Montreal’s Startup Community Honors its Best


A dark and old room behind a crumbling St-James United church hosted some of Canada’s brightest young minds on Wednesday night. The occasion was the second annual Startup Community Awards, held just off of Ste-Catherine West near Bleury.

More than 200 people were nominated in 11 categories. 3166 people voted and cast over 17,000 total votes across all categories. The actual winners were determined by a hybrid process which included the public voting, as well as a selection committee that includes such big names as Philippe Telio, Sylvain Carle and Yoshua Bengio to name a few.

Representatives from numerous startups, VCs, incubators, accelerators and financial institutions crowded into the 2-level hall to celebrate the best of the community this year.  Before the ceremony began the evening’s MC, Mr. Ilias Benjelloun, Open Innovation Catalyst at Desjardins Lab and Creative Director at MTLNewTech, told MTLinTech why these awards are so important for the city’s innovation ecosystem.

“If we want more of something, we need positive reinforcement and role models. These awards create role models, and others can then follow the path that tonight’s winners have taken. It’s also positive reinforcement that creates an incentive for others to try and contribute to the ecosystem as well. Honestly, it’s also a bit of a healthy competition, so it creates a bit of fun for people who are otherwise working their ass off”.

The Awards:

Corporate champion of the year. Awarded to the corporate entity most implicated in the success of the startup community in greater Montreal. Winner: Desjardins Lab.

Connector of the year. Awarded to the individual who best helps facilitate collisions and the building of new relationships in Montreal’s tech ecosystem. Winner: Eléonore Jarry-Ferron (Brightspark Ventures)

Guest speaker of the year. Awarded to the individual who provides the best and most insightful presentations during the year. Winner: Negar Rostamzadeh (Element AI)

Community organizer of the year. Awarded to the individual who best mobilizes people in the community for good. Winner: Abhishek Gupta (Microsoft)

Volunteer of the year. Awarded to the most dedicated and selfless actor in Montreal’s startup ecosystem. Winner: Alejandro Martinez (Montreal NewTech)

Mentor of the year. Awarded to the individual who has had the biggest and most positive impact guiding Montreal based startups. Winner: Layial EL-Hadi (Concordia University)

Startup Champion of the year. Awarded to the startup that has given back the most to the community during the year. Winner: HardBacon (Founder, Julien Brault).

“If this award is for the startup that has received the most from the community, I would expect to win it. But to receive an award for giving the most back to the community, I was not expecting that” said Brault, before going on to name a long list of people and organizations that have helped him along the way. “Hopefully one day I will actually be deserving of this”.

Montreal Ambassador of the year. Awarded to the individual who best represents Montreal’s startup community outside of Quebec. Winner: Jan Arp (Founder & Managing Partner at the Holt Accelerator)

“It’s hard to believe I’m up here right now considering the other nominees on that list. There are many people in this room who have helped me and supported many of the initiatives I’ve worked on. We have a really wicked ecosystem here in Montreal, and we all need to continue to help and support eachother. Montreal is on the precipice of a something big, so let’s double down and keep going. Let’s show the world how to properly build an ecosystem”.

Diversity champion of the year. Awarded to the individual for who diversity is not the end, but the means. Winner: Naoufel Testaouni (President of Queer Tech Montreal).

Community champion of the year. Awarded to the individual who has had the greatest overall impact on Montreal’s startup ecosystem of the year. Winner: Stephanie Jecrois (City of Montreal).

Rising Star Champion of the year. Awarded to the member of Montreal’s startup ecosystem who has show the most promise and potential over the past year. Winner: Michelle Yu (BDC Capital)

Afterwards, Benjelloun added “the success of our city’s startups wouldn’t happen as easily if it wasn’t for all of these people who dedicate so much time and effort to educate, to organize, to mentor, to support by giving their time and expertise in a way, to help newcomers and new startups start out on the right footing. This goes for corporations, startups, community builders, volunteers, non-profits and so on”.

Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child.

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