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Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the McGill Community
Updated: 10 hours 28 min ago

Where do I start when marketing my business?

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 09:58

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by digital media expert Leo Gamayunov, who we invited this past summer to be a member of the advisory board for McGill’s third annual X-1 Accelerator Program. Leo is a JMSB Graduate, co-founder of Montreal digital marketing and SEO agency TTBA Group, and founder of Montreal’s #1 e-commerce experiential gift boutique,

Where do I start when marketing my business?

Starting a business is never an easy task. Sooner or later, all business owners ask themselves the same question: How do I make sales?

Of course, the first word that comes to mind is (drumroll)… Marketing. Unfortunately, the word marketing can be somewhat vague.

Today, business owners are faced with millions of different instruments and avenues for marketing. Between social media, search engine optimization, Google Adwords, retargeting, and email marketing, the prospect can become daunting. It can be hard to understand where each piece of the puzzle fits, and more importantly, when to place each piece.

With marketing, it’s easy to get lost in the noise.

At TTBA Group, we believe the key to maximizing your ROI is structuring your marketing budget. Here’s how we break down the process for our clients:

  1. Aim
  2. Reach
  3. Acquire
  4. Warm
  5. Sell


Let’s explore this model.

Say you have a dentistry practice and you want to increase your sales. To boost traffic, you spend $1000 on Google AdWords for $10 per click. Your campaign directs one hundred potential customers to your website, and one converts into a purchase of services.

While this is a “successful” campaign, your profit margin on the job is only $700. What do you do now? Our funnel model can guide you to triple your profit margins:


AIM:  Be smart when choosing your audience.

Understand your potential customer. What are their key deciding factors when making a purchase? What’s the first thing they do when they start searching for your product or service?

Design your campaign based on the buyer persona. Don’t attempt to successfully hit everyone with the same message or approach.


REACH: Use the appropriate channels to reach specific demographics.

For targeted marketing, we use Google AdWords, because most potential patients will search for a dentist using Google.

Understand what your patients are looking for, and design appealing ads that answer their questions in order to get the best click-through rate.

Select keywords that have cheaper costs-per-click (CPC).

Confirm that your ad relevance score is 7+ to save on the CPC.

Make sure your clicks are at $8.00 by targeting your key groups only on weekends, for example. In this case, you would have 125 clicks at $8.00.


ACQUIRE: Obtain your leads by various methods (phone number, email address, or re-targeting cookie, to name a few)

Instead of sending 125 potential patients to your website, send them to an appealing landing page that promotes why they should choose your practice. Try including coupons for teeth whitening (or a complementary inexpensive service).

Collect email addresses and phone numbers in return for coupons and discounts.

Of the 125 potential patients that landed on your page, you’re likely to receive thirty leads for individuals seeking teeth whitening services.


WARM: Warm your lead. Don’t sell. Instead, educate.

Grow your re-targeting audience by installing Facebook pixel on your landing page.

Use behavior-based retargeting when running your ad campaigns on Facebook, Google, or any other ad services.

When using Facebook, segment the visitors that reached your landing page. Highlight your expertise by sharing “knowledge” videos or blog posts. Give them the opportunity to understand your value over the competition.

Your goal is to be memorable enough that they contact you when they need a dentist.

Don’t let your leads go cold. Follow up with them in three days and invite them for a discounted service or a free consultation.


SELL: Convert your leads to sales.

Similar to your previous metrics, you convert one potential client into a paid service.

From your thirty leads, three individuals have agreed to receive discounted services, and three have scheduled appointments for a free consultation.

Of the three consultations, one is converted to a complementary cleaning through in-person upselling. Remember, the complementary services reflect the value of your practice. (Read more about why you need to always put your product first.)


The results:

Before you optimized your marketing budget, you converted one sale for a $700 profit.

After using the funnel method, you have tripled your revenue from the same 100 clicks. One sale ($700), three discounted complementary sales ($900 or $300 x 3), and one full complementary sale ($500) has increased your profit margin by 300%.

This example shows how much you can accomplish with your $1000 marketing investment simply by utilizing every channel of the funnel effectively.

