I get home around 10PM, and there’s just a card from a bailiff. It says “Urgent.”

I have no idea what this is about. It doesn’t say anything: who it’s from, what they want, nothing. I stayed up all night long wondering “Have I done anything wrong? Do I owe anybody money? Have I upset an employee? Who could want to sue me? I’m not important enough to sue!”

And by 6AM the next day, I had went through all my mental records and I realized I didn’t do anything wrong. I met up with the bailiff and he explained who it was from. And the letter was basically a heavy-handed way of reminding me what my legal responsibilities were.

I consider myself a savvy business person. I care about a lot of things that make a business work. But business is also administrative, and there’s a lot of infrastructure. And I didn’t really  understand those parts.

After “being served” as a matter of procedure I started to really understand these less creative, more infrastructural (and equally important) parts of a business.

Startups may miss this because when you start out you have to move fast and break things, but once you have something to protect, the skills you need to succeed totally change.

Natasha and Aaron were part of the Core X-1 team that participated in Demo Days in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City. They are pictured on the right during their visit to Sequoia Capital.

Appendix A: The Silver Linings

These challenges forced me to get more clear than ever about what we stand for. That earned us credibility. It’s really difficult to show people how much you care and at the same time prove that you can manage the financial health of your company. By continuing to make sales, participate in the accelerator, and fight in the face of uncertainty, I was able to demonstrate my passion to the world.

In fact, it did more than that. I reached out to people and included them as part of a collaborative process during the challenge. Through this, I was able to deepen my relationships with a lot of my supporters. I really would like to thank the mentors from the McGill X-1 Accelerator including Natalie Voland, Andrea Courey and Jeff Baikowitz! They are all amazing McGill entrepreneurs who really had my back and talked me through the darkest days.

Also, I learned a lot. There are parts of business that I thought I knew, but was completely blindsided by. I did my undergrad in Finance, and got an MBA from two of the best business schools, but there’s stuff you only learn when there’s a TKO of epic proportions. I’m glad I learned this while the business was still small.

To our beloved Kiffin Community. Yesterday May 1st, at around 5am, a fire broke out in the business above ours. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. However, our space…your space…must remain temporarily closed. We are working on finding a temporary alternative space and we will keep you posted. Feel free to message us or join our email list for more information. GOOD FOOD IS A RIGHT! All of our beautiful goodies and classes will be back as soon as possible! Thank you for the kind messages, offers for help, and love. It means the world not only to us but to all of the people who have worked so hard to get us this far.

A post shared by Kiffin™️ (@cafekiffin) on May 2, 2017 at 9:11am PDT

Appendix B: How Kiffin persevered

At the point that our business is now, it’s important to more than just me. It’s important to my cofounder Aaron. There’s also my staff, our customers, and mentors who have put in so much time to help me get this off the ground.

I didn’t think it was fair to all these people to suddenly lose my strength of vision just because things got hard.

They believed in me when I was in a strong position. I needed to stay strong. I was very aware of how many people I got engaged in this vision, and I couldn’t let them down.

To sign up for our grand opening weekend’s pajama brunches with an exclusive discount, click here. (Discount code: DOBSON)

Epilogue: How this launch is going to be different from the last one

Clasically trained at Le Cordon Blue Portland, chef Aaron Fetherston has worked as Chef and General manager at top West Coast establishments, such as The Heathman in Portland, Sweet Woodruff and Square (of the Michelin earning Son’s and Daughters group) in San Francisco.

Our first launch was in the spring. It’s been 6 months since then; winter has come. To make it through the winter we have reimagined what Kiffin could be in the winter. How can we survive the winter while maintaining what we stand for?

So we came up with this 6-month concept with 2 components.

Every night, we have a mac & cheese bar with seasonal vegetable side dishes and ancient grains. These are things that traditionally don’t go together. But when you think of autumn and a gorgeous squash side dressed in a way you’ve never imagined. Or imagine a mac & cheese topped with vegan chili or made to accommodate vegans, and those with celiac disease. Your perception can change. It feels like winter, it’s sustainable, it’s healthy, and it makes both our customers and our employees happy.

On the weekends we do pajama brunches. These are pre-sold, and are like small parties. There are 2 seatings: one at 10:30 and one at 2:30. By booking in advance, you help us eliminate food waste. And by doing that, the quality of the food you eat goes up – we’re not buying more than we need, so you get fresh ingredients and the savings pass on to you!

What’s in your lunch today? Ours is a Mexicali Autumnal Harvest!!! #stuffedsweetpotato #veganchili #vegan #chili #chimichurri #blueberry #rose #scone #mtl #autumn #fall #harvest #warmup

A post shared by Kiffin™️ (@cafekiffin) on Nov 7, 2017 at 8:26am PST

There’s also great beer, wine, and cocktails. We’re making the best food possible, under the supervision of Chef Aaron, with special consideration given to dietary restrictions. Our location is a converted 19th century home! Make no mistake – we’re not a traditional restaurant. It really feels like a brunch in someone’s house where you can meet new people, try new flavours, and you’re being served by an incredible Chef and a talented team. That’s Kiffin!

To sign up for our grand opening weekend’s pajama brunches with an exclusive discount, click here. (Discount code: DOBSON)

The post The Story of Kiffin: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

McGill Demo Days 2017 – Highlights from Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 01:49

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity for the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship. Beginning in Montreal, we took our most promising startups from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 and the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 on tour to Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City over the course of September and October.

We were delighted to return to Boston and San Francisco for the second year in a row, hosting events while also reconnecting with McGill alumni in the area. We also added Toronto and New York City to the agenda this year.

McGill Demo Days 2017 in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City

A lot of progress has been made around entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill these past few years. By way of our McGill Demo Day events featuring a number of 5-minute pitches from our startup founders, we were excited to highlight this progress in person with McGill alumni in each of these cities.

At the core of these Demo Day events is our mission to find, teach and develop world-class entrepreneurs at McGill. Knowing that we can help build world-class companies at McGill — to truly be world-class, we recognized that we had to get out of Montreal, providing exposure for our startups to the different markets and opportunities that exist outside of the city, beginning with Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City.

Renjie Butalid, Associate Director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, hosting McGill San Francisco Demo Day held at the DocuSign offices – September 19, 2017

Similar to last year, leveraging the McGill Alumni Network was a valuable component for our McGill Demo Days 2017 tour. Site visits and roundtable discussions with McGill alumni in each of the cities proved to be just as valuable for our founders as the Demo Day events themselves.

In addition to the events, it was great to have the opportunity to have conversations in a more casual roundtable setting with experienced and successful McGill alumni entrepreneurs, where they shared their respective stories and lessons learned along the way with our startup founders. We also had a number of meetings lined up with investors and VCs in each city as well.

Packed house at McGill Toronto Demo Day hosted at the Shopify offices – October 3, 2017

Overall, we had ten teams from this year’s cohort of the McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Dobson Cup participate in McGill Demo Days 2017.

Learn more about their experiences below and check out the videos of the pitches from some of the teams. Videos of the pitches were filmed at McGill New York City Demo Day on October 10, 2017 held at the Spring offices in Manhattan.

Missed @mcgillu #Montreal #DemoDay on Sep 12? Check out our blog post recap on The Dobson Chronicles! #startup

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

McGill Boston Demo Day – September 14, 2017

Our first stop following McGill Montreal Demo Day on September 12 was Boston.

While in Boston, we had the opportunity to meet with Steve Kokinos, a Finalist Judge in the McGill Dobson Cup and Co-founder and Executive Chairman of technology company Fuze.

At Fuze, a technology company with over 700 employees in multiple cities worldwide, Steve is responsible for corporate strategy — we had the opportunity to talk with Steve about the challenges of building your team as your company grows and scales exponentially.

Many thanks to @stevekokinos, Executive Chairman and Co-founder @fuze for hosting our @mcgillu startups at their office in #Boston yesterday

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

We’d like to thank McDermott Will and Emery for hosting McGill Boston Demo Day 2017 in their offices. We’re also grateful to the McGill Alumni Association of Boston who provided a lot of support with outreach to local McGill alumni in the Boston area.

Stuart Paap (left) of the McGill Boston Alumni Association and Jennifer Bock (right), lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery, at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017 1. Saccade Analytics Saccade Analytics running a demo of their analytics platform at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

Saccade Analytics participated in the McGill Lean Startup Program 2016, emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Health Sciences Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Saccade Analytics aims to revolutionize the way doctors diagnose concussions and neurological disorders.

Watch Iman Haji, Co-founder and CEO of Saccade Analytics, pitch below.

2. Dialysave Vivian Eberle, Co-founder and COO of Dialysave at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

Dialysave emerged as 3rd Place Winners in the Health Sciences Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Dialysave aims to provide widespread access to dialysis for patients suffering from End Stage Renal Disease, both locally and throughout the world. They are currently developing a Portable Dialysis Unit (PDU) that is designed to be wearable, which will allow patients to dialyze more frequently. Their PDU relies on a nanobiomaterial to absorb harmful solutes from patients’ blood, thus eliminating the need for dialysate.

Watch Anya Pogharian’s TEDxYouth@Montreal Talk below from 2016, Co-founder and CEO, where she talks about the motivation behind starting Dialysave.

3. 2D-CrystaLab Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, Co-founder and CEO of 2D-CyrstaLab at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

2D-CrystaLab participated in the McGill Lean Startup Program 2016, made it to the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 in the Health Sciences Track, and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

2D-CrystaLab is an innovative nanobiomaterials company that is changing the way implant infections are treated and prevented. Through a product line comprising of dental implant cleaning gels and bone healing gels, their company aims to drastically reduce the rate of implant infections as well as provide a safe and reliable way to treat these ailments.

Watch Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, Co-founder and CEO of 2D-CyrstaLab, pitch below.

Group photo at McGill Boston Demo Day – September 14, 2017

McGill San Francisco Demo Day – September 19, 2017

Following Boston, we then headed to San Francisco where we had a series of meetings scheduled with a number of investors and McGill alumni entrepreneurs ahead of our main event on September 19, 2017.

Our first stop was at Mizuho where we had the opportunity to meet with Chris Nam and his team, Managing Director and Head of Internet and Digital Media Investment Banking for Mizuho’s North American banking business.

Made it to #SanFranciso! Great to meet with Chris Nam, head of internet and digital media investment banking and his team at @MizuhoAmericas

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 19, 2017

Sonder (formerly known as Flatbook) hosted us at their San Francisco offices where we had a roundtable discussion with Francis Davidson, Co-founder and CEO of the company. Sonder has gone on to become one of the breakaway successes of the McGill Dobson Cup where they competed in 2012.

While they never made it to the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup in their year, that did not stop Francis nor his co-founder Lucas from continuing to build their company, raise a seed round of funding followed by a Series A, all the while growing to become one of the fastest growing hospitality companies in the world.

Many thanks to Francis Davidson, CEO and co-founder of @SonderStays for the mentorship session w/ @mcgillu #startups in their #SF offices

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 19, 2017

While in the Bay Area, we also had the opportunity to meet with Aaref Hilaly, a McGill alum and partner at legendary Silicon Valley VC Sequoia Capital. At their Menlo Park offices, we were able to get into a discussion around Aaref’s experience as both a founder and entrepreneur (CenterRun and Clearwell) prior to his joining Sequoia.

