The Montreal Founder Institute (FI) hosted its first public demo day this week at the Rialto Theatre, graduating nine companies from its four-month intensive early-stage tech startup program.
FI co-founder Adeo Ressi delivered the keynote address, and about 400 people in the Montreal tech community packed the Mile End theatre to view the pitches, network, and hear Adessi speak. “You can’t pivot on the purpose of your life. You’re the one that needs to start believing and start doing,” said Adessi, who hopes to see the Founder Institute graduate 2,000 companies globally this year.
During the Demo Day, four other judges deliberated on the pitches of the CEOs, each vying for the $5,000 cash prize. Judges Guillaume Fillière of OVM Digital Launch Pad, Senia Rapisarda of HarbourVest Partners (Canada), Mike Cegelski of Panache Ventures, Rebecca Croll of Startupfest, and Ressi ranked the startups on their team, market potential, and innovation.
Instead of one winner, both Streamline Genomics and Mindful Scholar were selected by the jury. Streamline Genomics CEO and founder Josette-Renée Landry and Mindful Scholar CEO and founder Rekha Magon accepted the recognition on behalf of their teams. The women were two of four women founders who pitched at the nine-company event.
“I don’t think the FI is successful, because we haven’t helped enough people start on a path to making the world a better place.”
– Adeo Ressi, founder of The Founder Institute
Founded in 2009 in Palo Alto, California by Ressi and Jonathan Greechan, The Founder Institute aims to globalize Silicon Valley and now runs at least once a year in more than 200 cities around the world. Founders follow a curriculum that covers everything from idea creation or refinement to business setup, product development, sales, marketing and fundraising.
According to The Founder Institute website, less than 30 percent of founders accepted into the program generally make it to graduation, but those who do have an exceptionally high rate of success. Graduated companies employ more than 20,000 people total, and have raised more than $600 million.
Adessi’s attendance at the event marks his third trip to Montreal. With a goal of attending 60 FI demo days around the world this year, he says he chose Montreal because of the strength of its local chapter.
“Worldwide, Montreal is in our top 10 percent of cities,” says Adessi, who credits the city’s relatively low cost of living, diversity, and its local chapter director, Sergio Escobar, who he says has fostered a strong entrepreneurial community. Escobar won the Founder Institute award for the best overall director in 2015.
Montreal’s chapter also won the global Founder Institute awards for Most Innovative Companies Worldwide 2016, Best Startup in Hardware – Worldwide 2017 (Hykso) and Best Startup in Canada 2017 (Unito).
Despite relatively high graduation rates compared with other accelerator programs (about 40 percent versus 19 percent, says Ressi, including a 70 percent graduation rate for women in the Founder Institute in New York, and a 100 percent women graduation rate in Kabul, Afghanistan), he admits that he isn’t satisfied.
“I don’t think the FI is successful, because we haven’t helped enough people start on a path to making the world a better place,” he said. “The problems are many, the minds of the world are bright, but the minds of the world aren’t working on the problems. Until the problems of the world start going away, we have failed.”
The Founder Institute charges more than $1,500 USD per participant, but offers fellowships for women founders and founders focused on certain industries, such as space.
“When we announced the Star Fellow for entrepreneurs working on space and space-related businesses almost a year ago, we had zero companies,” said Adessi, who traveled with his former college roommate Elon Musk to Russia in 2001 to look into buying rockets before Musk launched SpaceX. “Now we’re at almost 30 [space industry] graduates and we have probably another 15 or so enrolled that look like they’re going to graduate. Our goal is 500 company graduates that have a focus on space by 2022, around the time when Elon Musk is planning to have SpaceX landing humans on Mars.”
The full list of Founder Institute graduates include:
- Streamline Genomics: an online gene sequencing analytics tool that helps clinicians and cancer researchers understand their gene sequencing data. A clinician may enter the extensive amount of post-sequencing data and receive easy-to-understand information about a cancer’s mutation as well as a history of similar cases. In addition to graduating from The Founder Institute, Streamline Genomics has been accepted into Tech Stars New York.
- Mindful Scholar: an education tech company that uses mindfulness to increase students’ emotional intelligence through physical learning aids and an app of mindfulness exercises tailored to a teacher’s needs. The app suggests mindfulness exercises to solve specific problems, such as drowsy students in home room or classes that won’t pay attention. Principals get access to a dashboard to track effectiveness, and the company is working on an AR version with an audio guide for mindfulness exercises, which takes the responsibility off a teacher who might have little experience in mindfulness.
- Allset: an online insurance-buying service.
- BonAprt: an on-demand handyman service for busy landlords to coordinate repairs.
- Case & Suit: an online service to find an appropriate lawyer, reduce legal costs, and improve access to legal services.
- Feel Good Etc.: an online, individual, and subscription-based all-natural, non-toxic, cruelty-free and vegan hair products company.
- JITbase: an IoT company that improves productivity for manufacturing companies through data analysis, predictive maintenance, and real-time KPI monitoring.
- SpotEv: a cultural events aggregator for people to find events and promoters to post events.
- Voomenu: an online menu integration service that allows restaurants to sync their menus for multiple delivery partners such as Uber Eats, Foodora, and JustEat.