Startups, the Future of Business?

Open House Gives Entrepreneurs an Inside Glimpse Into the World of Startups

Entrepreneurs take a break at District 3, a startup incubator based in Montreal. Photo Hélène Bauer

Startup Open House will see startup businesses open their doors to visitors, giving them the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs in their workspaces.

The wide world of Montreal startups is opening its arms to entrepreneurial-minded individuals looking to get their feet wet.

Montreal will host the third annual Startup Open House on Oct. 29 from 4 to 7 p.m.

“It’s like a reverse career fair,” said Kara Sheppard-Jones, project manager of Startup Open House, and coordinator of the event, which is run Canada-wide. A startup is a small but quickly-expanding company that “fits the ethos of innovation, growth and ambition,” according to the event’s website.

This event will see startup businesses open their doors to visitors, giving them the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs in their workspaces. Each individual will traverse a pre-designed course of businesses based on their interests, such as travel, lifestyle, software, sustainability and social impact, among others.

Participants will be able to go around the city using two free shuttle buses that will run during the event, or profit from a 60 minute free credit when signing up for the community car sharing company Car2Go.

“If you are into marketing, you can meet with the chief marketing officer. If you are into technology you can meet with the head developer,” Sheppard-Jones explained.

Startup Open House’s initial focus was to attract job seekers, but after some thought, the focus shifted to raising attention for the businesses. “We actually have awesome innovators in our city,” Sheppard-Jones said.

“We actually have awesome innovators in our city.” — Kara Sheppard-Jones

“We should recognize them and increase their visibility.”

In the past few years, Canada’s entrepreneurial sector has been boosted mainly by technological developments. This event aims to demystify the image of startups, and help people consider them as viable career options.

It’s not only the participants who will profit from the event—startup companies are aware of the benefits of opening their doors to students, recent grads and job seekers interested in their projects.

“We want to meet people and communities. We want to know who is looking around [and] get our name out so that people can find us,” said Benoit Hudson, cofounder of Imaginary Spaces, a participating startup. “It’s a networking event.”

Imaginary Spaces developed an app to test interior design ideas before using them at home. During the event, participants are invited to meet with the home-stylist, share ideas and receive a personalized design.

AdviseAuto is another participant in the event. It’s a car software company that has developed a potential solution for car owners to deal with problems with maintenance. Their app links up the car with a central platform, so that the dealership will be able to monitor relevant information and give important notices before failures to help prevent accidents.

“It’s fun to exchange with other people interested in startups. Maybe we can find people that are looking to get a job, or people that are passionate about our industry,” added Alexandre Lataille, co-founder of AdviseAuto. “We can also meet with other startups.”

“In these types of events you can also meet someone that has an idea and doesn’t know how to go about [executing] it,” said Kevin Ferah, AdviseAuto’s other cofounder.

Building the right team is one of the major challenges many startups face, and can often be a long process.

“Build people first, then build projects. Happy people build great projects and are more productive,” said Hiba Ganta, innovation manager at District 3, a hub dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship at Concordia—a startup to help other startups.

It uses different methodologies to increase the odds of success for the companies it supports. Their mission is to put emphasis on how entrepreneurs develop themselves as founders and on how they build their team.

Her belief in finding the right people for the job seems to be shared throughout the industry.

According to Lataille, every time AdviseAuto meets someone from these events who match the company’s ethics and vision, they keep them on their list of potential hires.

“They need to buy in to the idea of what we do, fit in the team and be passionate about the industry,” he said. “We need to see that twinkle in their eye.”

Ganta explained that one of the key factors companies need to succeed is managing people properly.

“If the only reason to sit around in the office is the cheque, they are not going to stick,” she said.

Ganta’s work with startups has shown her the importance of developing a vision and focusing on the “why” of motivation more than the “what” of the actual product. Why does a startup want to deliver something that customers can rely on and that will last? Then, hopefully, people will buy the idea.

“The ‘why’ constitutes the essence of the company,” she said. District 3 will also be participating in the open house.

Visitors can sign up for free for the Startup Open House event on its website, which offers a tool to help choose which companies participants should visit.

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