Many thanks to @aaref, @mcgillu alumni and partner at @sequoia for hosting a roundtable discussion and mentorship session with our #startups

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 19, 2017

Following our initial series of meetings, we then made our way to the DocuSign offices in San Francisco, our gracious hosts for McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017.

We’d also like to recognize the McGill Alumni Association of Northern California for their help with outreach to local McGill alumni in the Bay Area. As well as to Montréal International for their support for McGill San Francisco Demo Day.

And the @mcgillu #SanFrancisco #DemoDay event is underway at the @DocuSign offices. Great crowd,amazing view. Thanks to @MTLINTL for support

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 20, 2017

Paul Chesser, Assistant Vice-Principal, Development at McGill University flew in from Montreal to provide opening remarks at McGill San Francisco Demo Day on behalf of the university.

Paul Chesser, Assistant Vice-Principal, Development at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Maher Ayari, Program Manager of the McGill X-1 Accelerator for two summers in a row (and currently a 4th year BCom student at Desautels), also provided opening remarks at the event where he talked about the diversity of this year’s McGill X-1 Accelerator cohort.

Maher Ayari, Program Manager, McGill X-1 Accelerator at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

We’re extremely proud to have had a diverse cohort this year in terms of gender, disciplines, academic experiences and industry verticals. In particular, out of the 25 entrepreneurs in this year’s McGill X-1 cohort, two-thirds of the founders were women.

Impressive stats on how diverse this year’s Mcgill X1 cohort was

— Front Row Ventures (@frontrowvc) September 17, 2017

4. Pelcro Michael Ghattas, Co-founder and CEO of Pelcro at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Pelcro graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Pelcro is a platform for digital media publishers to offer a sustainable AdFree experience and generate new recurring subscriber revenue from AdBlock users. In a few short months, Pelcro has helped a number of websites regain over 100% of their revenue lost due to AdBlock while continuing to generate recurring revenue for them.

Watch Michael Ghattas, Co-founder and CEO of Pelcro, pitch below.

5. Kiffin Natasha Alani, Co-founder and CEO of Kiffin at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Kiffin participated in the inaugural McGill Lean Startup Program 2015 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Kiffin is building a farm-to-office food experience. Their mission is to sustain workplaces everywhere with the highest quality and most sustainable food services. To date, Kiffin has generated over $200K in sales, serving over 5000 customers with 50 percent gross margins.

Watch Natasha Alani, Co-founder and CEO of Kiffin, pitch below.

To wrap up the evening, we were delighted to welcome Terry Cowl, Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, to provide closing remarks on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Terry Cowl, Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

 Proud to have @CanCGSF participate at today’s #DemoDay event with such inspiring #entrepreneurs!

— Terry Cowl (@tcowl) September 20, 2017

Group photo at McGill San Francisco Demo Day – September 19, 2017

We would also like to thank Ned Taleb, a McGill alum and serial entrepreneur now based in San Francisco, for hosting our entire cohort of startup founders for a celebratory dinner following McGill San Francisco Demo Day.

Well deserved celebratory dinner with the @mcgillu @DobsonCentre #startups in #SF Thanks to @NedTaleb, @McGillAlumni for hosting!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 20, 2017

The following morning, we made our way to the Palo Alto headquarters of IDEO for the second year in a row where we met with McGill alum Griffin Thomson, a Principal Designer who gave us a tour of their premises. Similar to last year, Griffin then ran a design thinking workshop for our cohort to wrap up our tour at IDEO HQ.

Visit to @ideo HQ in #PaloAlto this morning with our @mcgillu @DobsonCentre #startups! Thanks to @griffinthomson, @McGillAlumni #design

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 20, 2017

Our last stop in Silicon Valley was Fundbox, where McGill alums Matt Brightman and Ben Gruber led a roundtable discussion with Fundbox Founder and CEO Eyal Shinar. Fundbox is a technology company that focuses on helping small business owners overcome occasional short-term cash flow gaps. Fundbox has raised USD $108 million over 3 rounds of funding to date.

Thanks to @Matt_Brightman and @bennygruber for welcoming @mcgillu @DobsonCentre to @fundbox offices yesterday! Cc: @McGillAlumni #fintech

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 21, 2017

McGill Toronto Demo Day – October 3, 2017

Following San Francisco, we then headed to Toronto. Our first stop in the city the day before McGill Toronto Demo Day, included attending the TakeOver Innovation Conference. It was great to see Montreal representation at the conference, largely by way of Montreal-based Element AI having a strong presence throughout the conference.

Illuminating panel on #AI, hype vs. reality at the #takeoverconference in Toronto

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 2, 2017

Following the TakeOver Innovation Conference, we then headed to the DMZ at Ryerson University to learn more about what our peers at other Canadian education institutions were doing to help build and support the startup and entrepreneurship ecosystems in their city.

Many thanks to @jdabecker from @RyersonDMZ for showing us around yesterday. Appreciate the #startup tour and sharing lessons learned!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 3, 2017

Shortly before the main event on October 3, we made our way to MaRS in the early afternoon, where we got a tour of this world-class urban innovation district located in the heart of downtown Toronto, allowing entrepreneurs access to corporations, investors, mentors, university institutions and labs to test their concepts.

Thank you @adamspence and @bridgetzhaaang for the roundtable discussion and tour of @MaRSDD today! Incredible Canadian #innovation hub!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 3, 2017

Delighted to have @mcgillu #Toronto #DemoDay underway at the @Shopify offices! So great to see many @McGillAlumni out!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 3, 2017

We’re grateful to Shopify for hosting McGill Toronto Demo Day in their offices. We were also strongly supported by McGill Alumni Relations with organizing the event, including event logistics and inviting alumni based in Toronto to attend — thank you!

Part of the team that brought together the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017: (L-R) Maher Ayari, Program Manager; Sarah Barker, Program Relations Coordinator; Renjie Butalid, Associate Director – at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

We also had the pleasure of welcoming the Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management, Isabelle Bajeux, who flew in from Montreal to provide opening remarks at McGill Toronto Demo Day on behalf of Desautels and the university.

Dean Isabelle Bajeux, Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017 6. Basilisk Michael Di Genova, Founder and CEO of Basilisk at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Basilisk competed in the McGill Dobson Cup 2015 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Basilisk is an education technology company that aims to optimize study time and rethink the learning experience by empowering students to create their own practice questions. Not only do students recall the material better, they also understand the concepts better.

7. YUMiBOX Zoey Li, Co-founder and CEO of YUMiBOX at McGill Toronto Demo Day

YUMiBOX emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Small & Medium Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2016, while also taking home the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize that same year. They also graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

YUMiBOX makes it easy, simple and delicious to eat a variety of whole grains. With a vision led by a team of dietitians to help people switch away from refined carbohydrates toward healthier complex carbs. Healthy eating done the right way with clean label, wholesome food products.

8. Will+Zack Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO of Will + Zack at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Will+Zack competed in the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 where they made it to the Finals. They also graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Will+Zack makes made-to-measure professional womenswear. Their tagline? Their fashion house only makes one size. Yours.

Watch Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO of Will+Zack, pitch below.

9. Audible Reality Matt Boerum, Co-founder and CEO of Audible Reality at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Audible Reality emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Innovation Driven Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017.

Audible Reality is what happens when you get two PhD students from the McGill Schulich School of Music (who also happen to be Grammy and Emmy-award winners) teamed up with an IP lawyer. Audible Reality develops revolutionary 3D audio imaging technology to capture and deliver fully immersive, life-like sound from any source.

Watch Matt Boerum, Co-founder and CEO of Audible Reality, pitch below.

Group photo at McGill Toronto Demo Day – October 3, 2017

The next day, a number of our startup founders spent the morning with former McGill Dobson Cup participant and Y Combinator alum Charlie Feng at the Clearbanc offices in Toronto.

Thanks to @mcgillu alum, former #DobsonCup participant and @ycombinator alum @charliecfeng from @clearbanc for hosting us in #Toronto!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 6, 2017

McGill New York City Demo Day – October 10, 2017

Our final stop on our tour was New York City. We were excited to meet with a number of McGill alumni while we were in the city. This included a roundtable discussion with Aaron Stern, a McGill alum and now Director at investment management firm Fir Tree Partners.

Great meeting with @McGillAlumni Aaron Stern, Director at #FirTreePartners in their #NYC offices this morning! cc: @mcgillu

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 10, 2017

This was followed by a meeting with Mergen Davaapil, another McGill alum and Managing Director, Americas & Europe for Third Bridge. Third Bridge provides private equity firms, hedge funds and strategy consultants with the information that they need to understand the value of their investment opportunities. We were also joined by Brett Holloway, Vice President at Fortress Investment Group.

The last meeting of the day included a visit to the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, one of NYC’s leading tech accelerator programs. Macromeasures, a Finalist in the McGill Dobson Cup 2014, graduated from the ERA NYC program in the summer of 2015.

Thanks to @ERoundtable for hosting @DobsonCentre @DesautelsMcGill in #NYC! One week left to apply for W18 program!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 30, 2017

We’re grateful to Spring for hosting our McGill NYC Demo Day event in their offices in Manhattan.

Spring is one of the fastest growing e-commerce platforms that connects retails and shoppers using a direct-to-consumer sales model. Originally from Montreal, we were welcomed to the space by Nick D’Urbano, Head of Global Partnerships for Spring.

Nick D’Urbano, Head of Global Partnerships for Spring, at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

Excited to kickoff our #NYC #DemoDay event! Thanks to @shopspring for hosting us in your Manhattan office! Cc: @mcgillu @DesautelsMcGill

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 10, 2017

So happy to be at the @DobsonCentre pitch event in #nyc #startups #mcgillalumni

— Lana Tayara (@LTayara) October 10, 2017

We were again delighted to welcome Dean Isabelle Bajeux from the Desautels Faculty of Management who provided some opening remarks at McGill NYC Demo Day.

From L-R: Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO, Will+Zack; Isabelle Bajeux, Dean, Desautels Faculty of Management; Natasha Saviuk, Co-founder and Creative Director, Will+Zack at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

Stephen Harper, Director of London-based Strathmore Investments Ltd., and long-time Finalist Judge of the McGill Dobson Cup and supporter of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, also provided opening remarks at McGill NYC Demo Day.

Stephen Harper, Director of London-based Strathmore Investments Ltd., at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017 10. BG Therapeutics Will Lepry, Co-founder of BG Therapeutics at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

BG Therapeutics emerged as winners of the inaugural L’Oréal-Dobson Startup Award in this year’s McGill Dobson Cup 2017.

BG Therapeutics aims to treat dentin hypersensitivity (sensitive teeth) at a much faster rate by using their patent-pending process for making bioactive glass. Other applications also include using their product as a bone filling material for small bone defects including those for dental surgery.

Watch Will Lepry, Co-founder of BG Therapeutics, pitch below.

Group photo at McGill New York City Demo Day – October 10, 2017

Where it takes a village to raise a child, to truly build a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill requires an entire ecosystem of people and organizations connected with the university to contribute and play a role. At the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and on behalf of our founders and startups, we would like to thank everyone involved for making McGill Demo Days 2017 a success.

