Startupfest Celebrates 10th Anniversary under Covid-19

Startupfest, the crown jewel of events in Montreal related to the city’s innovation ecosystem, has just completed its 10th edition and it this time it was literally an event like they’ve never held before. The meeting that brought thousands of people together from across the globe year after year at some of the city’s most picturesque locations has had to go digital in the era of Covid-19.

Nonetheless, Phil Telio and his team press on.

For the 10th edition they built a temporary TV studio on the end of the King Edward Pier in Old Montreal, with the help of Quebecor, and invited about 30 of their closest friends to the show. This paired down edition of the event was broadcast online to tens of thousands over two days, and while the number of people officially registered may have increased this year (the 2020 edition of Startupfest was free. Official numbers were not available at time of publication.), engagement is down through the digital channel.

“When people are watching us through their computer, they can be distracted by anything else happening on their browser. It’s not the same as being on site” says Telio, Founder of Startupfest. “People love to connect. The people who are onsite are people who’ve been to Startupfest for many years running. Everybody here knows each other, it’s all Montrealers. And people are just really happy to get out of the house and come and interact again, even with the hyper distancing here on site.”

Gone is the networking on site and off campus after hours. Gone are the on-site demos and the entrepreneurs lining up for hours to pitch perfect strangers off the cuff. Gone too are the financial contributions from the Government of Quebec and City of Montreal. Even the Federal government has pulled back to a certain extent on its contribution. However, the event’s management did emphasize that a number of its private partners and sponsors did insist on honouring their commitments, as a sign of their dedication to the innovation ecosystem.

“There’s far less content this year. We’re at like two half-days for all intents and purposes. Far shorter in terms of time. When people come to Startupfest, they’re typically in the city for 5 days. They’re getting together during events, before the event and after the event” he added. “What we want to demonstrate here is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Entrepreneurs will always find a way to fill whatever gap exists or whatever needs exist. I’m super bullish on entrepreneurship. If anything, a pandemic or crisis of any sort is really an opportunity for new entrepreneurs.”

One thing however that Covid-19 could not takeaway from our community is the long list of fantastic prizes that this world-class event makes available to aspiring entrepreneurs each and every year. Here is a summary for 2020.


$100k Prize “Best of the Fest”

The prize: A $100,000 investment.

The winner: Qoherent, Ashkan Beigi


Grandmothers’ Choice Award

The prize: $1000 cash, and a handful of in-kind services!

The winner: Steadiwear, Emile Maamary


CBC Montreal Pivot prize

The prize: A feature on CBC’s Let’s Go with Sabrina Marandola and pitch feedback from CBC journalists.

The winner: Factually Health, Lina Forcier


L-SPARK 2020 SaaS Accelerator

The prize: Admission into the 6-month intensive L-SPARK SaaS Accelerator program.

The winner: UpKy, Uriel Bigot


Next AI Top Startup Award

The prize: One spot in either the Toronto or Montreal 2021 Cohort of Next AI, Canada’s premiere accelerator for idea to pre-seed stage AI-enabled startups.

The winners: (Montreal) WALO, Rim Charkani


Next 36 Young Entrepreneur Award

The prize: An exclusive founder spot in the 2021 Cohort of Next 36!

The winner: Integral Health, Daniel Szulc


Centech Accelerator Program

The prize:  Two spots to be part of Centech’s fall 2020 cohort, an intensive 12-week program starting September 8th.

The winners:

  • MoveMate, Lucas Francioli
  • Hoppin’ World, Joaquim Miró


The DMZ 2020 Accelerator Cohort

The prize: Admission into the 3.5 month DMZ 2020 Accelerator program. Your only focus throughout the program? Build a revenue-driven growth playbook and become a true sales-focused organization.

The winner: Gray Routes AI Inc, Sapna Patel


Le Camp Incubation Program

The prize: Admission for two companies into LE CAMP Incubation Program.

The winners:

  • MoveMate, Lucas Francioli,
  • Shapeshift 3D, Daniel Béland


“Défi Start-up Les Affaires“
The prize: Many prizes to win, including a coveted spot in the finals of Startupfest’s $100k Investment Prize.

The winner(s): Eli Health, Marina Pavlovic


Among Telio’s takeaways is that there continues to be a hunger amongst humanity to continue to get together. “That’s good news. We’ve all adapted very quickly to hiding out at home. But I get the sense that people would very quickly go back into a mode of connecting with each other once we figure out how to do it safely or as soon as this is all over.”

Photo credit: EvaBlue

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