Startupfest saw over $585,000 in cash prizes awarded to startups last week, as companies ranging from FinTech firms to small software shops brought their best pitches to the Montréal tech conference held from July 12-14.
Though the conference initially announced over $300,000 in cash prizes up for grabs this year, Startupfest saw that number increase with additional contributions from participants.
Even setting aside the tornado warning that interrupted proceedings on Friday, Startupfest was eventful. With nine awards handed out at the event, there was a tie between two startups for NextAI’s award. On the other hand, Toronto-based FinTech startup Hutsy won twice.
Here are all the details on Startupfest 2023’s awards and their winners.
$100K Women in Tech
Ora won the $100,000 Women in Tech prize, which was presented by The Firehood, an angel network that focuses on supporting women in the technology sector.
Additionally, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) matched the prize with another $100,000 and offered to match audience investment, totalling over $300,000 as a result.
“Raising $310K through sequential pitches, culminating in an electrifying crowd-matching investment, was … a true testament to the power of collective ambition of the startup community,” said Sarah Lambert, who co-founded Ora in 2020 with Louis St-Pierre.
$100K Black Entrepreneur
Founded in 2019 by Tefari Bailey, Hutsy won both the Black Entrepreneur prize worth $100,000 and the Audience Choice Award, the latter of which was part of the Best Pitch competition as a top ten finalist.
Hutsy calls itself a financial “super-app.” Its platform allows users to spend money through a Visa prepaid card issued by Peoples Trust Company and track their spending through its companion app.
Hutsy plans to launch several new features “soon,” according to its website. These include credit-building abilities, early direct deposit, and a one percent cash back on all purchases.
“This win fuels my motivation to propel Hutsy even further, revolutionizing the financial industry through innovation,” Bailey said. “I’m excited to harness this momentum for our growth and continue to inspire other BIPOC founders.”
$100K Best of the Fest
U-frost, which offers a Montréal-based tech-enabled bar service, won the $100,000 Best of the Fest award. It offers its instant freezing technology to do what has typically been impossible—freeze alcohol.
According to U-frost, its technology is turnkey and customizable, allowing different hosting spaces, from kitchens to reception halls, to serve frozen shots and cocktails.
$50K Student Entrepreneur
Co-founded by Polytechnique Montréal masters alumni Cécile Darviot, Vega Bioimaging secured the $50,000 Student Entrepreneur prize at Startupfest this year.
Vega develops imaging and detection technology for cytopathology, a branch of pathology that examines diseases on the cellular level.
Vega is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through the Collaborative Health Research Projects initiative, as well as American company Oncotech, which offers molecular oncology testing services to assist physicians in the care and management of their cancer patients.
$25K Fonds FTQ Grant
Presented by Fonds de solidarité FTQ, the $25,000 Impact prize this year went to Iris + Arlo, which offers menstrual products that are meant to be eco-friendly. Its product line includes tampons with a biodegradable applicator, pads, and underwear.
NextAI’s Top Startup
Àcara and CapmAI tied for NextAI’s Top Startup Award, which provides them each with a spot in the 2024 cohort for NextAI’s six-month founder and venture development acceleration network.
Grandmothers’ Choice Award
Every year, Startupfest features a panel of judges who are grandmothers who will assess participating startups for their pitches. This year, Coastal Carbon secured the award.
Coast Carbon provides an AI-driven satellite-imaging technology which it said can accurately measure underwater biomass and map marine protected areas. The startup noted the data it collects is then used to identify parts of the ocean that are in need of restoration and to track restoration progress over time.
OceanFest’s Next Big Thing
Among Startupfest’s “premium events” this year, which are specialized events that focus on specific themes across the tech ecosystem, was OceanFest.
OceanFest handed out its $30,000 Next Big Thing award to Blue Lion Labs. The award was sponsored by Flots, the marinetech accelerator by Québec-based business hub Novarium, which supports companies in the ocean or “blue” economy.
Blue Lion Labs, which offers AI software for identifying phytoplankton from a live water sample in real-time, will also have the opportunity to join Flots’s 12-month accelerator program.
Featured image courtesy Startupfest.