We’re excited to continue this important work of entrepreneurship ecosystem building at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship that extends well beyond the walls of McGill and Montreal and truly leverages the 250,000 plus network of McGill alumni around the world.

We look forward to returning to these cities again next year and perhaps, adding additional cities to our roster.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and our programs in a mentorship capacity, want to host an event in your city in the upcoming year, or provide support directly to help us build capacity as the centre for entrepreneurship at McGill, feel free to reach out at or on Twitter @dobsoncentre.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the John Dobson Foundation for its support of the McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Demo Days.

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Startup Spotlight: Upstart – Entrepreneurship meets Dungeons & Dragons

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 10:00

Editor’s Note: This summer, Richard Dacalos – educator, coach, and founder of a startup board game called Upstart, visited the McGill X-1 Accelerator and played a game with us. I was curious about his journey, as well as his thoughts on learning with games, so I decided to just interview him and share the insights with our readers. Upstart, which has been featured on Huffington Post, does a great job at teaching entrepreneurial skills, but more importantly, it’s a lot of fun!

On the value of a risk-free, startup life simulation

Richard Dacalos – founder of Upstart

1. Experimentation and making mistakes to learn is encouraged: you can play at business the way your real-life self would, or experiment and do things differently to see if there’s any value there. The game is designed to reveal some of your habits and mindsets around entrepreneurship. Unless you’re really intentional about it, you’ll probably stick to your regular habits.

There was one guy who discovered he was a wantrepreneur. In real life, he would go to a lot of pitch competitions without really developing something tangible. In the game, he was looking for followers without building something. Then he realized he was doing the same thing in real life. A few weeks after noticing this about himself, he came back to me and showed me that he made progress on a simple shirt business. And he believes Upstart was the reason he went that way because it illuminated his real life habits in a gentle way that allowed him to notice it himself, without any real life losses.

We’ve essentially compressed 2-3 years of startup experience in a 2-3 hour game…and the game shows you that life and business are interweaved, not separate.”

2. Also, there’s great value in seeing time and money as resources you hold in your hand. When you realize that those things are limited, you become very intentional about how you spend them – which is how it should be in real-life, although most people don’t necessarily act like it.

3. Finally, it’s a great game to gauge whether or not entrepreneurship is for you. It can serve as testing grounds to see what an entrepreneur’s life is like. We’ve essentially compressed 2-3 years of startup experience in a 2-3 hour game. The choices you make will affect your outcome, and the game shows you that life and business are interweaved, not separate. For example, your health, the quality of your relationships (whether it’s your family or your professional network), and the success of your business, are all dependent on each other.

What is it about games that makes them such a great learning tool?

The research on gamification is out there: it increases engagement unlike anything else. And it’s fun. We’ve had to go through several iterations to engineer the right balance between learning and fun.

The first MVP was too real and serious – economic downturns could destroy your business, there would be nothing you could do about it, and you’d lose hours worth of progress. That would be a realistic simulation, but isn’t that fun.

So we prototype, gather feedback, and then test a new version of the game: Remember, we’re a startup too.

To learn more about Upstart or support their Kickstarter efforts, visit

How Upstart works

It’s like any role-playing game. You get to choose your character, which determines how your attributes start off including your salary, how strong your network is, and how much business influence you have.

Then everyone rolls the dice (which can simulate the luck factor often ignored in entrepreneurship) and the game becomes a matter of doing the best with the cards you’re dealt. You move along the board, like in life. There’s also a game master who will help guide the players and act an as invisible hand to keep the game balance and moving forward.

Just like real-life, you can get sick because you’re neglecting your health and overworking for example, and lose a turn where you can’t work on your business.”

The strategy part is the cornerstone: you can use time and money to make decisions – and you’ve got limited amounts of both. A full-time employee would only have 15 hours to spend towards improving their business each week through a variety of tasks like networking, marketing, or hiring someone. A full-time entrepreneur would have 50, although they would have less capital to work with.

What’s fun is the way that your attributes, like health, come into play. Just like real-life, you can get sick because you’re neglecting your health and overworking for example, and lose a turn where you can’t work on your business.

There’s no one way to win. Instead, there are FOUR ways:

  1. Scale your business – A certain amount of capital that the business needs to attain
  2. Too popular to ignore – 10 000 followers, for example
  3. Cashcow – attaining a certain amount of personal wealth
  4. Stability – building a business that stands the test of time; one that generates a certain amount of capital every turn
Upstart is played in over 20 different countries to help people develop entrepreneurial skills, without any of the real-life risks.

How real-life skills come into play to win

There were some games where people were making deals among themselves on the side, using REAL money, to win the game. This is a great example of people improving their negotiation skills through Upstart.

And there’s actually a tile in the game where if you land on it, you have to do an elevator pitch for your in-game company, and the other players vote pass or fail. In this case, you’re having to demonstrate your speaking skills and your understanding of your business in 30 seconds when your in-game business is on the line.

Schools haven’t changed since the 1800s, and Upstart wants to revolutionize the way people learn.”

On teaching a gamified entrepreneurship course

I had a conversation with the director of a college here, and they needed an entrepreneurship course. I’m always looking for unique ways to teach, so I thought: “Why don’t we teach a course where the whole course is a game?”

Schools haven’t changed since the 1800s, and Upstart wants to revolutionize the way people learn. And we’ve managed to do it in a field that is ripe. We talk about innovation and disruptive all the time, but the very way it’s taught is lagging.


Some of the formative experiences that helped Richard develop Upstart

I played great games like Kiyosaki’s Cashflow which taught me a lot, but didn’t simulate entrepreneurship well. Along the same time, I tried and failed launching a number of businesses. I also played role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, as well as video-game RPGs. Certain games like the Game of Thrones card game are really well polished and gave me some models to emulate.

But one of the biggest experiences that helped me create Upstart was my time as a curriculum developer. That’s what really got me thinking in the mindset of: “What are the learning outcomes I want people to get?”

All of those experiences then came together when I created Upstart – a role-playing entrepreneurship game that teaches people real skill sets, and useful mental models.

Upstart is a Startup itself

When I began working on Upstart, I treated it like any other business. I started by immersing myself into the market: going to board game events, playing every game I could get my hands on, and hitting the streets to ask real people questions.

Then I made the MVP in a WEEK for my team to play with, and test it in over 20 different countries. It was raw, it was ugly, and people still played it. And that’s when we knew we were onto something. 2 or 3 iterations later, we started our first round of crowdfunding.

To make sure quality was good, I went through and inspected by hand, every copy of the game myself. (Editor’s note: This is a great example of how doing things that don’t scale can help jumpstart your business in the early stages)

How Upstart is different from its competitors

This is really a game to TEACH entrepreneurship – it’s not just a distraction. In fact, we offer a total package for schools (from over 20 different countries) if they license it. The game can serve as a processing tool in an incubator to help think about real life business. When you play with others, you’re evaluating their moves.

I remember this example where a player was playing as a full-time employee and working on something on the side, which was also her real-life situation. Then she saw everyone else playing and noticed how fast they were moving. Their businesses were moving at 2-3X the pace of hers, simply because she was only part-time. A few weeks later, she quit her real-life job and went full-time to grow her business. That’s the kind of impact Upstart can have.

To learn more about Upstart or support their Kickstarter efforts, visit


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Recap: The Role of Public Policy in Social Innovation

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 14:26

Last week we had our second Social Entrepreneurship event (here‘s the recap for the first) – this time focusing on the role of public policy. As much as entrepreneurs are empowered to make a difference, larger problems can’t be solved without collaboration. And as we learned during the event, the government needs to be part of that collaboration – especially for financing efforts! Special thanks to the McConnell Foundation for helping us host the event!

Do you have an opinion on the matter, or a social enterprise? Or maybe you’d like to share how we can use social innovation and social finance to build stronger communities? Be heard by clicking here! 

The event was divided into 3 parts: 1 for each speaker. There was also a breakout session at the end for active discussion regarding the issues that were discussed.

Part 1

WHO: Jonathan Glencross

• Co-founder, Canadian Entrepreneurship Initiative
• Director of Strategic Growth, Purpose Capital
• Director, Nexus Canada

Whereas much of the world is focused on problems and our growing set of difficulties, Jonathan showed us the roses among the thorns – startups that have done a tremendous job at both making an impact and showing rapid growth.

Here’s an example of one of those roses:

Takeaway: Social Innovation doesn’t have to be small

Gone are the days of small-scale social enterprises that never think about profit and growth. Although traditional business growth often leads to more inequality and increases in carbon emissions, it doesn’t have to be this way.

We may be seeing a new wave of social entrepreneurs. These are people who think that markets can be a force for good, and that having a large social component to it makes them a MORE viable business. It’s not enough to have morally good intentions, you need to be 10X better than current solutions.

Part 2

WHO: Jennifer Gammad Lockerby

• Social Innovation Fellow @ RECODE, McConnell Foundation

Are you aware of the McGill Bubble?

Jennifer certainly was when she was a student here, and she warned us of its dangers.

It’s like we’re in a cloud 30000 feet above from the community that surrounds us” – Jennifer Lockerby (on the McGill Bubble)

Although focusing all your time and energy within the campus is not inherently bad, it does make it difficult to get the surrounding community engaged. Since community engagement is a large part of social innovation, you can see how the Bubble can get us into trouble.

But should universities even care about responding to social challenges? Jennifer’s answer is a resounding YES.

2 examples of social innovation in universities

ECOLE (McGill)

The ECOLE project is a venture scheduled to begin its pilot year in September 2014 wherein 8-12 participants will pursue collective sustainable living and learning as they reside at the MORE house on 3559 rue University. Material (energy and water conservation, Carbon footprint) and social (collective living, social justice) sustainability are the focus of the ECOLE project and its coordinators have spent a year on networking and research to develop a base plan and guiding principles.

Diversity Food Services (University of Winnipeg)

Diversity Food Services is a joint venture of the University of Winnipeg’s Community Renewal Corporation(UWCRC) & SEED Winnipeg to deliver excellent food services to the University of Winnipeg while providing meaningful employment and ownership opportunities for the community. Together our specific community objectives include job opportunities in the food industry for new Canadians, Aboriginal people, community residents and University students. Diversity’s mission is to provide food services that demonstrate the desire to meet the goals of sustainability at the University within a work environment that reflects a high level of training for the diverse group of employees. We believe that together we can both enhance the quality of food services and develop competencies in all our employees.

Takeaway: Social Entrepreneurs need to collaborate with large institutions in order to scale, not just a grassroots approach

Bootstrapping and doing things that don’t scale is probably the best way to start your journey as an entrepreneur. It helps you develop the mental models necessary for building a business. This includes getting feedback from your customers, learning how to give them a 10X experience, and getting used to making pivots as you see fit.

But there comes a time when you’ve proven your assumptions, and what you really need is GROWTH.

You can continue to putter along, or you can get some help from the big guys. As a social entrepreneur, getting help from educational institutions is one way to expand your reach. And as you can see from the examples above, it works if you can align your mission with the  school’s .

