Brand new District 3 space at Concordia gets $1 million ‘Startup Gift’

Concordia University’s District 3 startup innovation centre received a $1 million gift as it formally opened its doors to a new collaborative space at the school’s Faubourg Building.

Calling it a “Startup Gift,” Concordia University’s news release revealed that the funding came from André Desmarais and France Chrétien Desmarais, two longtime supporters of the university. The cash will be used to start the André and France Desmarais District 3 Fund, which will “advance entrepreneurial projects with proven market viability — and help further transform entrepreneurial ventures from concept to startup.”

Since its creation in 2011, 1,500 aspiring entrepreneurs have already sought District 3 expertise. The new fund will serve as a timely boost towards the centre’s growing demand.

“We firmly believe that accelerating innovation and nurturing talent is fundamental to our society’s long-term prosperity,” said Desmarais, the president and co-CEO of Power Corporation of Canada. “Our donation to Concordia’s District 3 is a concrete way for us to support innovation and further bridge the gap between higher education and private enterprise.”

As more and more young Montrealers turn towards entrepreneurship as a career, things like District 3 seem like a necessity.

According to Statistics Canada, over 500,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between 2000-2010, with 188,000 of those “a near-immediate result” of the 2008 recession. More than 11,000 people lost their manufacturing jobs in Quebec in 2013 alone.

Moreover, most Canadians between the ages of 25 and 54 switch jobs every three to five years. District 3 obviously took note of this as it launched some years ago, and the fruits of its labour are beginning the show.

According to Concordia, 15 District 3 startups have raised close to $5 million in funding, creating over 100 jobs. The combined value of District 3 startups is estimated at $30 million.

The André and France Desmarais District 3 Fund will focus on three major initiatives: Seed funding to help District 3 entrepreneurs; Makerspace expansion through investment in District 3 product development tools such as sensors, laser cutters and 3D printers; and Ramped-up operations through the hiring of new District 3 staff, such as expert consultants and coaches, to provide diversified and specialized skills to a broader range of startup teams.

“We are grateful for the Desmarais’s investment in Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Centre,” said Concordia President Alan Shepard. “This gift gives our most talented students the tools they need to fuel their creativity and seize opportunities to innovate.”

Startups generated through District 3 may also qualify for the Business Innovation Access Program, a $20 million funding program that partners businesses with universities and research institutes.

Since its 2013 inception, requests for District 3 coaching and mentoring have grown annually. District 3 coaches and mentors have helped more than 1,500 individuals including: 760 students and alumni in 2015; 500 students and alumni in 2014; 230 students and alumni in 2013.

The majority of District 3 volunteers are students, faculty, staff and alumni. District 3 volunteers have included 500 Concordia students, 45 external contributors who represent organizations, 36 external contributors and seven coaches.

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