This weekend Montreal is playing host to its first Formula E race, an all-electric urban alternative to the Formula One, which will take over the southeastern part of downtown. It is the first run of a three year contract negotiated by Mayor Denis Coderre, who hopes it will both attract visitors and showcase the Montreal cityscape.
Alongside the race, the FIA Smart Cities Startup contest, the result of a partnership between Luxembourg-based Digital Leaders Ventures (DLV) and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), is offering up a $100,000 USD prize to a startup working to address the pressing concerns of urbanisation, such as pollution, congestion and road safety hazards.
The partnership between DLV and the FIA has committed to handing out $1,000,000 USD over the course of ten separate Smart Cities Startup competitions taking place across four continents over three years. Berlin, was host to the European competition in June, and Mexico City will host the Latin American one. Montreal has been chosen as the North American destination, with the actual race taking place on Saturday.
“When the FIA got started with their Smart City initiative, they already knew they were very good at attracting attention. But what we are bringing to the table is creating action. Our goal was to start a wave of action in terms of road safety and smart cities and the future of mobility. With the startup competition, which is our responsibility, the goal is to really make change happen. And we believe that startups are creating the most tremendous change in terms of disruption of industries, in terms of impact on businesses, and building the mobility future,” Monty C.M. Metzger, founding partner at Digital Leaders Ventures told MTLinTECH.
The ten participants in the competition this weekend have been narrowed down from over 100 applicants over a three month application process that included reaching out to local accelerators and members of the Montreal startup community.
“We invited the top ten to attend the jury workshop, which is closed door, and that’s going to be happening today. Tonight we are going to decide with the jury who are going to be our top three finalists. Tomorrow there’s the FIA Smart City forum, which is a full day conference, and the highlight I would say is a session where we give the finalists the opportunity to present their company onstage. And then we are going to announce the winner and hand over a commitment letter for $100,000 US.”
On Saturday comes the fun part: the three finalists will be invited to experience the race with some of the best tickets available, along with the opportunity to meet some of the drivers and mingle with other VIP attendees.
And with support by Enel, Michelin and Julius Baer, the competition provides startups with the opportunity for corporate exposure, as well as exposure to many Montreal decision-makers and leaders they might not ordinarily encounter in the startup ecosystem.
“Our startup initiative is not a standard startup competition. The key reason for that is that the startups are, first of all, not pitching purely to investors. We are investors, but the other jury members are corporate representatives. If they win their hearts, they have the chance at projects following the event. They immediately can help them to get more traction or build a project or add some additional benefits. The second part is for the top three, who will pitch on stage tomorrow. The audience is not used to the startup world. There are 150 VIPs and high-network individuals from Montreal attending, plus a lot of press people. They haven’t been at TechCrunch Disruption or something like that. For them it’s all new. That’s why we’ve experienced with the past events that the value is very high for the companies presenting.”
The selection of Montreal as the first North American location for the FIA Smart Cities Contest is a reflection of the burgeoning tech scene here, as well as the city’s proven commitment to progression as smart city.
“When we did our research we experienced that Montreal is very active in turning the city into a smart city. So with all of the initiatives here, we actually found the best support compared to other cities. We felt very welcome, and I think it’s a good sign that there’s so much going on already. That’s why for us it was smart decision at the beginning, and now it’s turned out to be the best possible decision as well because we really felt strong support from the city and the startup ecosystem here.”
You can still buy tickets to this weekend’s race here.