The air was buzzing at Montreal’s Monument National last week as deep pockets met creative minds at this year’s FounderFuel demo day and Accelerate Montreal presentations.
FounderFuel is a network of intensely business-savvy entrepreneurs, mentors and experts who focus their energy on guiding others through the difficult process of product creation, product pitch and product sales. This year’s cohort of 11 companies spent 12 weeks cooped up in a beautiful historical house in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood.
Over the course of those 12 weeks, they did practically nothing but sit together as business associates to try to come up with the best app, program, tool, shopper and ride they could. Now, it should be said, quite a bit was happening in Montreal during that time—thousands of people occupying the streets might have been more than enough to distract them and take away their focus. Instead, they got on the FounderFuel stage and asked a slew of influential investors for money, trust and support. Here’s what happened when they did.
It started with a video documenting the experience, a series of which will be released in a web series to come. “I think the most important thing I learned,” said Epilogger’s Michael Nussbacher in the video, "is to get my head out of my—”
As it turns out, this self-reflection would work out well for his team. They were announced as one of three Canadian teams headed to the Valley for this year’s three-month Canadian Innovation Exchange program.
First up, the Appifier team, which promised to turn most any publishing content into a native and engaging app. It boasted simplicity, price efficiency and a brand new Apple Newstand-type app for blogs called the Blogstand.
Then, offering to help users both big and small make sense of their Adwords campaigns was Tenscores. Pointing out the fact that 99% of publishers and business people can afford to spend no more than $5,000 a month on Adword campaigns, Tenscores highlighted the platform’s impressive scalability and often simple campaign optimization tools.
Centerside took center stage next with a rather humourous and sarcastic presentation on their viewer adapted social platform. Leveraging the fact that most online users have different personas on different platforms, Centerside offered up a platform that synched with all your platforms and content, and then used the information to display content customized to the profile’s viewer.
It also analyzed the viewer’s profiles and highlighted commonalities between the viewer and profile-owner—a kind of "friendship" profile that effectively fused and ‘mashed’ both interactive individuals.
Next up was Epilogger’s social digital memory. The group presented its new mobile app that let users collectively create and organize memories recorded around events via a tweet, blog post, Facebook post, Instagram picture, FourSquare check-in, etc. It offered up easy in-site embed, comprehensive and easy-to-understand metrics and analytics, and easy navigability. Their new and improved scalable platform allowed them to cover events as large as Austin’s SXSW and Montreal’s student strike, and as small as birthday parties and local concerts.
ShopAround then flaunted an app that enabled shoppers to literally shop from home while still interacting with real surface stores. Hooked to the inventory systems of over 180,000 stores, ShopAround could tell you in real-time whether your product was available, then let you reserve it, pay for it and find your nearest store—all within a single app.
Next, Prestopolis offered to further lessen the gap between customers and retail owners with a social platform that allowed for easy product picture uploads and for the automatic creation of beautiful online catalogues. They then took the catalogue’s content and pushed it strategically onto a series of important mainstream and emerging social networks. With only 5% of North American retail sales going to e-commerce, the Prestopolis crew felt there was a rather big bite to be taken in the online sales market.
Following that, HealthAware then switched things up with an application aimed not at making life more enjoyable; but at solving a serious social and structural issue. It let users enter their location and the type of medical specialist they were seeking, then offered them a series of close-by options and let them book an appointment directly online. Additional elements such as ratings and the ability to connect more directly with the healthcare staff boosted the ambitious platform.
After, PayPhone App focused on mobile payment technology with an app designed to let consumers make all of their purchases via their smartphone without need of cards or card terminals. Moreover, the app collected information from the consumer’s digital bills and from external sources such as weather apps and GPS to suggest customized products and sale offers. If it detected 30 degree weather and had noticed you’d spent a fair bit at Urban Outfitters recently—it might just give you a heads up about the "25% off bikinis" sale going on a few blocks away.
The next bid for investor interest was LiveRides, which promised an easier, friendlier and more economic way of ridesharing over short and long distances. According to the team, over three million North Americans drive at least 3 hours a day—reason enough to want to make driving a cheaper and more enjoyable experience, LiveRides figured. They therefore presented a simple app that allowed for quick and spontaneous ride share, direct mobile payment (to avoid the awkward cash hand-over at the end of the ride) and social profiles meant to point out and suggest things the potential passenger and driver might have in common. Every ride could be turned into a road trip with the right crowd and similar musical inclinations.
Ooomf then suggested their sleek, interactive and socially engaging app browsing platform might help us all keep track of the slew of previously presented innovative apps. They presented a space in which apps could be discovered, categorized and encouraged as they were in early development stage. Browsers could read elaborate descriptions, ask designers questions or comment on the apps as they evolved and keep an eye on those still to come, not unlike a Kickstarter of the app world.
And finally, Notesolution appeared on stage with a new take on academic crowdsourcing and note-sharing. It let users upload and share slews of class notes, study notes and essays all the while allowing for comments, modifications and clarifications on pre-existing notes. They moreover narrowed their focus on International students, whom they said spent an average of $12,000 a year in pre-university prep courses in order to prepare and make the most of their $30B dollar a year contribution to Montreal’s academic system. By reading class notes from sponsor countries and universities, prospective students could do a good deal of their preparation work within their own homes.
After a short break, FounderFuel demo attendees returned to the venue for a series of AccelerateMtl keynotes and panel discussions hosted by entrepreneurs ranging from Facebook’s Jonathan Ehrlich to Beyond the Rack’s Yona Shtern. Along with others, including Zuora’s Shawn Price and Taleo Corporation’s Martin Ouellet, they shared their own words of wisdom and entrepreneurial success and failure stories with the packed audience.
The day rounded off with cocktails and schmoozing, allowing for investors to mingle with the herd of entrepreneurs having migrated to the city in the hopes of finding a captive audience. We’ll likely be seeing the results of those post-conference chats at next year’s third edition of the FounderFuel demo day.