Map your actions accordingly and follow these steps to jumpstart your marketing campaign:

  1. Build your funnel by considering the bigger picture for your business.
  2. Pick your battle. Analyze and prioritize your marketing goals. (Do you want to obtain leads, focus on awareness, or launch a warming campaign?)
  3. Convert your goals into measurable campaigns with an action plan. (Integrate a discounted “tripwire” offer on your landing page, as an example.)
  4. Develop a system to track the success of your campaigns. (A simple yes/no is already useful).

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. You can always contact me directly at

Good luck!

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Highlights from McGill Montreal Demo Day 2017

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 17:12

After 10 weeks of our rigorous X-1 Accelerator, it was time to show the world what we had accomplished.

On Tuesday, September 12, 2017, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted the first of 5 McGill Demo Days. The event took place at Club Soda in downtown Montreal, and packed the whole venue with over 350 people. The next Demo Days will take place in Boston on September 14, followed by San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City. To get tickets for those cities, click here. 

Full house for Dobson Demo Day @WhiteStarVC @DobsonCentre @mcgillu

— Sanjay Zimmermann (@sanjayzimmerman) September 12, 2017

The event started with our Associate Director, Renjie Butalid’s opening remarks, followed by Program Manager, Maher Ayari. They dived into the approach we take here at the McGill Dobson Centre when it comes to any one of our programs – building entrepreneurs, not startups. Those entrepreneurs can then go on to apply their entrepreneurial skills to a variety of useful efforts whether it’s building the next big company, or adding massive value to one. We also talked about some of the characteristics of the talent in this year’s cohort, such as the fact that 2 out of 3 founders were women.

After that, it was time for the startups to take the stage. Here are the 8 teams that presented:

1. 2D-CrystaLab

Ashwaq Al-Hashedi presented 2D-CrystaLab, which manufactures a decontamination toothpaste for safe and effective cleaning of dental implants.

2. Basilisk

Michael Di Genova presented Basilisk, which is a collaborative quiz-creator for students and teachers.

3. Dialysave

Vivian Eberle pitched Dialysave, which addresses the growing need for accessible dialysis with its affordable hemodialysis machine designed for developing nations. Read their interview on The Dobson Chronicles here.

4. Kiffin

Natasha Alani presented Kiffin, – a zero waste, technology enabled, food business offering meals designed as “perks” for employees in small to mid-sized businesses.

5. Pelcro

Michael Ghattas presented Pelcro, which is a compensation platform for digital media.

6. Saccade Analytics

Iman Haji presented Saccade Analytics – medical analytics software that revolutionizes the way doctors diagnose concussion, dizziness, and neuro-degenerative diseases. Read their interview on The Dobson Chronicles here.


7. Will + Zack

Shonezi Noor presented Will+Zack. For professional women who want a wardrobe that reflects their professionalism, Will + Zack provides tailored workwear suited to their life.


Zoey Li presented Yumibox – a nutrition & food company offering practical and creative food products and solutions to increase whole grain consumption. Read their interview on The Dobson Chronicles here. If you’re already thinking about being in next year’s Demo Day, here are some reasons you should join the McGill X-1 Accelerator.

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Want to join our Student Executive Team? Applications are open now!

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 18:26
Apply to be a part of our Student Executive Team today by visiting:

Interested in joining us on our mission to find, teach, and develop WORLD-CLASS entrepreneurs?

Applications to join our Student Executive Team (SET) are now open!

Nicolas Briner (SET President 2017-2018) explains why you should join the team, and shares his experience at the McGill Dobson Cup.

The deadline is September 24th – apply now by visiting:

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PODCAST: The next generation of entrepreneurs with our Associate Director, Renjie Butalid

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 23:04

Have you ever wondered how Renjie got to be the Associate Director at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship? Here’s your chance to find out!

He recently appeared on the Point of No Return Podcast, to talk about the next generation of entrepreneurs as well as his own journey…

and it all begins at the University of Waterloo, where his former roommate Ilya Grigorik sold a company to Google.

Tune in below, or look for Point of No Return on your favorite podcast app.

Here’s a little context from Renjie:


I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nectarios Economakis, host of the Point of No Return podcast to talk about the work we’re doing to build the next generation of entrepreneurs at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and McGill University.