Part 3

WHO: Stephen Huddart

•CEO & President, McConnell Foundation

The government of Canada has committed to developing a Social Innovation & Social Finance Strategy for the country, which will be co-created by June 2018.

The purpose, is to help us attain the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the UN:

Stephen also talked about 6 areas that the government should be investing in to advance social innovation, as identified by The Steering Group:

Takeaway: Enabling framework legislation could serve to recognize the contribution of the social economy, direct
government to consider social impact in designing and implementing policies and programs and support
collaboration between government and social purpose organizations.

Do you have an opinion on the matter, or a social enterprise?

Or maybe you’d like to share how we can use social innovation and social finance to build stronger communities?

Share your thoughts by clicking here! 


The post Recap: The Role of Public Policy in Social Innovation appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

Recap: The Science of Medical Startups

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 13:46

A startup is a newly emerged, fast-growing business that aims to meet a marketplace need by developing a viable business model around innovation. Yet when the market is our medical demands, the road to getting your product there can seem long and dreadful.

That’s why this previous Wednesday at our third event of the season, the Student Executive Team (SET) President of the McGill Dobson Centre, Nicolas Briner, invited two McGill startups, Dialysave and MYOVUE, who were nurtured by the Centre, to share their experiences and insights as successful medical startups.

Viviane Eberle and Alex Paun – Co-founders of Dialysave

Anya Pogharian started Dialysave when she was just 16 years old. Anya developed a passion for dialysis and understanding their patients’ needs when she volunteered in a clinic and noticed that a lot of patients were unhappy with the treatment they were getting.

Dialysis is a solution to kidney failures which results in impaired ability to filter blood. Only about 3% of kidney failure patients get transplants, which are the most efficient long term solution, the rest of the 97% are mostly on some form of dialysis.

Alex and Vivian speaking at our MedTech event about their experiences with Dialysave and the lessons to take away.

What is the accessibility problem with Dialysis machines?

Dialysis machines cost around $30k-$35k. They are very high cost machine with complimentarily costly infrastructure required to make the machine run. A single dialysis center uses over 100-200L of water a day, a very resource heavy treatment, and in part why it is so expensive. But an even greater problem, 90% of the people who need dialysis in the world do not have access to dialysis. Anya wanted to solve this. She wanted to create a dialysis machine that was tremendously less expensive and more financially and physically accessible—and with hours of work, a $30,000 machine became a $500 one.


Testing her Innovation

Anya was able to test her device at Héma-Québec with a blood pouch. Not only did it work, but the results were very successful. An insignificant damaging of the red blood cells proved her innovation worked and made the project seem very promising, and people were quick to catch on. Due to the success of the device and her unconventionally young age, media outlets really quickly took an interest and wrote about Anya’s story.

Clotted Roads

While Anya’s device was successful, everything was not on the road to success. The reality of it was that her innovation had no direction, and more importantly, no team! People were very quick to catch onto Anya’s innovation, too quick for her to even respond. In just the span of a night she woke up to over 80 articles about Dialysave and a denumerable amount of interview requests. Her success in her product quickly began to consume her time.

She kept getting swamped with everything between school and Dialysave. She had no way to create a business out of her successful invention.

Anya Pogharian (Founder & CEO of Dialysave) is pictured on-screen in a panel with Bill Clinton. Vivian Eberle on the right. Read more about their journey in this interview.

How the McGill Dobson Centre Kickstarted Their Journey

She still had such a passion but just didn’t know what to do – her innovation seemed in vain. Anya figured she would stay in University and study nursing and just stick with that.

But last January her friend, and now co-founder Vivian decided to enter the McGill Dobson Cup with her.

The McGill Dobson Cup allowed for Anya and Vivian to organize their strategy. They were also able to meet their CTO (Shawana Habib) through McGill Dobson Match and get a solid foundation as a group before continuing the project. Vivian said that by creating a focused timeline while doing the McGill Dobson Cup really enabled them to get both their school work done and still continue to work on Dialysave. Having won 3rd place in the McGill Dobson Cup, the team felt validated that they had a good idea and business plan and decided they wanted to go on to participate in the McGill X-1 Accelerator.

Through the X-1, they were really encouraged to think about entrepreneurship and their business a lot and differently. It helped them realize the importance of building a team. And since earlier this year they have stretched their board of mentors to outside of just McGill – they’re now a member of the District 3 Innovation Centre at Concordia University. Over the course of the summer, they realized that their problem of making dialysis more accessible may have not been solved by their first machine, and they were ready to start moving forward from there.

Anya and Vivian at the McGill Dobson Cup 2017

Innovative Growth

Before the X-1, they wanted to make machine less expensive, but there are also dialysers and other recurring costs which in the long-run would still add up to make their solution expensive. Dialysave is now trying to make an affordable and wearable dialysis machine that makes dialysis both more affordable and portable. Their solution is through the use of a nanobiomaterial with a high absorbent tolerance that they are working on in conjunction with Dr. Thomas Chang and his lab.

Typical ultrafiltration dialysis passes blood through small membranes and dialysis fluids takes up toxins in the blood and cleans it. Instead of two circuits for blood and dialysis fluid, Dialysave’s nano material will have a high surface area and absorbent material that will capture toxins instead of filtering them. This nano piece will then be able to be thrown out and replaced. This innovative shift in their design production was representative of their values as a social start up– their changes in their product better align with their vision of democratizing dialysis.


What to Expect:

Be ready to tackle on a few years of development, production, and testing. Don’t fixate too much on the regulatory process, it’s better to develop a product and improve it rather than focus on micro-regulations.


What to Take Away

Dialysave has developed a lot since Anya was doing it alone. No matter where you are if you have an idea or concept developed for something and you want to go to the market and make a business and there is a market to profit off it, you should just go out there and find people to help you create a clear direction of where you are going. And you’d also be surprised at the amount of support you would get and the people who will help you in the way.

If you have a vision and a plan that you really believe in, but seemingly nowhere to go, don’t let yourself give up. Along the way you’ll meet the right people. Anya had no way of imagining that she would meet the right people to help turn her innovation into an industry breakthrough, yet she is now the inventor and founder of a medical startup on the road to success.

Jesse at our MedTech event speaking about his experience with developing MYOVUE.

Jesse Ehrlick – Regulatory Finance Manager at MYOVUE

When you go to get a checkup you probably don’t suspect that you will undergo an amputation; yet this is the reality of around 5,000 people a year because of the diagnosis inefficiency of Acute Compartment Syndrome.

Acute Compartment Syndrome (ACS) is typically a consequence of high-impact trauma, most commonly bone fractures. It results when the tissue pressure within a closed muscle compartment exceeds the pressure of fluid passage causing the muscles and nerves to not receive enough blood. The damage of untreated ACS is usually amputation or immobility of the body part in question.


The Problem

ACS is a major limb threatening complication and it can develop unpredictably up to 48 hours after trauma, and the damage it induces becomes irreversible afterwards. However, because of the uncertainty in diagnosis, doctors end up either missing the symptoms or operating on too many people just to avoid possibility of both medical and legal risk.

The main problem in ACS however is not treating it, but rather confidently diagnosing it. MYOVUE is the solution to the lack of adequate diagnosis procedures available to trauma surgeons looking to test for ACS in people with fractures or people who have sustained traumatic injuries.


Market Size

ACS mostly occurs in bone fractures from high trauma and heroin overdose. There are almost 2.5M Long Bone fractures every year, 500k of which are from high energy injuries, and 50k of which will develop ACS, leading to muscle damage when diagnosed late. While diagnosing early to perform surgery is highly effective, 5,000 diagnoses are still too late resulting in amputation or loss of function.

MYOVUE as a Solution

MYOVUE is a single use, highly accurate, continuous remote monitoring device. MYOVUE works with diffusion pressure: it applies a small amount of continuous pressure to muscles to provide real-time, accurate muscle pressure measurement which allows doctors to decide if patients need surgery.

In these cases, elevated pressure is critical and must be monitored. There is currently no efficient and easy way to do it. We are about to solve this problem.” – Chief founder, Dr. Ed. Harvey.

The information from the device gets uploaded to an app where it can be live streamed and monitored. This not only gives physicians a constant and reliable stream of information, but also cuts down on time and staff that would have previously performed more lengthy and less effective measures repeatedly.


How they started

MYOVUE started off from a $350k Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Grant to Chief Medical Officer Ed. Harvey, leader of the Injury Repair and Recovery Program at the McGill University Health Center Research Institute.

Through networking within the biotech field and orthopedic surgeon community, he was able to start a young team along with a recruitment of senior external advisors who were successful in the field of medical technology. Currently the team has medical and biological technology entrepreneurs as well as also a scientific team working in conjunction through the Harvey lab

Setting up a team and having advisors was critical to turn the innovation from a device to a product. With the research from their grant they were able to produce a functional prototype and in 2016 they were ready to start bench testing. After that they were able to start animal testing in 2017 and have since then become patent pending.


Next in Line

MYOVUE enrolled in the McGill X-1 Accelerator in 2016. During this time, they met with mentors in their field and developed a more nuanced understanding for how to address market related inquiries about their product.

They’re now trying to get the remaining $500k in their $2M goal in investment for research and testing. Before they can enter the market, they need more clinical and regulatory testing, as well as the approval of regulatory organizations such as Health Canada, the FDA, and the EU.

Clinical Validations have been performed in Canada to test usability of device and that it functions. The commercial testing and FDA Approval are to come and then after testing to prove the clinical and economic value of their device.

In terms of taking a new approach to medical technology as a startup, quality approval for risk management is incorporated into every part of their product design and production. In addition, MYOVUE uses specialized paperless software in their production, a high energy and cost saving technique most long standing medical companies haven’t been able to do.

Their team also participated in the McGill Dobson Cup and won a prize in the Health Sciences Track.

Competitive Landscape

The only other competitor is Stryker – a highly inaccurate device to use in ACS diagnosis. Stryker is a fluid filled syringe that is injected into the injury site to check the diffusion rate. However, it gives different pressure readings based on a long list of factors such as: speed of injection, angle, location, etc., it also is mostly used after doctors already think that patients have ACS.

MYOVUE is more efficient and effective at screening for ACS. While it is also more expensive continuous measurement is far more effective compared to doing multiple injections at different times like Stryker, and the financial cost of purchasing MYOVUE is lowering the opportunity cost of misdiagnosis leading to amputation.


What is the market outlook?

Stryker has essentially a monopoly on ACS but they only act as a confirmation tool; MYOVUE wants to act as a screening device to prevent late diagnosis. Its results have proven economically successful in the lab resulting in: 40% reduction in measurement error, 40% reduction in operating room time, and a 60% reduction in ACS Related Costs. As an early screening device, it will also save on long-term costs associated with lawsuits that occur in misdiagnosis of ACS.



Due to the success and necessity of MYOVUE, institutions are coming on for the support of this program. Yet they’re not quite ready to hit the market soon, the hardest part they said is getting investments before your product becomes market ready. Most Investors only want to buy in when the development stage is over, but by attending conferences and tech fairs, you open your product to investment.

MYOVUE to Other Medical Start Ups

MYOVUE is an innovation that was created in a field that was lacking a specific device for a specific demand. In order for to create a well-defined product you must identify a need that isn’t well serviced in the medical market.

