Partnership Offers Financial Backing to Local Start-Ups

An architectural rendering of the Notman House. Courtesy Sid Lee

Local start-ups can expect to receive a boost in both funding and recognition, courtesy of a newfound partnership between the OSMO Foundation and Videotron, announced on Jan. 17.

Videotron, a subsidiary of Quebecor Media, has pledged to donate a total of $2.5 million to the Notman House over ten years, to be delivered in yearly installments of $250,000.

The Notman House has been in pilot mode since February 2011, hosting start-ups, incubators and related tech events. The non-profit behind the Notman project, the OSMO Foundation, garnered the momentum from an active grassroots community to create a highly successful crowd-funding campaign and finalized acquisition of the Notman House and adjoining St. Margaret’s Hospital on Dec. 19.

The partnership marks a huge step in bringing together the once scattered Montreal start-up community. Users of the Notman House will now reap the benefits of its first heavyweight financial business backer.

Videotron has also promised to play an advisory role. Notman’s young developers will have the opportunity to access the company’s technological expertise and resources.

Alan MacIntosh, president of the OSMO Foundation, pointed to Videotron’s relationship with companies like Samsung, Google, and Cisco as particularly exciting prospects for the growth of local start-ups.

A Two-Way Deal

The partnership between OSMO and Videotron is expected to be a mutually beneficial one.

While the start-ups at the Notman House will benefit from increased resources and funding, Videotron will likely obtain privileged access to the wide range of talent emerging from Notman.

A steering committee from Notman House, comprised of members from Montreal’s start-up scene, worked to establish a list of potential suitable financial backers.

“We went through all the major candidates on the corporate front, who might grasp and appreciate [Notman’s philanthropic value], while having some synergies for their own business,” said MacIntosh.

“We approached all the big telecoms, all the big software houses, the games companies—Videotron turned out to be one of the first to embrace the idea and to do it in a very significant way.”

The partnership eventually materialized as a result of mutual fascination. Videotron representatives came to scout things out at a Hackathon held at Notman, and were “blown away” by the young entrepreneurs’ talents.

The Notman House is also partially funded by public organizations and small business entities. According to MacIntosh, though, Videotron will be the Notman House’s “biggest strategic partner.”

In the Spotlight

Since it made its debut as a start-up hub just months ago, the Notman House has been turning heads, and getting noticed.

The space has garnered the attention of the locally touted “Quebec Inc.”—a distinction used to denote a group of highly successful homegrown enterprises whose prestige and economic influence pervade Quebec society and reach beyond the province’s borders; companies like Videotron, SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier.

Gabriel Sundaram, a coordinator at the OSMO Foundation, attributes the attention the Notman House has been getting to the grassroots and collective assembly of Montreal’s tech start-ups.

“Individual, small start-up companies haven’t had a chance to make an impact with the ‘Quebec Inc.,’ but collectively, it seems the Notman House created a big splash,” said Sundaram.

Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau said the Notman House is worthy of the attention from “Quebec Inc.” companies, claiming young start-ups may hold the key to the province’s economic future.

“More than a generation ago, leaders mobilized and created Québec Inc. Today, it is our turn to join forces and support young startups that have the potential to become the flagships of Québec Inc. in the future,” said Péladeau, in a statement to the press.

Both Videotron and the OSMO Foundation have high hopes that a strong start-up community will develop here in Montreal. The partners hope to see the city’s reassertion of its once-important role as a cultural and economic bridge between Europe and North America.

As it is, Notman has become a must-see for tech developers and investors passing through the city.

“We actually see it already,” said Sundaram. “[Tech world] people from out of town, when they come to Montreal, always just stop by and check it out.”

The frequency of these visits and Montreal’s international reputation has the potential to grow with each new step taken by Notman House. Already, Sundaram said, Notman has the potential to serve as a catalyst for a burgeoning start-up tech neighbourhood around the downtown area as the house’s overflow leads to other start-up spaces.

“Some of the start-ups that come through [Notman], when they grow and don’t have room, they’re choosing to relocate close by,” said Sundaram.