Montreal NewTech Highlights the City’s Startup Community

DemoNight Gives Entrepreneurs a Chance to Connect and Grow

  • Gene Khalyapin, demonstrating how to use “financial software” Perfiqt Photo Jesse Stein.

On Jan. 10, The Shopify Montreal office was full of young ambition. Words of optimistic conversation bouncing from wall to wall, filling the space with an air of enthusiasm for technological innovation.

With terms like “AI,” “Neural Networks” and “Fin Tech” floating around the room, the atmosphere had the makings of any ordinary sci-fi novel. The energy was palpable.

The New Year’s edition of Montreal NewTech’s DemoNight—a hybrid showcase-networking event—featured both startups and entrepreneurs who are looking for their big breaks into the tech industry.

“We’re trying to connect smart people with the money to make their ideas a reality,” said Illias Benjelloun, creative director and spokesperson for Montreal NewTech. Through their events, the non-profit hopes to inspire innovation and a passion for entrepreneurship.

The events have come a long way since their humble beginnings. The sturdy attendance of about 150 people came as something of a novelty to the organizers. When NewTech started four years ago, Benjelloun said, “[they] would meet in the basement of a bar.”

The Montreal tech community has been growing steadily, in part due to many startup companies popping up en masse in little pockets of the city.

The event took place at the office of Shopify—a successful Montreal based eco-commerce platform. The space highlighted the young, free spirit of tech entrepreneurship. A fully-stocked kitchen, board games and video game consoles gave it the feel of a young adult’s dream apartment, rather than a “corporate office.”

Featured companies were given a chance to pitch and demonstrate their ideas that night. The goal of the event was to to connect local entrepreneurs with the Montreal tech community.

The presentations were diverse. One of the presentations, for instance, included a mobile video-making tool for social media which allows users to make money from product sales, to a free personal finance tool that helps answer tough questions.

“We want to make managing your money easier,” said Perfiqt CEO Gene Khalyapin.

Using a simple survey, the site helps individuals answer important questions like: “Am I spending too much?” and “When will I be able to retire?”

Perfiqt is just one of many companies that is hoping to make a name as a disruptor—meaning an innovation that will, as the name suggests, disrupt an existing market. They want to change the game.

Disruptors like Uber, Airbnb and Netflix have become household names while boasting billions in earnings. Uber, for one, is worth an estimated $66 billion.

Dubdub, another startup who showcased their product, is a set of video editing tools. They allow anyone to make professional-looking videos that link to products on Amazon.

Dubdub hopes to reach social media influencers so they can leverage their followers for huge sales. Through the use of in-video “tags,” viewers can purchase a featured product straight from the video, while the content’s creator receives a commission.

Anyone can become a tech entrepreneur according to Harley Finkelstein, the chief operating officer of Shopify.

“There are few barriers to entry, and most businesses need little to no money to get started,” said Finkelstein in a video presented during the conference.

If you have an idea that you think could be a game changer, Montreal offers a ton of resources to help you make it a reality. For example, District 3 Concordia is a startup-coaching centre that helps budding entrepreneurs refine and plan their ideas for free.

Other NewTech events are geared towards specific audiences, and are making strides to make the tech industry more accessible to marginalized groups.

NewTech executive director, Naoufel Testaouni, organizes QueerTech, conferences aimed at empowering LGBTQ people in the industry. Creating inclusive workspaces and highlighting the innovations of folks in the LGBTQ community are just a few of its goals.

For more information and their full events calendar, check out their website mtlnewtech.com.

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