It’s not everyday that one sees a Y Combinator-funded startup outside the comfortable bounds of Silicon Valley.
Widely regarded as the most prestigious program for technology entrepreneurs, the Y Combinator program has helped build many of the billion-dollar institutions that define the web—Dropbox, Reddit, AirBnB, and more. The average valuation of a company in the program is about 48 million dollars, and one of those on-average-48-million-dollar startups, ZenPayroll, sent their employees all the way up to Montreal.
It takes something special to draw one of the leaders in technology so far away from home.
The McGill Entrepreneurs Society was responsible for an event that connected talented students with brilliant startups, something special that rippled all the way to Silicon Valley. They've evolved over the last year from a closed McGill club, to a dynamic society that connects all Montreal students with a host of young enterprises. They painstakingly worked many weeks to assemble over thirty startups from around the world in the middle of McGill campus—double the amount of last year, bringing this year’s event to a whole new level. Nine hundred students from across Montreal came to explore a career track a world away from what the typical corporation could offer.
FounderFuel graduates Transit App and Provender sat together, and had their founders evangelizing furiously about why students should join in their explosive growth. An internal dashboard sat in front of Transit App’s kiosk, pinging every time somebody used the application in Toronto to locate public transit routes. The frequent changes in the screen were hypnotic. It was a fascinating bird’s eye view into a startup that had already achieved solid traction, and was looking for talent to grow to the next level.
Not everybody was looking for just hirees. Decode Global was looking for people to test out a new version of their popular game Get Water, a social gaming application that versed a large part of its’ proceedings to charity:water. They were looking to raise awareness on campus, and find that special person that would help them scale: judging by the number of people signed on for both purposes, they must have been happy with the results.
The results of the career fair itself could be seen through the engagement, and resumes collected. Excitement reigned as students explored the startup world. There were tables piled with fresh resumes, and tons of new connections forged that might otherwise not have been.
Montreal stalwarts Wajam, Busbud, and Frank & Oak were looking to hire their new connections en masse, and grow with the help of local talent. Guestdriven, a software as a service solution for managing hotel guests and their preferences, was looking for student talent a few days before they would announce closing a three million dollar financing round. Outpost, a search engine for rideshares and P2P travel options, had their young founders front and center, chattering away with people about the same age as they were. From table to table, the theme that resonated was of a strong, diverse, and vibrant Montreal startup ecosystem looking to nurture local talent so that they could grow together.
And what of the obvious thematic outlier? ZenPayroll had had previous success hiring McGill alumni, and they were looking for more Montrealers to join them for an experience of a lifetime in the Valley. Had the kiosk representatives met Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox? No, but he was an investor in their company. Had they talked with Paul Graham, head of Y Combinator, and a legend in the startup world? Yeah, he was a cool guy. These representatives had been close to some of the most exciting moments in startup life, and yet as they connected with Montreal students, their smiles were broad, and their eyes genuinely sparkled with the energy of the room.
It was just that special of an event.