Building on different themes every month, MTL NewTech is successfully acting as an offline hub for the Montreal startup community. This month’s theme, innovation in healthcare, was supported by their partner Hacking Health: it brought four startups on the forefront of digital health to present what they were doing to a crowd of startup enthusiasts.
Building on last month’s meetup about e-commerce, this month drew an even larger crowd, despite the fact that it was happening while a Montreal Canadiens playoff game was in full flight. The score was updated constantly for a discerning Montreal crowd, but somehow, it seemed something had dislodged hockey from the eyes of many: startups.
The crowd was in for a treat. The startups that presented this month, as always, were top-flight concepts being executed by some of the brightest technologists in Montreal.
First off was Synbiota, presented by CEO and co-founder Connor Dickie, a MIT Media Lab graduate. It resembled a Github for biologists to collaborate as hackers did, except with even more value-add services beyond just offering a common repository where to store findings. It proposed to virtualize the entire research and development chain for developing life science products, a revolutionary new approach to biological research. The web platform allowed for the virtual manipulation of DNA, and for open science, a similar concept to the open-source software philosophy that defines many of the building blocks of the Internet.
Then came Jintronix, a gamification solution for physical rehabilitation. By using the Kinect and games tailored to respond to the demands of physiotherapists and patients, Jintronix made exercising oneself back to full strength fun. The demonstration revolved around guiding a ball through a maze by moving one’s hips: it was an interactive digital health product that had already gotten FDA approval.
Next was NeuroScanPro, a screening tool that could be used to refer children with a high risk of autism to a doctor earlier, so that they could get a conclusive diagnosis, and start treatment earlier. It worked by using a tablet to track eye movements while a child was looking at a video that displayed faces talking: somebody who didn’t look at faces in the video would be tagged as somebody with a high risk of autism, and recommended to go to a clinic. This was crucial because those kids who get treatment early for autism can often develop like the typical child: given an exponential growth in the percentage of autism cases, this tool would be crucial.
Finally, Hexoskin, a wearable technology company that has seen its wares worn by Olympians and astronauts, came up to present. Pierre-Alexandre, the CEO, ended up revealing that he was wearing a Hexoskin shirt underneath his dress shirt: it captured a vivid heart rate indicative of high stress, and a product that works flawlessly.
MTL NewTech and Hacking Health deserve plaudits for bringing together a great array of startups, and a crowd to appreciate their work. With each event, the momentum for Montreal’s startup scene keeps on growing. The Canadiens won their playoff match, but for a couple of hundred people, it didn’t matter as much as seeing startups on the leading edge of innovation.