Student startup GRAD4 takes seed funding

GRAD4, a startup out of the University of Sherbrooke, is getting its first dose of seed funding from Front Row Ventures, Real Ventures’ student-led venture capital arm. According to Front Row Ventures’ website, it invests $25,000 in startups.

The startup created an online platform connecting small and medium-sized shop owners with suppliers. GRAD4 provides an easy-to-use marketplace that standardizes and centralizes the subcontracting process for the manufacturing industry.

Former graduates at the Centech acceleration program, GRAD4 is made up of CEO Felix Dockrill, COO Nicolas Gautheir, who studied business at the University of Sherbrooke, CSO Frédérik Plourde, who studied engineering at ÉTS, and CTO Yacine Mahdid (CTO) a machine learning Ph.D. at McGill.

In a Medium post, Front Row Ventures student-investor Eliot Mathieu-Proteau wrote about some of the challenges in supply chain logistics that GRAD4 is solving.

“Currently, shop owners and manufacturers use ineffective and costly methods to subcontract manufacturing of parts. The choice of a supplier is often based on how fast a shop owner answers, and not on crucial components such as price, specialization, and quality of the parts. In order to fill their production queue, shop owners need the help of sales representatives or brokers charging exorbitant commissions. In the absence of a bidding infrastructure companies face an obscure market and go for non-competitive quotes, reducing their often already thin margins,” wrote Mathieu-Proteau.

Mathieu-Proteau continued to list the three main benefits that GRAD4’s platform will address:

  1. Manufacturers have a wider supplier insight, specialized in their production needs, creating opportunities for faster and more cost-effective subcontracting.
  2. Shop owners have easier access to jobs in which they are specialized, allowing them to fill their production queue more easily.
  3. The marketplace has digitized and centralized the subcontracting process, making it easier for both manufacturers and suppliers to communicate and manage their subcontracting efforts.

Front Row Ventures says it’s “willing to take an earlier leap of faith than most VC funds normally would.” The student investment group under Real Venture’s tutelage have already invested in nine tech companies, including pharma tech company Invivo.AI and life sciences company eNUVIO.

The group says it is currently raising a $10 million fund to expand its operations to 7 new provinces and more than 30 university campuses across Canada.

Front Row Ventures calls itself Canada’s “first student-run venture capital fund.” However, that label likely belonged to the Founder Project, a since shuttered student-run VC firm that began in Montreal back in 2013, led by founder Ilan Saks. Saks went on to found the successful headhunting agency StackedHR after The Founder Project closed up shop, but not before promoting student startups who would later found some of Montreal’s most notable startups, like Stay22.

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