Likewise through the process of a medical startup, it is important to have plans for how you will test, regulate, quality control, and then market your device. In addition, networking, researching, and inquiring key leaders’ opinions in one’s product will spread the success of your device.

Interested in the stories of other successful medical startups out of McGill? Take your pick:

The post Recap: The Science of Medical Startups appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

1 week left to apply for New York’s ERA Tech Accelerator 2018! 

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 12:44

There is only one week left to apply for the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA) Winter 2018 cohort, New York City’s leading tech accelerator!

Apply Today

ERA is accepting applications for its Winter 2018 NYC Accelerator Program. The deadline to apply is November 6, 2017.

ERA invests USD $100K in seed funding and gives entrepreneurs access to NYC’s leading mentor network and community, including exposure to 350+ industry leaders.

They work with companies intensively throughout their 4 month program, and continue to support them all the way through an exit. Since 2011, ERA Alumni have raised USD $250M and grown to more than USD $1.3B in combined valuation.

Thanks to @ERoundtable for hosting @DobsonCentre @DesautelsMcGill in #NYC! One week left to apply for W18 program!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 30, 2017

Early Admissions – October 12, 2017

Deadline: November 6, 2017

Program Start: January 8, 2018

* Open Office hours @ ERA

Notable McGill startup, MacroMeasures, previously went through the ERA accelerator program.

Get gender, interests, language of any valid #Twitter or #Instagram user via @macromeasures #API

— ProgrammableWeb (@programmableweb) April 25, 2017

Apply Today

The post 1 week left to apply for New York’s ERA Tech Accelerator 2018!  appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

One week left to apply for the ERA Accelerator Program in New York City

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 14:33

There is only one week left to apply for the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA) Winter 2018 cohort, New York City’s leading tech accelerator!

Apply Today

ERA is accepting applications for its Winter 2018 NYC Accelerator Program. The deadline to apply is November 6, 2017.

ERA invests USD $100K in seed funding and gives entrepreneurs access to NYC’s leading mentor network and community, including exposure to 350+ industry leaders.

They work with companies intensively throughout their 4 month program, and continue to support them all the way through an exit. Since 2011, ERA Alumni have raised USD $250M and grown to more than USD $1.3B in combined valuation.

Thanks to @ERoundtable for hosting @DobsonCentre @DesautelsMcGill in #NYC! One week left to apply for W18 program!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 30, 2017

Early Admissions – October 12, 2017

Deadline: November 6, 2017

Program Start: January 8, 2018

* Open Office hours @ ERA

Notable McGill startup, MacroMeasures, previously went through the ERA accelerator program.

Get gender, interests, language of any valid #Twitter or #Instagram user via @macromeasures #API

— ProgrammableWeb (@programmableweb) April 25, 2017

Apply Today

The post One week left to apply for the ERA Accelerator Program in New York City appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

Founder Spotlight: David Bornstein (Author of How To Change The World)

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 09:52

Editor’s Note: David Bornstein is the author of “How to Change the World,” which has been published in 20 languages, and “The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank,” and is co-author of “Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know.” He is a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

His colleague Taylor Nelson is leading their efforts with a new offering called Solutions U, which aims to help universities incorporate real-time reporting in their courses on social innovation.

What is Solutions Journalism?

T: We’re redefining investigative reporting on social issues. We’re really focusing on how social entrepreneurs are actually making things happen – both the successes, and failures. And we’re always asking, “How can we inform each other better?”  

We can face challenges, and we can share the how-to’s and the insights that we’ve learned from the different way people are tackling issues like chronic homelessness, food waste, and access to healthcare.

David authored How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas.

Solutions Journalism is a nonprofit that provides training to newsrooms, along with open workshops, to improve investigative journalism when it comes to social impact. We value rigorous reporting on responses to social issues, and finding a way to make media a more useful feedback loop for society.

Our newest offering, Solutions U is an online learning hub to support teaching and learning about societal problems. As you can tell by the name, we’re oriented around solutions and responses, not problems. We really want to be able to share the nitty-gritty details of the tangible insights that people can pull out and apply.

Our Story Tracker is a database of rigorous reporting on how people are responding to social enterprises. We’ve already got over 2000 stories, created and maintained by the Solutions Journalism Network. It actually started off as a tool for journalists, but then we thought, “Hey let’s aggregate these stories to show other people what the path looks like”, and we use different media types to do that, including: short videos, podcasts, and articles.

Are there any resources social entrepreneurs should know about?

D: When I was a McGill student in management and trying to figure out my career, I was interested in social issues but didn’t know where to start.

Nobody was talking about business within the context of social entrepreneurship. Everybody wanted to work at an accounting firm! Today, business is a real tool for the betterment of the world – and there are many ways to apply it.

I wish I had a way to see the the kinds of things that people are doing around the world, whether it’s making an impact in health, innovative finance, or access to clean Having a map would have been a helpful resource. What does the path look like in real life? What does it mean to scale something? How can we build off the knowledge and failures of people who’ve already been there, done that?

When I started working on SJN, I was always trying to make it so that students could benefit from it.

I would also say check out the documentaries by the Skoll foundation, and look into Ashoka.

We don’t need 47 brands of soap on every shelf. It’s a shallow kind of variety.

How do you make people care?

D: You can’t make people care in isolation. Think about a great dinner party. It’s through the gathering that people are able to engage in ways that make them feel more alive. The same goes for social enterprise. Community is what makes that possible, and we’re trying to make it possible to share that in a way that scales.

Social enterprises have an advantage, however. The goal that the community is organized around is much more inherently meaningful than an ordinary business. You can get people excited about anything. But let’s say you work in a typical company where the product is not explicitly around a social purpose, like soap. It’s more difficult to get people organized around the idea of excellence and impact, which is WHY those companies need to provide other perks to retain their workers – the work is not inherently meaningful.

We don’t need 47 brands of soap on every shelf. It’s a shallow kind of variety.

…we can’t save the world with just 2000 people. The only way, is to get millions of people, and that’s only possible through collaboration.

What is the future of social entrepreneurship?

D: The main thing we’re headed towards is collaboration. We’re moving away from the idea that business is a for-profit sector. Everybody’s focused on becoming the best piping company in Cleveland or the best rideshare business.

Although it allows for tremendous growth and productivity, that doesn’t really matter in the social sector. Let’s say your organization wants to make sure every kid in America graduates from high school regardless of socioeconomic traits.The model of trying to become the biggest business makes no sense – we can only accomplish the goal if you create frameworks that allow tens of thousands of institutions to collaborate and innovate.

Let’s say you start with a team of 20 people in a social enterprise: even if you grow by a factor of 100, you’re only 2000 people and we can’t save the world with just 2000 people. The only way, is to get millions of people, and that’s only possible through collaboration.

Solutions journalism focuses on how to fix problems instead of getting lost in them.

What’s a very nitty-gritty way that Solutions Journalism is different from ordinary journalism?

D: We focus a lot more on “how-to” questions. “How did you finance your enterprise, how did you get political support, how did you avoid opposition from the labor unions, and avoid resentment from doctors and bureaucracy…how did you overcome the resistance?”

There’s a big difference between being able to inspire people, and actually being able to teach them the detail oriented work necessary to turn their vision into reality. The latter is often work that happens quietly without anyone paying attention. It can often be seen as dull and boring, and it requires durable motivation, but that’s where the real magic happens.

Check out Solutions Journalism to learn about rigorous reporting on social issues.

If you’re just getting started on the social entrepreneurship path, check out Solutions U to learn about societal problems and solutions.

And finally, if you’d like to share a story about your social enterprise, go to their Story Tracker.

The post Founder Spotlight: David Bornstein (Author of How To Change The World) appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

6 Facts You Didn’t Know About AdBlock

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 12:26
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by Andrew Morris and published at, a McGill startup that went through our 2017 X-1 Accelerator. Their mission is to provide a win-win ad-free web experience for consumers and content creators. Visit to get started.  1. People aren’t just using AdBlock to Block ads


In a survey conducted by Adobe, 17% said privacy was a concern and 8% for performance. There are more benefits to and AdFree Experience than you think and people are well aware of them. 2. AdBlock is Spreading Through Word of Mouth   Half of surveyed users said they learned about Adblock from a friend. It’s the high Virality that’s leading to an increase in downloads and higher rates of penetration. 3. AdBlock Is Global And There Are More AdBlockers Than You Think  11% of the global internet population is blocking ads on the web with a high amount of those users concentrated in the United States, Canada, and Europe. That is not even taking into account the other content blockers that are out there. 4. AdBlock Is Growing 30% Year Over Year  As if the Adblock Penetration rates weren’t high enough, the downloads are increasing at a higher rate every year. Content blocker adoption rates are also expected to surge once Google Chrome and Safari introduce their own blockers, such as anti tracking and autoplay prevention. 5. There Is A Willingness To Pay There are those who doubt that anyone would be willing to pay for AdFree Experience. However, studies have shown that 20% of Adblock users you be willing to pay for an Ad-Free Experience on their favourite website. Subsequently, they would therefore have a higher willingness to pay to get access to an AdFree experience across a network of their favourite websites. 6. AdBlock is Surging Through Mobile Even Faster Than It Did With Web In 2015, AdBlock grew on mobile from 145 to 380 million downloads. By 2016 there were 615 Million Devices that enabled AdBlock and still growing at an increasing rate. What does all of this mean?

Users are clearly frustrated with current advertising. And with CPMs lower than they were, there is a need for a different business model. One that can keep users happy and generate revenue for the publishers.

Interested in trying our solution? Visit to get started! Andrew Morris

The post 6 Facts You Didn’t Know About AdBlock appeared first on The Dobson Chronicles.

AI and FinTech: Takeaways from the Canada Forum

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 00:32

Editor’s Note: Our writer Amir Nosrat (PhD student at Desautels) is a lover of all things FinTech (especially as a tool to overcome environmental challenges), so we sent him to the 2017 Canada FinTech Forum to be able to report back to our readers with some of his learnings. Here’s what he and his co-writer Saif had to say. 

This is Amir and Saif. Y’all might remember Amir from the last post he wrote on innovation in the payment sector. Saif is a McGill alumnus, who like Amir, is interested in bringing FinTech solutions to grand challenges like climate change. This time, we’ve teamed up to share with you about what we learned from the 2017 AI and Fintech Conference. The event was organized by Finance Montreal, which is essentially a hodgepodge of government and big financial institutions that want to make Montreal a global financial hub – kind of like what it used to be before Toronto stole that title from Montreal in the 80’s and 90’s.

In any case, what is the financial sector? At its core, we consider the financial sector to comprise of 2 major types of organizations – the banks and the insurance companies. The sector is also full of organizations that cater to this core clientele – including legal firms, accounting firms, IT firms, and anything else you think is relevant to helping the bankers and insurers thrive. In short, the industry is really good at hoarding lots and lots of capital and they have constructed a vast Rube Goldberg machine to conduct financial transactions. This means that there are many processes within the financial sector that have been in place since the Jurassic Age and are just ripe for being AI’d.

