With another great year for the Montreal startup community set to pass as New Year’s comes upon us, we thought we’d choose our favourite news headlines of 2015. Here’s seven hand-picked news stories from 2015 that had a significant effect on the community.
A group of four entrepreneurs officially opened up Montreal’s newest coworking space in late November. La Gare, founded by Stephanie Brisson, LP Maurice, Christian Bélair and Marie Eve Boisvert, offers its members a seat for just $295, based on a one-year contract.
The space itself is almost completely open-concept, save for some conference rooms that members can take advantage of. Members have their own reserved seats towards the back of the space while hot-desk seats are positioned near the front. Everyone sits at big tables. While teams are welcomed, they won’t have their own private space.
“When we launched Credo last year we had this idea to create a physical space for startups and everything fell into place when we saw this 10,000 square feet space,” Brisson told MTLinTech. “So we decided to move forward and actually launch a coworking space,” said Brisson. La Gare’s kick-off party attracted close to 200 people in November, while the space itself is completely filled up now.
— Sara Ahmadian (@SaraAhmadian) May 11, 2015
Meeting US president Barrack Obama would make for an interesting experience for any startup founder, and that’s exactly what Seamless Planet CEO Sara Ahmadian got to do in May.
Ahmadian was one of just 32 international entrepreneurs who received an invitation to the White Houses first ever“demo day”. Seamless Planet, a distribution and channel management backend system for tour companies around the world, was one of seven companies that graduated from FounderFuel’s Fall 2014 cohort.
The first-ever White House Demo Day brought together “entrepreneurs from all walks of life, from all across the country, showcasing individual success stories.
The cofounder called her experience meeting President Barack Obama, and visiting the White House, “amazing”. For the White House, its Demo Day was meant to build on progress the Obama administration has already taken in trying to empower entrepreneurs from around the world to launch and scale innovative companies.
Smart shirt maker Hexoskin made headlines twice in December. First, it raised CAN $1.3 million, led by angel investors from Anges Québec and the Anges Québec Capital fund. Les Affaires’ Julien Brault wrote that the new funding will go towards the healthcare industry, astronauts and even defense sectors, like police or army personnel. First they’ll need to be approved by Health Canada and the FDA.
But that wasn’t all that the company announced in December. Later on, it was revealed by Wearable’s Michael Sawh that Hexoskin’s wearable clothing was taking off – literally. Hexoskin successfully won a contract with the Canadian Space Agency to develop the On Astronaut Wireless Sensor, which could have major benefits for monitoring the vitals of crew members involved in long haul space travel.
“The cutting-edge OAWSS wireless sensors can be attached to the body using a biocompatible adhesive to deliver data in real time,” wrote Wearable. The unique wireless body sensor platform that will provide, “long-term vital signs monitoring with a high level of accuracy, reliability and configurability.”
In September, Breather, a Montreal startup that 0ffers on-demand private office space in multiple cities around North America, hit a big pay day. The company raised $20 million from Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, with participation from RRE, Real, SOS, and Slow Ventures.
“Two years ago, this company was just a dream – a piece of paper and a silly little app, with no spaces, no locks, nothing but a feeling that something in the world was missing,” wrote founder Julien Smith.
Breather started with a dozen spaces in New York City and Montreal, while the company now offers 100 spaces in five cities.
In July we reported that Hamnett Hill and his partners raised $10 million in capital for a new fund called Edō Capital, which will invest in sustainable food-related businesses over the next 24 months.
We’re witnessing “massive changes” in consumer taste for food, Hill told MTLinTech, at the time. “Consumers in waves are turning away from processed and industrial foods towards organic, local, non-processed, non-GMO, low-carbon footprint, ethical and humane food,” he said. “That whole movement is kind of a backlash against big food.”
Edō wants to invest in those companies with at least half-a-million in revenue (and for what its worth, a ceiling of around $10-15 million). They want businesses who’s models are proven, and they aren’t willing to settle for less.
“We’ll probably invest $100-250,000 in about 12 companies and for those who can really use the help we’ll invest $1.5-2.5 million in four or five of them,” said Hill.
Several Montreal entrepreneurs dedicated their resources towards helping Syrian (and other) refugees after the refugee crisis dominated news headlines in Canada. The Canadian government wants 25,000 Syrian refugees housed in Canada by March 2016.
Phillip Cutler, CEO of FounderFuel graduate GradeSlam, an online tutoring service, started a $50,000 fund to help Syrian refugees. It’s actually on behalf of his other business, the Laurus Summer Camp for children. The fund will pay for 20 refugee children to attend the camp, which offers activities like cooking, tech, science, sports, dance and the arts.
WeHost is an Airbnb-inspired website aiming to match people with a room to spare and refugees in need of temporary lodging. Hosts are expected to help new guests for up to two months. WeHost went live November 23 and already has more than 500 registered users ready to host one or more refugees. Upwards of 1,500 temporary spaces for government and privately sponsored refugees are available.
Possibly the biggest news in Canadian tech happened out of Montreal in mid-September, when Lightspeed, a longtime Montreal-based cloud POS platform for retailers and restaurants, announced US$61 million in funding. The round was led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Investissement Québec (IQ), alongside existing investors Accel Partners and iNovia Capital. It brought Lightspeed’s total funding to US$126 million.
At the time, the company said its customers now process over $10 billion annually, and they number over 25,000 in 100 countries. Moreover, the company claims a 123 percent year-over-year growth.
For Lightspeed, the funding was all about “deepening Canadian roots.” They called the round another indicator of the rapid growth and financial support for Canadian tech companies.