Introducing the FounderFuel 2017 cohort

Twelve weeks after launching the recruitment process and nearly 200 applications later, FounderFuel today announced the 8 startups chosen as part of their 2017 cohort.

The eight companies in this year’s FounderFuel cohort are:

  • Brisk Synergies – Using computer vision to transform traffic video into safer roads
  • Instamek – On demand mechanics that service your car at home or work
  • Lexop – A digital platform for proving receipt of important business documents
  • Nectar – Sensors and software to help beekeepers look after their hives
  • My Intelligent Machines – Platform as a service helping biologists analyze genomic data
  • Porpoise – Apps that make corporate social responsibility measurable and engaging
  • Stay 22 – Making it easy for event-goers to find a place to sleep
  • Vish Color – Smart, intuitive technology to help hair salons manage their color business

In a blog post published today, Isaac Souweine, FounderFuel General Manager, notes that the companies in this year’s cohort are coming into the program further developed than cohorts of years past.

“When we launched 6 years ago, the majority of FounderFuel companies were working on what we call “discovery”, i.e. they were trying to figure out what problem they were solving and how they should solve it. In this year’s cohort, the majority of companies have moved past discovery to “validation”, i.e. they are working to prove that the product that they have built can create value for their users,” writes Souweine.

In addition to increased traction and awareness, many of this year’s applicants are also bringing more money.

“Whereas once FounderFuel was the first investor of any sort into a company, now we are often the first institutional investor, following-on from angels, friends and family and non-VC investing groups. While our investments are still material to the companies, the existence of other funds, including the many forms of non-dilutive funding now available to Canadian startups, orients our program more fully toward the goal of optimizing our companies’ next round of financing.”

To accommodate the developed state and changing needs of this year’s cohort, FounderFuel will be adjusting the curriculum content accordingly.

“One [change] is probably a little less content, because companies that are further along a) they need less of that content and b) they’re quite a bit busier, they have a product, they’re looking for sales,” Souweine told MTLinTECH. “And so ever hour that you take away from them if they have a lot going on, you really have to think carefully about whether a speaker or event is really valuable for them, because their time is super valuable as they start to work on companies with more traction. The second thing would be content that’s a little less general purpose and more targeted at individual teams, which means in some cases less talks and more group sessions. They have specific problems they want to talk about and they want more discussion.”

After completing 90 first round interviews, 45 second round interviews, and 25 pitches, some trends were also apparent in the applicant pool as a whole.

“We did ask for artificial intelligence (AI) pitches and we got a lot of AI pitches. AI is a good example of a core set of technologies that let you do a few tricks really well, like with image data and with natural language processing. So we saw a lot of commonalities. And we think those are great ideas and we saw a good number of them that had some level of similarity.”

This year’s recruitment process was also revealing with regards to the Montreal startup ecosystem as a whole.

“Accelerators harvest early stage startups from within the ecosystems in which they operate. The stronger the ecosystems, the stronger the accelerator cohort. Looking at this year’s applicants, we were blown away by their collective maturity, ambition and traction,” writes Souweine.

One area that continues to need improvement, not just within FounderFuel, but in the tech world in general, is gender parity.

“Our gender diversity stats for this cohort’s recruitment were disappointing, though not surprising. Out of our final 30 teams, 17% had one woman co-founder, with 10% having a woman CEO. We saw a similar ratio in our final group, with one woman CEO (12.5% of the group). The same trend holds true further up the pipeline, and in past cohorts. We were happy to do quite well this time around on ethnic diversity, but on gender there is much work ahead of us, as there is for our ecosystem more broadly.”


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