In the interview, we dove into my own personal journey of entrepreneurship, beginning at the University of Waterloo where my introduction was in the form of my friend and former roommate Ilya Grigorik, building and selling PostRank (Google) to Google from the ground up over ten years ago, to moving to Montreal just over two years ago and connecting with individuals like Rami Sayar and Noah Redler in the local tech ecosystem prior to ending up at McGill.

While AI and Machine Learning are red hot in Montreal right now, what I am most excited for is the future of MedTech. Two companies I’ve been working closely with for the past year have been Saccade Analytics and 2D-CrystaLab, founded by teams of professors, postdocs and graduate students at McGill that have the potential to disrupt the healthcare industry. Watch them pitch on stage in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and NYC this next month.

Shownotes here:…/

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McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 10 (2017)

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 12:26


People mentioned: Stuart Paap – founder at PitchDNA, Sergio Escobar – Managing Director of FounderInstitute, James Green – CEO at Magnetic, 2 Panel discussions including a VC discussion with Alan Macintosh from RealVentures, and FX Souvay – CEO at Lumenpulse.

But before all that, a quick commencement speech to the X-1 graduates from the Associate Director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, Renjie Butalid.

Welcome to week 10 of the McGill X-1 Accelerator. Where we’ll be getting 8 McGill startups venture-ready for Demo Days in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City, in Fall of 2017.

There’s a word floating around in the startup community that comes up again and again: narrative. Everybody wants to know your story. Stories are a persuasive tool you should have in your backpocket – and they can be a strong way to begin your pitch.

Stuart gave us a 3-step framework to craft a compelling story.

Step 1: The want – What is your customer’s goal? Be specific about who it is, and what they want.
Step 2: The obstacle – What’s in the way of this person getting what they want?
Step 3: The proposal – What’s your solution to help your customer overcome the obstacle to get what they want.

Great to welcome @McGillAlumni @StuartPitch for a #pitch workshop for our McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 cohort

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) August 5, 2017

I’ll use one of our startups Pelcro as an example to show you how this works.

Meet Anne Patterson, a 42-year old soccer mom who likes to knit in her free time. She wants a pure web experience. When she goes on her favorite news website, she wants to read in peace. That’s it.

But she can’t. Why? Ads. Ads, everywhere. And even though she has adblock, some of her favorite websites detect it and force her to turn it off.

That’s why, these guys, created Pelcro – an ad-free subscription to all of Anne’s favorite websites, for just $2 a month. Visit to get started.

Next, Sergio talked about pitching.

He cleared up the role that a story plays in a pitch when he explained that for B2B you can use a little less story and a little more focus on DATA, whereas with B2C, the story is KEY.

Thanks again to @SergiusEscobar from @founding for the #pitching #workshop with our 8 startups! #RoadtoDemoDays! @DobsonCentre

— Maher (@ayammaher) August 8, 2017

He also shared this sample pitch structure that works for general purposes.

Next, James Green came in for a general Q&A on business development. He was hired by Steve Jobs back in the day as VP Marketing for Pixar. Now, he’s the CEO of Magnetic.

The most actionable takeaway was about hiring. He explained it’s hard, and you’ll make mistakes. And that’s just part of the process. But you can use this question to get a better understanding of them: Ask them what others think of them – this gets them out of their own head and see what value they can offer you.

Great group conversation this morning with James Green (@McGillAlumni – B.Music 86′) on how to #scale your #business!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) August 8, 2017

To make better hiring decisions, he recommended 2 books: Who, and Drive.

Next, we had a panel of VCs.

Two quick pieces of advice:

Ask for funding if you want advice ask for advice if you want funding. Take these meetings with VCs even if you’re not actively looking for anything, because it helps you build relationships and have options down the road.
If you want to find out more about VCs, reach out to portfolio companies for an insider’s perspective.

Thanks to @DavidDufresne & Alan Macintosh from @realventures for coming along to the McGill X1 for a #VC #panel discussion!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) August 9, 2017

Next, a panel of Montreal accelerator graduates.

Interestingly, they brought up similar ideas to the VC panel:

Research and reach out to portfolio companies to see if a given accelerator is the right fit for you, and build relationships with accelerators ahead of applications.

Great post #accelerated panel with @wolfkohlberg@buscomhq, Pam Alfred – @Askpamapp and JS Carrier – @DyzeDesign!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) August 9, 2017

This week’s Grilled By a CEO featured FX Souvay.

