Startupfest 2017 roundup: a lucky year to be in tech

This year’s Startupfest was a crazy three days of memorable pitches, inspiring talks, and plenty of prizes. In case you missed it, here’s some highlights from Montreal’s own premier startup festival:

Sarah Lacy is thought-provoking with her take on Silicon Valley’s Morality Crash

Sarah Lacy, award-winning journalist, founder of PandoDaily, and former senior editor at TechCrunch gave a talk about Silicon Valley’s morality crash. It’s a topic that has been especially prevalent in the news recently after more and more women in the tech sector have come forward with stories of sexism, misogyny, and harassment. The issues started gaining traction when Susan J. Fowler wrote a blog post back in February about her experiences at Uber, and since then there has been a slew of coverage, including a feature in The Atlantic in April called “Why is Silicon Valley so Awful to Women?” and stories in nearly every other major publication. Several top-level executives have stepped down or been let go in the wake of the coverage, but there’s still a long way to go to address the problem, and Lacy has some jaw-dropping statistics to consider. Including:

  • Only 3% of venture-backed companies have female CEOs
  • 98% of investors on senior investing teams are white or Asian males
  • Among the largest tech companies women make up one third of the workforce. But in the highest-earning highest-profile engineering ranks that falls to just 10%
  • 80% of female VCs said they’d witnessed sexism in tech
  • Pay gap for women in tech is as high as 28% at the engineer level

Watch Lacy’s dynamic talk in its entirety below, and you can find her recap and copies of her slides here.


Willie G gives an incredible three minute pitch for Party on Demand

All sorts of CEOs and founders took to the stage for this year’s three minute pitch competition. But the pitch that nobody could stop talking about was Willie G founder of Party on Demand. It’s impressive to keep peoples’ attention at an event where use of electronic devices is encouraged, but it’s a true feat when attendees not only look up from their phones but start filming you as well. Thanks to Willie G’s impressive pitch, Party on Demand was the winner of both the Best Onstage Pitch and Kid’s Choice awards this year. Watch his pitch below.


EhEye and Waste Robotics share Grandmothers’ Choice Award

The grannies at Startupfest are notoriously hard to impress, and past winners have gone on to great things. Analytics startup Onavo was a previous winner, and months later went on to be acquired by Facebook for $150 million. This year the award was shared by New Brunswick’s EhEye, an artificial intelligence (AI) company specializing in video analytics for public safety, and Quebec’s Waste Robotics, a developer of robotic waste sorting solutions.

“StartupFest was an amazing experience that brought together 55 East Coast entrepreneurs, and validated not only our product, but our mission of protecting Canadians. We can’t wait to contribute to the Montreal ecosystem – thank you Grandmothers!” James Stewart, CEO at EhEye told MTLinTECH.

Both startups received a stellar package of goodies, including legal advice from Fasken Martineau AND fast track to the finals for FounderFuel’s 2018 cohort.


Mentorly wins the CBC media pitch

CBC was back this year with their CBC media pitch. Startups had one minute to pitch to CBC journalists for the chance to be featured on CBC Montreal. Mentorly, the first online Arts mentorship platform providing accessible and engaging opportunities to connect with emerging and professional artists from around the world, was this year’s winner. Ashley Werhun, co-founder of Mentorly, gave the winning pitch. A dancer with the Ballets Jazz de Montréal, she found herself overwhelmed by correspondence from young dancers wanting advice — so she began searching for a way to address the larger issue of a lack of mentorship in the arts. And Mentorly was born.

“Start Up fest was not only an immediate catalyst of growth for Mentorly, but also an opportunity to make connections that will lead to exciting expansion in the future. Winning the CBC media pitch allowed us to gain much needed exposure to bring in both users and investors,” Werhun told MTLinTECH.



Maxime Gauthier Bourbonnais, co-founder of Merinio, takes home Young Entrepreneur award

Maxime Gauthier Bourbonnais, co-founder of Merinio, a developer of workforce management solution software, took home the Young Entrepreneur award and won a place in the Next 36‘s 2018 cohort.

“We are honored to have been chosen for the award, exposure is essential in B2B, the more our potential customers hear about us, the happier we are,” Xavier Lavallée, co-founder at Merinio told MTLinTECH. “We are a dedicated team working on a painful problem for the industry, finding replacement workers in highly regulated environments, allowing our customers to easily continue business as usual when additional workforce is needed and avoid costly grievances. We do this by automatically replacing those workers using a simple interface, as well as respecting their existing workplace constraints such as detailed union agreements and labor laws.


FlashFood Inc. takes home “Best in Fest” $140,000 Investment prize

The $100k Investment Prize is always one of the highlights of Startupfest, and this year it was supplemented with an additional $40,000 based on the quality of the pitches. This year’s winner was FlashFood Inc., which allows grocery stores and restaurants to sell their surplus food at a discount and sends users a phone notification about deals in their area.

“The StartUp Fest pitch contest had around 300 companies that pitched.  We’re very humbled to be awarded the prize and are going to utilize the money responsibly focusing predominantly on growth,” Josh Domingues, Founder and CEO told MTLinTECH.

Following on the heels of their Startupfest win, the company also announced a $1.5 million seed round to scale its operations. They will use the funding to build out a referral program, making investments in its UX and UI, and developing a credit program allowing people to give back to others who wouldn’t be able to afford food.

What was your favourite part of 2017’s Startupfest? Let us know in the comments section!

Photo source – Startupfest


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