AccelerateMTL: Celebrating Montreal Startups for Half a Decade

by on April 26, 2015

Last Thursday, Montreal hosted its fifth edition of AccelerateMTL in collaboration with the C100. For over half a decade, this event has been Montreal’s best celebration of Technology Startups. For a lot of young entrepreneurs, it’s also a unique opportunity to connect for the first time with tech influencers from Silicon Valley, Canada and beyond.

This year’s edition didn’t fall short on its mission. This year’s theme was about “Owning the Podium” — inspired by gold medalist skier Alex Bilodeau — one of our keynote speakers. Our high-profile speakers and panelists shared their stories on what it takes and what it means to own the podium for a startup.

The day started with a keynote from Katherine Barr (Managing Partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures). Katherine shared her perspective on the “Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make that No One Talks About”. She reminded the audience how hard it is to build a company listing common pitfalls entrepreneurs fall into.

 “Being an entrepreneur can be really tough … stay determined and resilient” — Katherine Barr, MDV

Following Katherine’s keynote, we jumped over to a dynamic presentation from Angela Tran Kingyens (Associate at Version One). Angela walked the audience of early stage founders through the typical VC’s thought process.

“In your pitch, make sure you understand the fund economics and how defensible is the pain point you’re solving” — Angela Tran Kingyens, V1V

 A panel discussion ensued with Philippe Marinier (Vice-President of Product and Partnerships at SalesForce) and Alec Saunders (Principal Technology Evangelist at Microsoft Ventures). David Nault (Principal at iNovia Capital) moderated the discussion on the topic of “partnering with large corporations”. Panelists advised founders to understand their partners internal roadmaps, create win win scenarios to better serve customers and look at expanding the partnership step-by-step.

“ The best thing an entrepreneur can do for his business is to build relationships with Corporate. And the worst thing an entrepreneur can do is not understand or know the Corporates product road maps”, — Philippe Marinier, Salesforce

 To close the morning sessions, our select group of founders had the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics over roundtables.

Right after lunch, kicking off the afternoon session, we asked a few of Montreal’s community leaders to share their thoughts on what it takes to own the podium. Here’s their answer.

To open up the afternoon keynotes, Alex Bilodeau (two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, now at KPMG), came up on stage to bring his own explanation of what “Owning the podium” means (he actually owned it … twice!). Alex shared his inspiring story and how he reached the top in the world of competitive mogul skiing. Strikingly, there were many parallels with building a lasting company, from remaining focused on your long term vision to surrounding yourself with the best team and winning one step at a time.

“A failure is only a failure if you make the same mistake twice. I’ve had 10 times more failures than successes, but failure is where you learn.” — Alexandre Bilodeau

A panel discussion followed with LP Maurice (Founder & CEO at BusBud) and Dan Robichaud (Founder and CEO at PasswordBox, now Intel). The panel shared multiple aspects of their involvement in giving back to Montreal’s entrepreneurs. They agreed that the best thing to do to help the city’s startup community is to build a successful global tech company.

Dan Robichaud (Password Box / Intel), LP Maurice (BusBud) and JS Cornoyer (Real Ventures)

“The best way for us to give back to entrepreneurs is first to focus on our own businesses and make sure we build at least one successful global tech company here” — LP Maurice, Busbud.

JP Chauvet (CRO at LightSpeed POS) then shared his perspective on building sales team for fast growth. JP emphasized the importance of finding a strong sales leader that can create a culture of accountability and results while properly rewarding performance. He also explained how sales and marketing are tied together at LightSpeed. Finally he described how ones CRM is the core of high velocity sales models.

“Sales is a process, salespeople should only get involved when it’s time to convert a qualified lead. Before that moment, it’s the marketing department’s job to build the funnel” — JP Chauvet, LightSpeed Retail

Following JP, a fireside chat ensued between Chris Arsenault (Managing Partner at iNovia Capital and Austin Hill (CEO at BlockStream). Most of the discussion centred around how to build a world-class network of investors for your business and covered timing, relationship building and most importantly how to select your investors. Austin shared his regrets and learnings over the years building successful and not-so successful ventures. And the highlight was most likely when he shared his secrets behind closing a $21M seed round without even a powerpoint slide deck in hand!

“Being an entrepreneur is the biggest roller coaster of your life, and doing it by yourself really sucks. It’s not impossible, but there are very few successful solo entrepreneurs. It’s a team sport.” — Austin Hill, BlockStream

The day ended with a panel discussion with Ethan Song (co-founder at Frank and Oak) and Mikael Cho (co-founder and CEO at Crew). Moderator Steve Abrams (Partner at BDC Capital) covered many aspects about how startups build community-driven brands.

We truly hope that once again AccelerateMTL has connected startups, ignited ideas and inspired action to create lasting value for the Montreal Startup community! Montreal has a growing yet still young tech ecosystem. For all of us, that means that there’s still a lot of work to be done! A lot of relationships to build! We need to continue to tighten our community and share our successes and failures. We need to further build relationships with top talent from out of town, build ties into Corporate Canada and Corporate USA, and attract capital. Reinforcing the more-determined attitude our entrepreneurs have been moving towards. Influencing our future, nurturing our ambitions. That’s what C100 and AccelerateMTL are all about!

If you attended the event, we’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can improve next year!

Thanks to organizers (Antoine Nivard & Kylie Toh from iNovia, Stephanie Saheb from Real Ventures), sponsors (City of Montreal, KPMG, BDC Capital, Global One Payments, Citrix, Fasken Martineau, Founder Institute, Capital Innovation, Comités Entrepreneurs) and volunteers (Milena, Emma, Sandrine, Elisabeth, Mona-Lisa, Bachar, Joel, Peter, Chris) for putting together the event!

Find pictures of the event here and register on the mailing list at to receive priority invitations for next year’s event!