Chances are you associate the word “Startup” with Silicon Valley, technology, and highly ambitious founders working tireless hours out of their parents garage. For years journalists, bloggers and self-proclaimed startup “thought-leaders” have painted Silicon Valley as the Startup capital of the world home to heroic, societal-defining innovators such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel and countless others. And for the longest time, this was true. Silicon Valley breeded technology companies at breakneck speeds, rapidly achieving Unicorn status and redefining cultural norms. Facebook, DropBox, Uber, AirBnB, Twitter were once startups in the valley and of course you know these companies all too well. While Silicon Valley continues to occupy the largest skyscraper in the proverbial startup community skyline, another city has been quietly establishing its foundation for years. Montreal may be known for many things; festivals, culture, and hockey to name a few but startups has never been one. What has slipped between the cracks is the growing number of startups and the supporting community thriving throughout the city. Five years ago, seed funding for startups in Montreal (and most of Canada for that matter) was rare. Unbeknownst at the time, a large number of startup-related meetups, events, communities and workshops were popping up all over the city and paving the way for a new landscape of flourishing startups in the city. Today, the Montreal Startup Ecosystem Report (MSER) estimates that there are between 1,800 and 2,600 startups* currently active on the Island of Montreal!
How does a city come to be known as a “startup hub” and create a landscape that allows young companies to prosper? A steady culmination of political, economical and social factors allow a city to flourish with startups.
Every year, the Quebec government gives millions of dollars in loans, grants, and innovative tax credits to worthy entrepreneurs. Ordered by social impact, environmental impact, sustainability, scalability, financial, regardless of the industry you’re in, chances are there is a provincial grant for you. The opportunity to land interest-free seed money with no obligation for repayment gives entrepreneurs a much needed financial incentive to invest full-time work into their startup.
The weakness in the Canadian dollar has peaked American, as well as International, desire to set up shop here. A highly educated workforce is available for less capital to startups all over the world who are willing to make the leap to Canada. There’s also the Trump effect. Many Americans have used the heavily-criticized American presidential election as a reason to flee to their northern neighbours. The U.S. administration’s hard stance against immigrants only plays into Canada’s favor – attracting worldwide talent seeking new opportunities.
Startups setup in Silicon Valley have to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook to attract and hire top talent. Distancing yourself geographically from the giants on the west coast allows for a lack of talent poaching and competitive-hiring from the tech giants, attracting startups to establish themselves here. They have access to a large pool of talented developers, marketers and creative thinkers and don’t need to compete with top salary offers and quirky perks to hire them. Other factors include Montreal’s geographical positioning which facilitates US and European access and the low cost of living for entrepreneurs (rent, salaries, etc.). The right combination of these factors, along with the vocal legitimacy from popular local names (think Guy Laliberte, Mitch Garber, Ethan Song) make Montreal an attractive destination for launching startups.
While there isn’t one overarching neighbourhood that houses startups in the city, the map below shows clusters of areas where startups tend to concentrate. The Plateau / Mile-End area houses a number of startups including Breather, BusBud, Questology and others. The popularity of this area can be accredited to cheaper rent in office space, access to public transportation, (somewhat) easier ability to find parking, strong creative communities, and of course the endless number of quality restaurants available to dine at. The downtown core is an obvious nesting area for startups generally more advanced in their funding stages (and can afford higher rents). This area is loosely bordered between de la Montagne and Bleury, Sherbrooke and St-Jacques and makeup companies like Dialogue, Unsplash, Flinks and more. While office rent is generally more expensive, this area offers quick access to funding partners, shared workspace offices, public transportation and proximity to large businesses in corporate offices in Montreal (ideal for B2B focused startups). Other popular Montreal boroughs for startups include St-Henri (in the Chateau St-Ambroise and Nordelec buildings) as well as a select few in the Old Port of Montreal.
Welcome to montrealstartups.ca. We are a group of young Montreal entrepreneurs hoping to grow the community and build a hub for startups around the city. Our objective with this website is to create an accurate directory of relevant startups, people, communities and fundraising opportunities in the city. We are also hoping to capture inspiring interviews with local founders through our podcast and share their journey of building a company in Montreal.
If you would like to be featured on our website, spot any errors or simply like to get in touch with comments and ideas we would love to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us directly on LinkedIn.
*While definitions of a “startup” may vary, the MSER and various other organizations have defined the term as 1. A business founded less than five years ago 2. Digital technology and innovation form the core of its scalable business model.