A year in review: the top Montreal tech stories of 2018


Several fascinating developments happened in Montreal’s tech community over the course of 2018.

For starters, we continued a nice, growing trend of bigger venture deals with higher values. The city’s artificial intelligence community continued its explosive growth, continuing to cement Montreal as a destination for AI. Meanwhile, leaders in the community continued to make greater strides within inclusion, extending more opportunities to those in historically disadvantaged positions.

1) A year of AI in Montreal

Yoshua Bengio and friends launch ‘AI startup factory’

AI was the topic of many conversations this year. Montreal-headquartered SCALE.AI was selected by Canadian government to receive part of the $950 million supercluster initiative. The folks at Element AI were busy Yoshua Bengio and friends launched ‘AI startup factory’, Element AI expanded to Europe with the announcement of new AI lab in London, and they published a study reporting that Canada has third largest concentration of AI researchers in the world. Two new spaces focused specifically on AI were also announced CDPQ and MILA team up to Create Axe IA – A New AI Hub For Collaboration and New Zú space will be an incubator for AI-based entertainment entrepreneurs. Also following the announcements of Samsung, Google, and Microsoft’s opening of AI labs in Montreal last year IBM announced a Partnership With IVADO – Expanding their AI Capacity in Montreal.

Canada has third largest concentration of AI researchers in the world, according to Element AI report

Montreal-headquartered SCALE.AI selected by Canadian government to receive part of the $950 million supercluster initiative

Element AI expands to Europe with the announcement of new AI lab in London

Yoshua Bengio and friends launch ‘AI startup factory’

IBM to Partner With IVADO – Expand AI Capacity in Montreal

CDPQ and MILA team up to Create Axe IA – A New AI Hub For Collaboration

New Zú space will be incubator for AI-based entertainment entrepreneurs

2) A year of women in technology

Women in Tech – StartupFest, Day 2

A greater female-led presence was also noteworthy in the city’s tech sector over 2018. In March, we recapped over a year of WMNinTECH feature profiles on various women leading the charge in Montreal. In April, the female-led Aquaculture startup XpertSea announced a $10 million Series A financing to further its mission to make aquaculture more profitable and sustainable. In May, BDO and MontrealNewTech hosted an event at Salon 1861 called “Women In Tech: Finding Opportunity on the Challenging Path to Success.” In July, we covered an entire day of Startupfest programming devoted to women in tech. In August, a pair of local startups were among four total recipients of investment from the BDC’s new $200 million Women in Technology fund.

International Women’s Day: A year of WMNinTECH in Montreal

Female-led XpertSea raises $10 million Series A to make aquaculture more sustainable and profitable

WMNinTECH: on BDC’s “Women In Tech: Finding Opportunity on the Challenging Path to Success”

Women in Tech – StartupFest, Day 2

Pair of Montreal startups land investment from BDC’s Women in Technology

3) A year of new funds in Montreal

Luge VC launches Canada’s newest FinTech Fund

The student-led Front Row Ventures made its first investment in subscription management platform Pelcro. The newly formed Panache Ventures announces launch of $25 million round. The local “Luge VC” fund launched Canada’s newest FinTech Fund. White Star Capital raised $230 million, set to be invested in at least 20 new companies. Meanwhile, Portag3 Ventures Announced a new $300M fund in Montreal during the FinTech Forum.

Front Row Ventures makes first investment in subscription management platform Pelcro

Newly formed Panache Ventures announces launch of $25 million round

Luge VC launches Canada’s newest FinTech Fund

White Star Capital raises $230 million, will invest in 20 new companies

Portag3 Ventures Announces New $300M FinTech Fund in Montreal During FinTech Forum

4) A year of new accelerator programs in Montreal

Holt FinTech Accelerator Set to Launch in Montreal

Montreal’s oldest VC fund, Real Ventures, teamed up with Techstars to launch an AI accelerator in Montreal in March. In June, we reported that Canada’s first fintech lab with an associated AI lab would begin its inaugural cohort.

Real Ventures teams up with Techstars to launch AI accelerator in Montreal

Holt FinTech Accelerator Set to Launch in Montreal

5) A year of raising venture capital

Mnubo raises $16.5 million in an oversubscribed Series B round of financing

Montreal startups raised significant venture capital funding over the course of 2018. Mnubo raised $16.5 million in an oversubscribed Series B round. Unsplash raised a historic $7.25 million Series A led by a cryptocurrency company. Dialogue closed a $12 million Series A led by White Star Capital. Breather raised $60 million. Sonder raised $110 million, while Hopper inked one of the largest VC deals in Canadian history in October.

Mnubo raises $16.5 million in an oversubscribed Series B round of financing

Unsplash raises historic $7.25 million Series A led by a cryptocurrency company

Dialogue closes $12 million Series A led by White Star Capital

Breather raises $60 million

Montreal’s Sonder raises $110 million

Hopper inks one of the largest VC deals in Canadian history

6) A year of big exits

Dynamo reveals acquisition by Glossier as the beauty empire announces US$52 million Series C

A few local companies even exited in 2018, earning the fabled acquisition status as other companies bought them. In February, Dynamo was acquired by beauty empire Glossier, which also announced a US$52 million Series C round.
Greencopper, a technology solutions provider for Osheaga and Pitchfork, was acquired by Providence-backed Patron. Meanwhile, SME fintech lender Thinking Capital was acquired by Purpose Financial in March.

Dynamo reveals acquisition by Glossier as the beauty empire announces US$52 million Series C

Greencopper, technology solutions provider for Osheaga and Pitchfork, acquired by Providence-backed Patron

SME fintech lender Thinking Capital acquired by Purpose Financial

7) A year of community involvement and action

$4.6 Million Cash Injection for Startupfest

2018 also saw its share of folks in the community getting together to build Montreal’s tech sector. Or, we saw continued growth in different areas of technology. For example, McGill University’s Dobson Centre was recognized as one of the world’s top incubator programs by UBI Global in February. In March, PwC Canada revealed that Montreal had raised the most startup funding of any Canadian city over the previous 12 months. In July, Montreal International noted that the city saw 3.6 per cent in job growth last year, putting it at top spot among cities in Canada and the United States. Also In July, Startupfest announced a total of $4.6 million in government funding.

Business flocks to Montreal as high-tech job growth increases

$4.6 Million Cash Injection for Startupfest

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