The word “collaboration” can be a loosely-used phrase among modern tech organizations, but it appears five Montreal-based accelerator programs are putting their money where their mouths are.
Thursday evening’s Montreal Demo Day 2016 will be a historic first in the city’s still-young startup community, as InnoCité MTL, District 3, TandemLaunch, Founder Institute, Centech and FounderFuel will all collaborate for a one-time demo event.
“I don’t really see the downside of doing this together. It’s just good for all of us,” said Béatrice Couture, InnoCité’s general manager and a lawyer by trade. “It’s really important that we collaborate more and more. If we’re together we make more contacts- more potential investors we can approach and more corporate partners that can come on board.”
Twenty-one teams from four of the mentioned accelerators will pitch on Demo Day 2016. FounderFuel is providing coaching leadership and it’s startups will not pitch.
Going back five years, only FounderFuel and a small handful of other early accelerators across Canada were hosting “Demo Days.” Typically glitzy events that involved hours of preparation and coaching by the startups and their mentors, FounderFuel hosted its events in intimate venues throughout the city. The program continues to host nearly 1,000 community members, investors and media to its demo days today.
With the general proliferation of startups throughout the world, new accelerator programs began hatching in Montreal over the past three years. InnoCité was founded about one year ago, District 3 opened its doors in mid-2013, Founder Institute’s first Montreal cohort graduated in mid-2014 and Centech launched its seed fund in mid-2012. TandemLaunch opened its doors in late 2010, but typically hasn’t placed as much emphasis in demo days.
According to District 3’s director Xavier-Henri Hervé, the idea for Demo Day 2016 came after his team agreed more collaboration was needed among the city’s various tech pillars.
“I think it’s because a lot of people have historically seen the world within a competing lens, and everyone has done their own independent thing,” Hervé told MTLinTECH. “For Montrealers to stand out they need to team up and collaborate.”
Together, District 3 and InnoCité saw the vision through. For InnoCité it was an easy decision.
“We did our first DemoDay in collaboration with FounderFuel in December 2015, and everyone told us what a great idea it was,” said Couture. “So when we all put the idea on the table, for us is wasn’t “why,” but “why not?”
Hervé emphasized that not enough of a collaborative effort has been made throughout the city’s tech pillars. He said Montreal needs to do better in keeping its high-potential entrepreneurs within the city’s borders, especially with the city’s high number of university students. Too many of these startups are being recruited by accelerators south of the border, said Hervé, “driving people out of here.”
Montreal is a centre for innovation and it has all the magic ingredients. We just need to get together and cook the recipe
-Xavier-Henri Hervé, District 3
“With all the research centres here, a huge youth base and all of the city’s energy, we have a lot. We just need to get together and start thinking, “How do we impact the world?”
He’s one step closer to that vision with Thursday evening’s event. As teams have been busying themselves practising their pitches, word around the startup community continues to grow. The scene at Quai Jacques-Cartier should be a busy one.
Both InnoCité and District 3 indicated that 2016’s event could be the first of many future collaborations rather than each program returning to host its own demo day.
“I think you’ll see the opposite,” said Herve. “We think you’ll hear about other initiatives where we’ll unite our forces. There’s more of a need to drive value together instead of being alone in our corners.”
Couture too was enthusiastic.
“Maybe we could have two of these big demo days a year. We’re all small organizations trying to do a lot with not a lot of means, so doing it is helping us minimize costs and reach partners together.”