Now in its fifth year, Dawson College’s EWeek works to light the flame of entrepreneurship in this Montreal college’s students.
“We’re trying to promote the entrepreneurial values of leadership, initiative, perseverance, and innovation.”
“It’s important to instil entrepreneurial values, said Madeleine Bazerghi, project lead for the Centre for innovation and entrepreneurship education at Dawson College. “It’s not just about starting a business or starting a social enterprise. It’s about learning how other entrepreneurs are, what they do, what kind of personality traits they have… and also to inspire them not just to have ideas, but to act on their ideas.”
As such, on Tuesday night, MTL NewTech — this city’s largest community of tech entrepreneurs — teamed up with the college for a Demo Day, with seven Montreal startups, from early stage to post-seed funding, presenting to an audience of roughly 200.
Naoufel Testaouni, executive director of MTL NewTech, emceed the event, welcoming the audience by underlining the importance of Entrepreneurship Week around the world. With more than 35,000 entrepreneurship-centred events and ten million people participating in them, this is a worldwide celebration of innovation and creativity: two traits that Montreal’s startup ecosystem has in spades.
The seven startups included Sportlogiq, UVOLT, HardBacon, Lickstats, FlavorChat, Wanabai, and Kirmaq Tech. They had only a few minutes to present their projects to the Dawson College students and Montreal startup community. A takeaway from many of the startups was that once you’ve had an idea (that not too many others have had yet), you have to run with it regardless of the challenges that pop up along the way.
UVOLT is a particularly inspiring story of inspiration and hard work. CTO Marc-Antoine Bonin told the audience about the process that has taken UVOLT’s founders, two of the city’s youngest entrepreneurs, from idea to winners of numerous entrepreneurship and tech competitions, including the Hydro-Québec Energy Prize and Young Scientist Innovator of Quebec Award.
This startup, founded up by Antony Diaz (when he was still in high school!) has a mission to make renewable energy more accessible to everyone. What started as a wearable device that harvests and stores thermal, kinetic, and solar energy has evolved, over the course of the past year, into a watch that allows its wearer to charge electronic devices with light, movement, and heat.
Named “one of the most innovative early stage startups in the world,” the company is part of Concordia University’s D3 Innovation Centre and have already spoken with companies like Swatch and Rolex about integrating their tech into their products.
Another highlight of the evening was HardBacon, lead by Julien Brault, a former tech journalist for La Presse. After joking that he had been infected by the entrepreneurship disease after five years of reporting on it, he launched into an explanation of his company, which works to simplify investment for the overlooked 18 to 34-year-old market.
“We care about the people no one cares about,” he said. While you need tens of thousands of dollars to even think about investing through most financial services, HardBacon aims to teach young people how to manage their own money, remarking that “you can do fun stuff with money,” if you only have the knowledge. He concluded by mentioning that his team is still lacking a CTO, to whom they can’t pay much money, but can give a lot of equity (to much laughter).
The evening closed with a raffle, which Bazerghi admitted was one of EWeek’s tactics to get more students to attend their sessions. “They come for the prize and they stay for the speakers,” she joked. “In the end, we’re trying to promote the entrepreneurial values of leadership, initiative, perseverance, creativity, and innovation. We have found that a lot of the volunteers that have worked with us on EWeek, graduate from Dawson and come back to volunteer and to speak as entrepreneurs. They carry on this drive throughout their university studies.”