What Montreal must take from the Valley

Growing up I was very, very, very competitive.

I was raised in the era of the “I will eat your lunch” school of thought and winning to me meant “you lose.” Thankfully I was never one to cheat, but I really hated losing. This competitiveness is something that I kept with me in my career too, that is until I moved to the Valley in 2006.

Early in the lifecycle of our business, we got very close to the Facebook team, specifically just before they opened up as a platform. I remember Dave Morin telling us:

“What is good for you, is good for us [Facebook], and for everyone, and for that reason we’re going to open up Facebook as a platform to third parties.”

I vividly remember scratching my head and wondering why Facebook would be so open to collaboration. It was odd, especially because so many products that would benefit from access to their users had similar intentions to Facebook’s.

Shortly thereafter I quickly learned how the Valley functioned on this core value of helping each other for the greater good of the community. Fast-forward 10 years later and this openness, collaboration and notion of helping one another out is stronger than ever.

In Montreal it exists too, but not enough. In fact it’s far from what it needs to be.

So, Montreal: I have an ask for you.

From this day forward, lets make it our duty to actively help each other out for the greater good of the Montreal startup community.

Why? Because openness and collaboration is the fastest way we can improve Montreal’s startup ecosystem.

More investors, bigger exits, new co-working spaces, better accelerators and incubators, entrepreneurship programs, etc. Sure these all play a role, but their impact falls short (very short) to that of working together for each other.

Here are a few tangible things we can all do to fulfill our duty:
– Meet a co-founder for coffee once a week (make it someone different each week)
– Make sure you’re available for follow-up meetings too
– Get on the phone a couple times a week with people who are thinking of launching a business
– Refer great talent to one another if you’re not hiring
– Introduce your founder friends to your investors
– Facilitate introductions to potential partners
– Share each other’s news on social media to amplify its reach
– Offer your time up as a Mentor to FounderFuel, Founder Institute, X1 or any other similar program in the city

After almost 10 years in the startup world (four in the Valley & six in Montreal), I’d say helping people in the community comes naturally to me. I’m a FounderFuel and Founder Institute mentor and on average I meet two startups a week. I help also co-founded this blog and I organize TechNoël. All of these initiatives contribute to the community in their own manner.

Why do I do it?
– I meet liked-minded individuals
– I learn new things in a variety of different verticals
– I stay in touch with the latest innovations
– I have an exponentially growing social network
– I feel good about helping people avoid the mistakes I made

John StokesDaniel Robichaud, Ilias Benjelloun and Sergio Escobar (and several other active contributors) share this strong desire to see our community grow. Some may say it seems self-serving, but I sincerely hope most don’t see it that way. I look at these individuals (and others too), and can say with extreme confidence they’re 100 per cent selfless.

Brad Feld has said over and over for years that the key to building entrepreneurial communities is a “Give before you get” mantra.

Today I’m not sure Montreal is doing a great job a this, but I know that our desire to see the community grow is strong, and I’d like to believe we can count on one another to help each other out.

Thoughts? Concerns? Other initiatives we can adopt to help each other’s success? Let me know!


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