So, we went to the event to understand what AI is going to mean for the financial sector. And here is our verdict:  nobody really knows how AI is going to shape the financial sector in the coming years. Nobody even knows what ‘artificial intelligence’ really means. As you’ll see in some of our startup highlights below, AI applications can include anything from chatbots acting as virtual agents to fraud detection. Essentially, as one participant put it, artificial intelligence is a sleeping giant that is waiting to be summoned in the financial services. Everybody is just waiting and watching to see what this giant is going to look like and who it’s going to take out. We think this is exciting, because it means there’s lots of space for young and aspiring entrepreneurs to step up to the challenge and shake up an industry that has been around for many decades.

‘AI’ just seems to be the latest spin on an industry-wide trend that has been going on for at least a decade

There are a couple of caveats to this sleeping giant business. First, according to some accounts, financial services have seen multiple waves of automation that keeps heating up and cooling down. ‘AI’ just seems to be the latest spin on an industry-wide trend that has been going on for at least a decade and it could fizzle like the last waves of automation. Despite this, everyone  we talked to believed that this next wave of automation is going to be different because of unlocked capabilities enabled by current data infrastructure and processing. Second, very little of the data seems to be standardized, making it challenging to convert it into useful information.

Third, entrepreneurs should not assume that their AI idea is going to be adopted by virtue of being AI. We saw many technologies out there that were being pushed onto the industry, but this doesn’t mean that there are necessarily any business problems they will solve. As one participant put it, it seems that the finance sector is where the internet industry was in the 90’s (which BTW is what Amir also heard a lot at the payments summit). If there is anything we remember from internet in the 90’s is that it was followed by the Dot com crash. By the same token, many AI ideas may seem like a good idea because it’s sexy, but their real underlying value could be totally absent.

In order to get a sense of where things will head, we took notes at a startup pitch contest during which 10 companies varying in areas of focus and founder backgrounds presented their ideas to get some cash prize and free consulting services. Despite a lengthy three-hour process, the contest served as a terrific snapshot of the industry’s current hot topics and areas that are drawing appetite for innovation.

2016 was a record year in data breaches

Two main themes became more and more apparent as the pitch competition came to a close. First, it seemed that FinTechs are using AI to streamline customer experience and back-office work. AI helped on this front by improving process efficiency, accuracy and risk management. Applications of AI included regulatory compliance, personalized financial advising, financial management, and insurance services on-the-go. Second, the advent of AI is creating security challenges, so FinTechs need to help the industry to stay ahead of the game by boosting cybersecurity and data protection. This trend is no surprise as 2016 was a record year in data breaches.

The winner of the cup was Kalepso, a cybersecurity startup that is focused on building an impenetrable middle-ware between financial institutions and the cloud. Their product allows users to securely store files and databases while retaining search, retrieval and sharing functionalities. The technology itself is based on years of cutting-edge research at Harvard University. When we asked Ben Brabyn, one of the judges and the Head of Level39, about the rationale behind the decision, he stressed the importance of cybersecurity solutions that deliver on their promises and the size of the potential market. Level39 is the world’s most connected community for finance, cybersecurity, retail and smart-city technology businesses

Here is a short account of the other startups. Hopefully, you’ll see the same themes as us:

  • VigilantCS provides a platform to facilitate staff compliance and risk analytics in the financial services industry.
  • Sprout operates as a financial coach in your pocket to help you manage your money.
  • JAUNTIN’ enables insurance companies to acquire better data on policyholders through proprietary on demand technologies.
  • MindBridge Analytics Inc. bridges the gap between human and artificial intelligence by enhancing professional judgment across multiple industries. MindBridge AI introduced the world’s first commercial AI Auditor platform at the end of 2016.
  • FI.SPAN purports to be a service management platform that allows banks to deploy new business banking products rapidly.
  • Flinks enables Canadian businesses to access their users’ financial data. Flinks powers the world’s greatest financial data aggregator, for the Canadian market.
  • Seedlify is inventing a new way to invest in early growth companies through revenue sharing (a.k.a royalties) and a token backed fund.
  • Exagens is a chatbot that helps the sector to humanize their digital channels. Chatbots seem to be the future of conversational virtual agents.

The conference was presented by Business Development Bank of Canada. Given it is a major financial institution in and of itself, we were curious about BDC’s appetite for supporting fintech as a technology adopter and not solely as an investor. Members of the BDC team shared they are revisiting procurement policies and areas of efficiency with customer support through the lens of AI solutions. How soon would AI make a significant shift in BDC’s investing practices? Only time will tell.

In any case, we hope you found this information useful. Before we sign off, we wanted to share some exciting news for people who are interested in entering the fintech space. Desjardins announced during the conference that they’ve partnered up with la Caisse to create a $75 million FinTech fund so if you have a solid FinTech idea that’s going to sell, make sure you keep these guys on your radar. 


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Recap: The Future of Technology – 3D Audio, AI, and Blockchain

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 15:19

On Wednesday October 18, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted its third workshop of the fall season, centered on the upcoming technological revolutions shaking the business world. Our two speakers of the evening, Matthew Boerum from Audible Reality, winner of the 2017 McGill Dobson Cup, and Yves Guillaume A. Messy, founder of insurance startup QGS Technologies Ltd., both led fascinating discussions on the opportunities unleashed by technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.    

Editor’s Note: A short glossary of all technical terms is featured at the bottom of the article, with some essential links to learn more about each of them.

After greeting the audience and presenting the activities of the McGill Dobson Center for Entrepreneurship, Nicolas Briner, the President of the Student Executive Team, introduced and Matthew Boerum from Audible Reality, winner of the 2017 Dobson Cup’s Innovation-driven enterprise track, and Yves Guillaume A. Messy, our speakers for the evening. Yves Guillaume is the founder of London-based insurance technology startup QGS Technologies Ltd., which combines Artificial Intelligence-driven Blockchain Apps (DAOs) and virtual reality technology to eliminate political risks to investment assets. He is also the author of Sustainable Finance: Investment Strategies for the Social and Environmental Purpose Investor, a book that covers investment management approaches to financing the transition towards a carbon-neutral global economy.

The Audible Reality team. From left to right: Bryan Martin, Julien Lacheré, Matthew Boerum Matthew Boerum from Audible RealityReinventing the audio experience

With a background as a professional musician and recording engineer, Matthew Boerum has always been immersed in the music and audio industry. “Big gigs taught me a lot, but small gigs taught me a lot more: how to hustle”, he says. It is this drive that prompted him to come to Canada and apply for Ph.D. at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, and to join forces with Bryan Martin to create Audible Reality, a startup that seeks to redefine the experience of anyone listening to audio through headphones.

After a quick throwback across the history of the audio user experience, from the phonograph to streaming music on your smartphone, Matthew’s presentation focused on his company and how it harnesses technology to reinvent the way people listen to music – and more.  Imagine putting on your headphones in the metro, pressing play, and having your favorite band playing in front of you. Imagine streaming a big game of your favorite hockey team, and hearing the buzzing arena all around you. That’s the kind of feeling Audible Reality wants you to experience, by adding a 3D layer to the audio track you listen to. Matthew and his cofounder Bryan invented a set of tools to replicate how we perceive sound in reality, and embedded their technology in a software that they then share with interested developers, in exchange for royalties.

How do they do it? That’s a secret of course, but they leverage artificial intelligence to do what Matthew called “music information retrieval”, which is essentially matching features of the sound and associating the right 3D sound models to your track in order to give you more than that left-right audio balancing you are used to. Matthew also mentioned the way music streaming companies are starting incorporating AI in their operations, for instance with AI software learning to aggregate songs into playlists. But the possibilities are much bigger. While the company is only into software now, Audible Reality is set out to propose immersive hardware in the future.

He ended the presentation of Audible Reality’s revolutionary approach to audio experience by thanking the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship for giving Audible Reality the chance to move forward with their idea through the McGill Dobson Cup, something he called a “life-changing experience”, and our friends at Centech for welcoming them. We wish Audible Reality all the best and thank them for allowing the audience to try out their software during the networking session that closed this week’s event.

Our second speaker, Yves Guillaume A. Messy Yves Guillaume A. Messy: Keeping us in the know about what is coming

Our second speaker of the evening was Yves Messy. A 26-years old self-taught artificial intelligence programmer, founder of insurtech startup QGS Technologies Ltd. and political science graduate from the University of Toronto, Yves joined us to discuss the wave of technologies threatening to dramatically alter the way we do business in the world right now.

A political refugee from Cameroon, Yves arrived to Canada with his parents while he was still a child. Growing up, he set out to understand how and why political risk remained amongst the hardest type of risks to predict. Introducing QGS Technologies Ltd., his London-based venture that leverages AI technology to answer the question: “how to get politics to fit into a number?”, and aims at making international due diligence processes simpler through the use of virtual reality.

AI and technology are the “two hippest words” out there. But what do they really mean, and what are their implications? That’s what Yves aimed to explain to our audience throughout his presentation.

From blockchain making transactions cheaper and faster, thanks to the trust the system inherently carriers, to reminding everyone that AI has been around for decades – if not centuries, we touched on too many subjects for them to fit in a recap. Here are some focal points of the discussion:

  • What’s new in AI? Artificial intelligence is essentially trying to get machines to mimic (or even exceed) human-like reasoning with a series of statistical models. While many scientists have worked on the subject for long, what’s new is the enhanced computing and data storage capabilities that make the creation of ever more sophisticated models possible.
  • Cognitive business: The business world has always tried to benefit from technology-related advancements and has huge information needs. With artificial intelligence, companies are able to make sense of information easily, and possibly with less people than before, thereby increasing the speed of business decisions.
  • Blockchain: It’s essentially the “best database” in recent human history. The distributed ledger technology makes it possible to reduce tremendously the transaction costs on sensitive exchanges, thanks to shared, encrypted knowledge that is co-trusted by blockchain participants. Like so many technology-driven organizations today (Facebook, Uber…), blockchain is subject to network effects, meaning that the worth of the network grows exponentially with the number of participants.
  • Smart contracts: The lifeblood of blockchain, which are peer-to-peer contracts that are run automatically by the blockchain code, and thus cannot be broken. However, because they allow you to enforce contracts, they could potentially somewhat take on the role of traditional institutions, with tremendous implications for our societies.
  • Decentralized autonomous organization (DAO): With AI, it is now possible to have systems running on their own, without needing someone to speak for it. Yves mentioned Bitcoin, which doesn’t have a CEO, as an example.

Finally, we also went over some of the consequences of those revolutions on the world, and their implications on things like human resource management, ethics, legal frameworks, or self-managing corporations, and how to keep it human. As an end note for his presentation, Yves replied to a question from one attendant about AI threatening to destroying jobs with the following answer: “In developed economies, AI is seen as a canceler, but in the developing world, they are excited about the jobs that AI will enable”. He also stressed that we are the ones writing the code, and thus have a degree of control and responsibility over it.

Here are the slides from Yves’ talk!

The evening’s discussions were both captivating, enlightening, a little frightening, and overall a lot of fun. It allowed many to get a better understanding of the nature and caliber of changes affecting the business world, and of the wide range of opportunities they unlock.

The McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship holds weekly events that address a variety of topics, from tonight’s focus on technology, to last week’s workshop on Social Entrepreneurship. The complete schedule for the fall 2017 and winter 2018 seasons is available here.


