Montreal is a city that punches pretty well for its weight, considering that we’re only 4 million in our metropolitan area. But, I’m sometimes suspicious that our “booming” tech industry is more hype than anything else. Even the famed white paper about developing Quebec’s AI ecosystem hasn’t convinced me. For years, people I’ve met in the tech industry who come from outside Canada say that we pale in skills and innovation to… um… the Bay Area, Seattle, and similar locales. For better or worse, Canada doesn’t have a long, deep-pocketed history of university research-defense spending leading to profitable spin-off corp. Well, not yet — but it seems like every day there’s another accelerator or incubator opening. There’s been lots of hype over major tech firms like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft putting their AI labs in the city, while start-up Element AI and Lightspeed have managed some major funding.
Could Montreal produce the next unicorn in the tech industry?
Well, there’s one good place to find out. Montreal’s Startup fest. The once grass-roots festival promises over 6500 attendees and 150 speakers in attendance. There is over $1,000,000 in prize money. Almost makes me wish I had a good idea to pitch. The Fest will offer opportunities to collaborate, network, secure funding, or just practice pitching. There are lightning round pitches for those whose companies get invited to the Funding Workshop and a VentureFest networking event, to bring leaders and industry peers together.
Some go for the education and there are a lot of speakers. Chris Messina, Anil Dash, Kat Manalac, Harley Finkelstein, and Dax Dasilva will be talking on a variety of topics such as the different stages of startup, understanding consumer decision making, finding your market, and scaling your product.
There is considerable focus on bringing women to the festival. An inclusion initiative is designed to bring women working in tech at a fraction of the normal ticket cost. There is also a special investment prize for a female-led start up of a $100,000.
Attendance at Startup Fest isn’t cheap. Tickets will set you back $649-1049. One can always volunteer. The event starts July 9 and continues until July 12 at Parc Jean Drapeau, though events on July 9 are premium events. Information about Startup fest can be found HERE at their website.