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Despite 2016 being labelled the worst year ever in terms of politics and celebrity deaths, it was a pretty great year for the Montreal technology scene. We saw a lot of funding come in both publicly and privately, a lot of new companies being launched and the push for the city to cement its place as an AI and machine learning hub. I want to highlight some of the great companies that are being built in Montreal with a focus on the up-and-coming startups which are poised to have a HUGE 2017.
Check out some of the rising stars in Montreal (in no particular order) that you should definitely keep your eye on.
As part of the build-out of AI and machine learning in the city we saw the birth of Element AI, in mid-2016. This is a company that is helping enterprise clients build an AI-first world, and they’re doing it at warp speed! Element AI is one of the fastest growing companies in Canada (in a few short months they’ve grown to over 40 employees) and are co-founded by one of the godfathers of deep learning, Yoshua Bengio. It’s also the first investment from Microsoft’s new AI fund. Expect big things to be spun out of this AI powerhouse.
To say that Sonder had a big year in 2016 would be an understatement. It closed a $10 million Series A led by Spark Ventures, expanded to nine cities and over 75 employees, and held a major rebrand from Flatbook to Sonder. The company, focused on reinventing the hospitality industry, is led by two very bright young founders, Lucas Pellan and Francis Davidson, who have their eyes on the prize for 2017. Expect the launch of more cities and the continued growth of a pretty impressive offering.
Transit, one of the world’s most used public transportation apps, has been growing rapidly since it graduated from FounderFuel in 2013. However, 2016 was a major year for the company. Not only is Transit now used in dozens of cities around the world (including Nairobi!), the company raised a $2.4 million seed and launched a crowdsourcing feature similar to Waze where users get real-time feedback about when their bus, metro, or train is arriving. I’m pretty confident in saying that in 2017, we’ll see some major global expansion as more and more cities partner with Transit to help ease the daily commute.
With the rise of AI and machine learning, we saw the explosion of the “bot”. While several local companies have focused on building out bots, Automat has taken a different approach. The messaging and bot startup was one of the 14 companies that Slack invested in last year, has major clients like Maybelline, and have put a big focus on building our its intelligence with over 15 patents in the fields of speech recognition and natural language understanding.
In 2016, Sharethebus, a startup focused on reinventing the decades-old charter bus system, participated in Y Combinator, closed a $1.5 million USD round and moved over 140,000 people over 3,500 trips – all while being heads down, perfecting the product, and building out the team.
One of the two first investments led by the new Diagram fund (headed by Paul Desmarais III), Dialogue is actively working to improve the Canadian healthcare system. The company is creating channels for patients to speak with healthcare professionals from a wide range of specialities. With an increasingly overcrowded healthcare system, Dialogue is a company that is sure to make huge waves in the coming years.
Smooch is a relatively young company, but at just over a year old it has already closed a $10 million Series A and has built out a world-class software platform for creating and operationalizing B2C messaging experiences. In the ever-saturated world of bots and messaging, keep an eye out for Smooch, it’s probably powering some of the bots you use daily.
Motorleaf, an agtech startup helping automate indoor growing, graduated from FounderFuel in mid-2016 and since then has raised a seed round led by 500 startups Canada. The company has gone from prototype to factory-produced hardware, were accepted into the new AgTech Hacker Unit program, and won the IBM Smart Camp Montreal prize. If the team of three can accomplish all that in just a few short months and pre-funding, it should be pretty exciting to see what happens this year.
Montreal is known for its healthtech and AI, and local startup Imagia combines both of these to help fight cancer. Imagia is building out an AI for medical imaging, implementing deep learning techniques to create superhuman pattern recognition that helps detect diseases (like cancer) at an earlier stage. The company has been steadily growing and has assembled a world-class team, including Nicolas Chapados and Yoshua Bengio. Simply put, Imagia is going to save a lot of lives!
LocalLogic is a company that the geography GIS geek in me has always thought was REALLY cool, and after completing the InnoCité 2016 cohort, the company (made up of urban planners and data scientists) is really starting to take off. LocalLogic is able to quantify every aspect of a neighbourhood to help you find the perfect home, hotel, vacation rental, etc. In 2017, the size of its team will triple, and it will be launching in the 100 biggest US cities by Q3.
This list was crowdsourced with help from Beatrice Couture at InnoCité, Alex Shee at Real Ventures, and Antoine Nivard at iNovia.
iNovia has invested Smooch, Real Ventures has invested in ElementAI, Sonder, Transit, Automat, Sharethebus, Smooch, and Imagia, and LocalLogic went through the Innocite Cohort