Disclaimer: The following definitions and sources are only there in an attempt to help potential readers struggling with some concepts. You are encouraged to consult other authoritative, trusted sources for more information.

  • Cryptocurrency: A cryptocurrency (or crypto currency) is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange using cryptography to secure the transactions and to control the creation of additional units of the currency. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • Blockchain: The technology at the heart of bitcoin and other virtual currencies, blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Artificial Intelligence: the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. The term is frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience. (Source: Britannica)
  • Fintech: Financial technology—FinTech for short— describes the evolving intersection of financial services and technology. The term can refer to startups, technology companies, or even legacy providers. The lines are blurring, and it’s getting harder to know where technology ends and financial services begin. (Source: PwC)
  • Decentralized Autonomous Organization: A decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), sometimes labeled a decentralized autonomous corporation (DAC), is an organization that is run through rules encoded as computer programs called smart contracts. A DAO’s financial transaction record and program rules are maintained on a blockchain. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • Virtual reality: A computer technology that uses virtual reality headsets, sometimes in combination with physical spaces or multi-projected environments, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. A person using virtual reality equipment is able to “look around” the artificial world, and with high quality VR move around in it and interact with virtual features or items. (Source: Wikipedia)

If you enjoyed reading this article, check out these other stories:

Recap: Montreal Startup Weekend – Artificial Intelligence Edition

Startupfest 2017 Recap – The Future of Everything

Enterprise Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, & the Future of Retailing on the Brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The post Recap: The Future of Technology – 3D Audio, AI, and Blockchain appeared first on The Dobson Chronicles.

Event Recap: Social Entrepreneurship 101

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 19:17

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

You may have heard or been thinking about this question since our last workshop on kickstarting innovation.

But this previous Wednesday at our second event of the season, the Student Executive Team (SET) President of the McGill Dobson Centre, Nicolas Briner, highlighted the bridge between social entrepreneurship as both a social cause and as a business. Social Entrepreneurship is the conjunction of social purpose and a social good.

Briner asked the presenters a reflective question: what were your experiences, struggles, and insights on social entrepreneurship through your startup process?

Swathi Meenakshi – RevoLOOtion

Meenakshi started out her social entrepreneurship story with her co-founder, who she met online through a social networking site, years ago with just the two of them as a team; yet here she stood before us her and her team having won the McGill Dobson Cup, presented in the Social Economy Initiative’s Annual Homecoming in 2015, been awarded funding from the Infosys Foundation, and been a semi-finalist of the Forbes $1M to Change the World Competition.

Swathi from RevoLOOtion – a rapid drying, compostable toilet that is a solution to open defecation practices.

Where and how did her story in entrepreneurship start?

During her undergraduate studies, Meenakshi participated in a volunteering trip to India in which she was met with a slight culture shock–open defecation. She cites this experience as a shift in her world view, one that was further fortified by sharing her experiences with her mother, who grew up in India, and laid claim that her hometown was the same.

Open defecation in India is not a cultural taboo, but the growing health and safety risks associated with the practice has put pressure on the Indian government to take measures against it. However, installing toilet systems can be overly costly, especially when the opportunity cost of not buying a toilet is near nothing because open defecation can be freely practiced with no perceived adverse effects. Moreover, not all areas of India and Bangladesh have access to water pipes used in traditional toilets.

Thus, RevoLOOtion was founded as a rapid drying, compostable toilet that is a solution to open defecation practices.


RevoLOOtion as a Solution

⅓ of the world population is affected by open defecation and its effects are detrimental to both the local and broader community in terms of health, economic development, and the environment.

Not only are open defecation practices negative, other conventional waste solutions are also unsustainable. 80% of the world’s wastewater goes untreated and is just dumped into the ocean with no sanitation treatments, all of which cycles back into us. Similarly, conventional freshwater flushing toilets are growing more and more unsustainable as our freshwater supply decreases, in this case, more toilets will lead to more toilets flushing leading to even more freshwater waste.

RevoLOOtion addresses all these health and sustainability concerns with the added benefit of being easily constructed and placed inside pre-existing rooms typically only intended for bathing.


Not an Easy First Flush

Meenakshi and her co-founder didn’t have the smoothest time throughout this whole process. To begin with, developing a prototype that they and consumers were please with took multiple attempts. The final model, which is shown on their website, was the work of multiple prototypes, countless consumer surveys, and understanding the needs, wants, and limitations of consumer of their product.

This is one of Meenakshi’s key points to producing a successful product designed to meet a specific social need: understand your consumer.

Creating the final version of their product was an achievement, but they were still dedicated to improving. On their website, you will see a timeline of the progress their company has made including their awards and achievements. Not included is an even longer list of over 20 things they have applied to and lost, some of which they have applied to and lost over three times.


How do they find the drive?

As she mentioned before, Meenakshi was impacted by something which peaked her interest in a social need that was further reinforced by a personal connection she made with her mother; she had a strong emotional connection to a project, something that her co-founder also shared. While she says it may be possible for some, Meenakshi could never imagine going through the process of countless initial failures on their way to success were she not have been dedicated and committed to this cause, and her advice for others is to find something which you can commit time, energy, and emotional dedication.


Heading into the Future
As you may imagine, trying to revolutionize the the daily practices of the ⅓ of the world that practices open defecation can be both overwhelming and difficult.

Meenakshi had an idea to bring RevoLOOtion to construction companies in India, an industry that makes up over 20% of India’s GDP and employs 35 million. But despite to her initial belief, construction companies who Meenakshi thought would benefit from this product had no interest. That’s because they feel no pressure to spend money on facilities when they have no incentive to use them. People were very receptive to using them if they were free, but fewer were willing to purchase them.

However, Meenakshi and her team stumbled upon a new consumer group, Glamping (or Glamorous Camping). Through listening to consumers and analyzing consumer behaviors and needs, revoLOOtion was able to identify an entirely new group of consumer to whom they can sell the same exact product for little to no extra cost and increase their market share.  


Where are you and your company in the social enterprise curve?

“Right now we are in the defining product market phase where we are testing things out.”

Meenakshi notes the importance of her consumer fieldwork in understanding and developing their product, and more may be even needed to further their market participation. Many similar missions from NGO’s tend to stay out of India because they claim that it is  “too different culturally to adopt [their products]”.

This dilemma is best encapsulated in a question asked by the audience, what about competition? To which Meenakshi replied,”There’s not even competition”. Due to the sheer size of the population and difficulty for companies to sell their products, there are no direct competitors with revoLOOtion. Similarly, there are no substitutes that are just as easily constructed, sustainable ,and maintainable.

Meenakshi and her co-founder were able to create a successful social enterprise start up through applying their skills to social need which they felt passionate about. What you should take away from her story is the importance of consumer opinions, being dedicated, and staying dynamic and flexible. She is also happy to see such a large community of people interested in social entrepreneurship here today and also to see programs and events to help people learn more and get started.

Wake Up is an open source map interface that addresses the need of more curated and easily accessible civic engagement Ayal Bark – Wake Up


Bark started his social entrepreneurship venture two years ago in 2015 when him and his team member entered the Dobson Cup.

Where and How did his entrepreneurship story start?

In 2015 after the Paris bombings, and a year prior with the shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Bark noticed a trend in social media. People were posting things all around to be seen, signed, followed, but all in an almost directionless swirl on their facebook or instagram timelines also located in between pictures of cats and memes.

Yet in this environment of social awareness and social activism, Bark saw it very difficult for people to engage together with social action.

Wake Up is an app created in response to the difficulty in accessing and finding social activist events in your community.

Wake Up as a Solution

Wake Up is an open source map interface that addresses the need of more curated and easily accessible civic engagement. Bark lists the three main problems of civic engagement in our modern, globalized society: time, proximity, and no proper avenue to access this information.

Wake Up addresses all three of these issues by being able to directly display and suggest to users social activist events based on their area. Through then clicking on the event, the user will be able to see how far away the event is, when and where it is held, and how repeatedly it will be held.

As a mobile app, Wake up becomes another part of one’s routine and civic engagement is literally brought to your fingertips.

A Wake Up used will experience a different catalog of choice than someone looking for social activism on facebook. That’s because Wake Up is streamlined by only showing relevant events and organization (which are approved by the Wake Up team before posting).



While it’s currently being developed in montreal and beta-tested, it was not an easy path.

This company started off with no money, but in the span of two years they have received 12-thousand from crowdfunding and the Dobson Cup. Most of the design and programming for the app came from Montreal artists and coders who were both interested and supported the idea and also had the benefit of adding it to their portfolio. With that, Bark emphasises that you can get a lot of support for free if you know how to contact the right people.

Consumer Surveys revealed that consumers were uninterested in certain features of the initial plans of the app such as  a Google Maps Direction add-in. Consumer testing helps create more marketable products.

A lot has changed since the app has started and it has been a whole different market since then. One of Bark’s advice is: go slow. Keep your mission and idea strong but don’t rush. Their company is already considered a 510c3 organization, but Bark says this was not something that needed to be done so early on in the development process. He instead says you should focus more on figuring out what and who you and your organization are before you incorporate.

Aside from dealing with company development. Bark also says one of his biggest problems in developing the app was people promising to help but not coming through. Learning who, when, and how to apply their time and energy to in order to ask for help was one of the company’s biggest challenges in it’s earliest days. Some such as YES Mtl, and Notman House were very helpful, but other organizations were not interested. If you want help just ask, but make sure you know when to stop wasting time on chasing specific people to help you!


His Important Take Homes

  1. Don’t work a lot all at once, but work consistently. Try to do an hour a day, but the momentum and keep it going, don’t try to cram ingenuity.
  2. Don’t fuss over everything. Stay open and receptive to new ideas, models, and change and let things fall into place
Chloe Chow from Vent Over Tea – a free active listening service that pairs people who need to vent with an empathetic listener to chat in a local coffee shop Chloe Chow – Vent Over Tea

Two years ago, Chloe Chow saw a comment on a Spotted McGill post that caught the attention of her and fellow co-founders. The comment was addressing the Mental Health services offered by McGill and asked if anyone wanted to possibly participate in a group discussion around the issue.

Later that week two years ago they all also met at McGill’s Mclennan library, and that same year Vent Over Tea entered and won the Social Entrepreneurship award of the McGill Dobson Cup.


The Tea on McGill Mental Health

At one point during her undergrad, Chow said that she had tried to go to McGill mental health services but the wait lines were too long and they said that they  could only book her in for three months later. Not only is access to therapy difficult at McGill, but Quebec access to mental health care is also slow and other groups such as  international students and uninsured (or underinsured) students also have less access to mental health services.

Their solution to access difficulties was Vent Over Tea. Vent Over Tea is a free active listening service that pairs people who need to vent with an empathetic listener to chat in a local coffee shop. Based in Montreal and founded in April 2015 by McGill psychology graduates, their goal is to provide a casual, confidential and non-judgmental outlet for members of our community. Their program is based on studies that have shown the benefits derived from expressing one’s self to a compassionate listener. Their volunteers are not therapists, but they can help you work through your problems by asking reflective questions and showing empathetic regard

Vent Over Tea was first a simple one-page forum and the moderators would post the contact informations of people that needed to talk on a facebook group where the volunteers could plan out who could apply. The website was first developed by McGill Computer Science students who were interested in helping the company develop, people will help a cause that they support.  


