From grannies to green tech, the second Montreal International Startup Festival brought together entrepreneurs, developers, and investors in the city’s beautiful Old Port.
Well-known tech figures like 500 Startups founder Dave McClure, spreadsheet forefather Dan Bricklin, and serial entrepreneur Randy Smerik gave engaging talks, though startups were the focus. Elevator pitches took place in an actual elevator. Founders hustled investors. Teenagers grilled entrepreneurs on their visions.
From more than 150 applicants, 12 startups were chosen to pitch on stage on the theme of Startups That Matter. Yet all attending startups were eligible to win the main $50,000 Investment Prize.
The big winner was Jintronix, a medical software company that uses Microsoft’s Kinect to make rehabilitation and physical therapy more affordable and enjoyable. It’s trying to solve a real-world problem in an innovative way, and that certainly caught the eye of the judges despite not pitching on stage. It’s probably not a surprise that Jintronix was named the best startup by a panel of grandmothers as well. (Their other pick was Gas Smart, which created a device to measure how much methane or propane is in a gas tank and how long is left before it expires.)
The other finalists for the big prize were XYZ Interactive Technologies (which focuses on developing 3D gesture-based UIs) and Openera, which automatically makes copies of email attachments, sticks them where they should be (Dropbox, Salesforce etc), and makes it easy to search through the whole lot. It’s trying to fix the enterprise problem of employees not using the correct cloud platforms, and people misplacing important company files in their own Dropboxes. Neato idea.
Openera is raising an angel round of $250,000 this summer though it got a big boost in reaching its funding goals as it picked up the FounderFuel $25,000 Accelerator Prize. Openera was also named best of the stage pitches.
For the second year, grandmothers got their own panel in the festival to grill founders and find the most interesting startup. This year, teens got to do the same thing. Their winner from the on-stage pitches was Storypanda. Using a lovely iPad app, kids can enjoy interactive stories and then use the characters, scenes and backgrounds to create fun interactive tales with their own dialogue. Stories can be shared with friends and family for other kids to access them. Nice pitch, terrific idea.
The startup’s raising a $1 million round. Storypanda’s monetizing through in-app purchases, like more books and content packs, though when asked if the kids make money, co-founder James Chutter responded “they make memories.”
As well as listening to the on-stage pitches, the teens invited startups to pitch their ideas in a tent. Of those pitches, the youngsters opted for Foodo, an app lets you order local gourmet produce.
The event also had VCs listening to startups elevator pitches, with a slight difference: They took place in an actual freight elevator. Any startup was able to hop in and give their pitch, with the judges plumping for Bridge4Events.com, a search engine and promotional tool for the promotion and events industry, as their winner.
Elsewhere, the on-stage pitches saw a range of impressive ideas. Along with Openera, Storypanda, XYZ and Gas Smart, eight other startups shared their visions. Hookflash is a voice, video, and messaging service letting you communicate with your LinkedIn contacts through a gorgeous UI. Panafold’s app Power of Words accelerates learning English by pulling in content from across the Web for context (videos, blog posts, definitions etc). Tawkon’s app (on Android and Cydia) aims to reduce the amount of radiation we absorb when the radiation level spikes on phones. Rompr helps parents connect by tapping into your Facebook account for personalized recommendations and adding context to basic details (i.e. opening hours for a venue).
Rocketr transforms email into notes, where team members can act on ideas, gather them into notebooks, and quickly embed video for illustration. CoupleWise is trying to make couples therapy more accessible and affordable. Bunch is helping people connect around their passions. CEO Andrew Sider completely sold me on this being a great way to connect with people around shared interests. FixMeStick is a flash drive that kills malware and viruses even if your OS is totally screwed.
Other interesting startups I talked with include Grocerize (a stealth online grocery startup out of Toronto), Justlexit (a Montreal-based app for pre-ordering and paying for take-out food), and Wajam (an awesome social search company from Montreal).
[Image adapted from wikimedia]