The McGill Dobson Cup program was a real kick in the butt that our company needed.

When Chow met with her supervisor, she told him that their website had only had about 8 people submit responses. He just immediately told her to come back in two weeks, and to double her numbers from before.

So for those two weeks, her and her co-founders strategized new ways to increase their numbers. They found a new marketing strategy that tripled their numbers in just two weeks.

They also created a new website using a web-template. People had promised to help them develop a new one but yet when it came time no one seemed to be able to help. Networking through the McGill Dobson Cup was on the biggest ways the company grew. They were able to think of their business in a new light and get access to resources and people with many experience to help them develop their company.


A New Cup

After the McGill Dobson Cup program, they had grown to be larger than anticipated and they didn’t realize their internal structure. Keeping your company organized and in track is really important in the long-term, even if everything is still going smoothly right now.

While Chow went on a volunteer trip to Panama, the company had added some new directions. For one they started a blog where volunteers and others can contribute. They also tried different approaches, one of which was Vent Over Beer. While it did attract a crowd, it defeated the purpose of going against the convention of venting being something best facilitated with alcohol, and presented more problems.

Vent Over Tea has also recently been featured in the media. Chow’s approach is to contact people who have written articles that are related to your business. Along with that approach, literally submitting articles you have written about your company can also work.


Take Aways from Vent Over Tea

  • Experiment. Try different things at first.
  • Ask for help. While some people may be flakey, people are still very receptive to helping you if you ask.
  • Flow. Go with the flow! Remember to always respond to your environment and not get too stressed or stuck on one thing. Be flexible and able to respond to many situations.
Justine Tupe from the Hult Prize Community at McGill spoke about how they can help you get started with social entrepreneurship at McGill. How to get started in social entrepreneurship at McGill

Interested in Social Entrepreneurship, but don’t know how to get started?

There’s a community at McGill for that! They’re appropriately called the Hult Prize Community at McGill and they are jumpstarting social impact at McGill within the context of the world’s largest student competition for social good.

This year’s Hult Prize keyword is to transform, and the mission is to harness the power of energy to transform the lives of 10-million people.

If you want to find out more about the Hult Prize taking place at McGill on Nov. 25th, click here.

To learn about the community that can help you learn the skills necessary to win, click here.

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Founder Spotlight: Adela Schicker –

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 15:38

Editor’s Note: Adela Schicker is a co-founder at, where they teach soft skills like how to make better decisions, overcoming procrastination, sales skills, leadership and lot more. They have more than 150 000 clients worldwide, and their method involves focusing on simple, useful, science-based principles. They organize workshops that are open to the public and offer an e-learning course, but they’ve also worked with companies like HP, Dell, Microsoft, and Cisco.

Adela, walk us through the last year of your life!

I was focusing on opening a new branch and getting an international publisher for our book: The End of Procrastination.

It’s now published in 6 languages, and we’ve already sold over 100 000 copies worldwide. In April, we signed a contract with one of New York’s best publishing agencies, and we are looking into being translated into other 55+ languages.I specifically focused on our online presence and e-learning – that’s definitely something I want to do more of, moving forward. Finally, I moved to Montreal from Prague with Mathias, who’s the head of our French branch, the bilingualism of the city and its closeness to the US is an incredible benefit.

Fun fact: The book became a bestseller in the Czech Republic: for few weeks, it sold even more than 50 Shades of Grey there.


Your job must be really fulfilling – you get to read and improve yourself by reading all of these books and research and practicing what they preach, and then you make a living by sharing that wisdom with others in-person.

The great benefit of the job is that you can grow while helping others to grow. Better self, better world, that’s our company motto. The more I know, the more I can help others, and so on.

And it’s important to note that change doesn’t happen through telling people what to do and having them blindly follow orders. I believe the only sustainable way to improve yourself is through developing your knowledge about the world, and critical thinking –  which should be taught everywhere. Your ability to be objective, to keep an open mind, and to acknowledge that we’re all biased, are all important factors that come into play. You don’t have to follow the crowd – get your perspective. If I’m a billionaire, but I’m stupid and selfish, I can’t change the world. There’s a quote by Albert Schweitzer I love: Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

Adela gave a talk on how to sell, to the 2017 cohort of the McGill X-1 Accelerator.

When did you become a minimalist and why?

I’ve always had a lot of stuff, which can be annoying when you’re traveling and moving a lot. Moving here, I decided to keep all my things within one piece of luggage. I was also inspired by a great documentary on minimalism – check it out on Netflix.

I’ve always had a lot of stuff, which can be annoying when you’re traveling and move a lot. Moving here, I decided to keep all my things within one piece of luggage. I was also inspired by an excellent documentary on minimalism – check it out on Netflix.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t believe in having exactly 33 pieces of clothing or empty rooms – I adapt the parts that are useful to me. Decision paralysis is a big problem for many, but if you have limited wardrobe options, it doesn’t take you that long to decide what to wear in the morning.  And that’s why I love companies like Will + Zack – I’d rather buy one high-quality dress that’s perfect for me, than have 20 mediocre pieces from a fast fashion company that will last few weeks.

You’ve met Philip Zimbardo, known for his famous Stanford prison experiment – what’s he like?

Zimbardo’s very charming. He lives what he preaches: he’s translating his knowledge into impact with his Heroic Imagination Project, he loves signing books for his fans and talking to them. And he hugs everybody – he’s a major hugger.

He’s not just someone who’s famous because of an experiment. He’s a genuine person and represents his values. Also, he’s really funyn!

Philip Zimbardo is a psychologist and a professor emeritus famous for his Stanford prison experiment.

What are you guys working on nowadays?
We’re always covering most relevant topics in the events that we host, which are open to anyone. Whether you’re looking to improve your time-management, sales, focus, or soft skills like leadership, company culture, delegation, public speaking…we’ll help you to improve them! Every presentation is fresh; we always tailor them to fit the needs of the participants.


What annoys you?

“Gurus” People who pretend that they want to help you, but just want to make you a blind follower, take your money, or even worse, people who are unaware that they are doing more harm than good. That’s why it is essential to have the critical thinking I was talking about earlier, sometimes we mean good, but we are doing the total opposite.

Remember the saying: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Or the quote: “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”― T.S. Eliot


What are some differences you’ve found between Europe and Montreal?

The people are more open and more diverse in Montreal. The events here and the friendliness of people here are great!

On the business side, in Europe, they still need to explain why it is important to have values in a company. In Montreal, people put their values on everything – many even write it on their products and websites, and everybody talks about them openly. If you have your values as a person and as a company, you’re are on a good way to greater growth.

Purchase’s e-learning course here.

Can you share some of your strategies for getting things done?

  • Write down your personal vision – why you’re doing what you do.
    • Keeping your “WHY” and values in mind helps you make better decisions. For example, some students study because of external reasons like being pushed by their parents or peers. That’s not very fulfilling. The time you spend in university is one of the great experiences of your life. But it will take you until 35 to realize this!
  • Understand that postponing things decreases performance.
    • Don’t think that if you do something at the last moment, that you’ll do better because of adrenaline rush or something like that – in fact, performance is worse on most things. People glamorize doing things last minute, but knowledge work is not an athletic event, where adrenaline improves your performance.
  • Get rid of all your distractions.
    • I like to joke that our society has many weapons of mass distraction – things like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. To get real work done, you need to have unwavering focus. Try an app like Forest, Freedom or Headspace.
  • Don’t be afraid to close some doors.
    • It will not make you weaker if you do; in fact, it will make you stronger. Accepting that you won’t become a professional swimmer or ballet dancer, can open you up to the possibility of greatness in other domains. You don’t have to be mediocre in everything – I encourage you to find something you treasure and love, and keep perfecting that. You know Jiro, the sushi master? Go and find your sushi!
      Visit to purchase their e-learning course or keep up with their events, and visit their facebook page to get in touch!

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Event Recap: Kickstart Innovation & Startup Matchmaking (2017)

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 12:45

What is Entrepreneurship? What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

These were all topics covered in our Kickstart Innovation & Startup Matchmaking event on October 5, 2017, hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre’s Student Executive Team.

The event kicked off with the Associate Director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship: Renjie Butalid. He gave a brief talk on the past, present, and future of innovation at McGill. He described the McGill Dobson Centre’s approach to innovation, whereby disruptive Innovation = Invention x Commercialization, an approach adapted from MIT.

Renjie further explained that the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship’s approach is to bridge the gap between research, innovation, and invention at McGill  by improving the commercialization process with the help and support of partners across McGill.

He also talked about our mission and traction as a center: We have 125+ active startups employing over 1200 people, 2600 McGillians trained and mentored, and collectively raised $110M.

He then transitioned into explaining the different programs run by McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and how people could get involved.

Finally he talked about the McGill Dobson Cup – our flagship startup competition with over $100K in prize money. This is an opportunity to get seed funding for your startup in 4 different tracks: Health Sciences, Social Enterprise, Small & Medium Enterprise, Innovation-Driven Enterprise.

Next, Jean-Philippe Valois from Mitacs came to talk about Research Funds for Collaborative Innovation. Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, one the entrepreneurs that went through the 2017 X-1 Accelerator, won the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award from Mitacs this summer.

Ashwaq Al-Hashedi @McGillU is recipient of Outstanding #MitacsEntAwards, given by Sarah Bevan @UBS

— Mitacs (@MitacsCanada) June 8, 2017

They’re a national research organization whose mission is to train the next generation of the knowledge workforce. One of the major problems they’re trying to address is the fact that Canada is near the bottom of the pack in industrial R&D spending. So to that end, they’re helping companies work with universities to promote the Invention side of the Invention x Commercialization formula for Innovation. To learn more about Mitacs, visit their website at


Next, Mohamed Musbah – Head of Product at Maluuba (which was acquired by Microsoft in January of 2017) spoke about their journey, which started at Campus Pizza. That’s where he met Sam when they were both first-year students. And he felt what most people feel when they’re thrown into their first year of college…lost. Their first Computer Science assignment took a whole week, so don’t go thinking that they were all a bunch of “natural-born geniuses.”

Listen to everyone, but do what you think is right.

And then…Bill Gates spoke at Waterloo in February of 2008. This is what sparked Sam’s curiosity and desire to make something great. Meanwhile, their team at the time were all interning at large companies like Google and Amazon. Sam tried to intern at Microsoft 3 times but failed. But that didn’t stop him. In Summer of 2010, where he aced the AI class at Waterloo and they began working on their first prototype. Fast forward 7 years, and they were acquired by Microsoft.

One of the memorable quotes of the night: “Listen to everyone, but do what you think is right.”

As you can see, the journey of an entrepreneur is not straightforward, and it’s certainly not easy. But it is rewarding.

To cap off our first event, we had a networking session to let startups meet people looking to work at one! If you missed it, you can always make it up by heading over to, where we match startups with people looking to work at one.

Our next event is on Wednesday October 11, and the topic will be Social Entrepreneurship so if you want to save the world, we’ll see you then! Free tickets here.

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