Now, go get your demo day tickets, and get ready for McGill’s finest.

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McGill Startup Weekend – Artificial Intelligence (Powered by Google)

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 09:32
Click here for the facebook event!
Click here to sign up on EventBrite!

We are very excited to announce that McGill University is hosting the first and only Startup Weekend on the theme of Artificial Intelligence in Canada!

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour competition designed to provide an amazing experiential learning opportunity for AI enthusiasts, developers, designers, and business-minded individuals to come together to create a business idea. Our goal is to create an environment where passionate people can come together to get things done; to learn, network, bridge the gap between trades, expose potential and see actual results.

With major investment from both the government and the tech companies, Montreal is in a good position to become a world leader in AI as it is home to the biggest group of deep learning researchers in the world. It’s time to dive into AI now, but not many people know how to use it, let alone implement it in their products. We’re bringing together great mentors to help them step it up!

The event will be held on September 22-24, 2017 at the Thomson House (3650 McTavish) located on the campus of McGill University. With the partnership of The McGill Innovation Collective and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University, we will be tapping into the specialized niche that is graduate students studying artificial intelligence but also the broader community that will be utilizing it.

Sign up and follow them on Facebook to learn more about the amazing prizes:

For any questions, reach out to the organizers by email:

Click here for the facebook event!
Click here to sign up on EventBrite!

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EXCLUSIVE: Want 10 free tickets to Cooperathon 2017? Just fill out this 5-minute survey!

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 13:03

Are you an entrepreneur?

Do you want to share your experience and help advance R&D efforts on the entrepreneurial path?

The Desjardins Lab is exploring the way in which entrepreneurs see the cooperative model. To that end, we’re doing a survey on inspiring entrepreneurs. In 5 minutes, you can contribute to our research and be entered into a raffle to win 10 free tickets for the 2017 Edition of the Cooperathon!

Here’s the survey!

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McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 9 (2017)

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 22:02


In this recap, Principal Suzanne Fortier, President of Michael Kors Canada Debra Margles, Public Speaking & Persuasion expert Jay Olson, seasoned entrepreneur David Sciacca, and professor Jiro Kondo.

But before all that, I’d like to share that Lucy, CCO at Kiffin stopped by to share some love – pause – you can see more footage at the end of the video. But let’s move onto the recap.

Welcome to week 9 of the McGill X-1 Accelerator, where we’ll be getting 8 McGill Startups Venture-Ready for Demo Days in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City, in Fall of 2017.

If you don’t know already, Suzanne Fortier has served as Principal and Vice-chancellor of McGill University since September 2013. And has recently been reappointed to her second Five-year term beginning July 2018. She made some time to stop by and chat with all the teams to see how they were doing. Here’s something you didn’t know about Suzanne Fortier: she graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Science in 1972 and a PhD in Crystallography in 1976. Her research was focused on the development of mathematical and artificial intelligence methodologies for protein structure determination. She also contributed to the development of novel techniques in crystallographic data mining to gain new insights from large structural databases.

Honoured to welcome Principal Suzanne Fortier at @mcgillu, to the #McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 to meet our cohort!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) August 3, 2017

Next, Jay Olson who studies decision-making at McGill, came in to coach us on our public speaking. First of all, the reason it’s important is that human beings don’t have a great way of judging your competence – whether it’s at building a startup, or something else. All they have to judge you by when you’re up on stage, is your ability to speak. This means that your business is being judged by your stage presence, so take advantage of it by polishing your speaking skills.

WEEK 9! Began our Monday with a great #public #speaking workshop by Jay Olson.

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 31, 2017

And the best way to start strong, is with a pause. Just 1 or 2 seconds before you start speaking, because the audience automatically judges that you know what you’re doing if you can take your time and control their attention with silence.

Now, what about nervousness? The bad news is that you can’t do anything about it. Even the world’s best speakers get nervous. The good news is there’s a subtle mindset shift you can make that’ll help you take advantage of it – you can reframe nervousness and see it as excitement. Your body has extra energy in that state, and channeling it into your pitch can take it to the next level.

Next, Unit Economics. David Sciacca – VP Community at LIFT Session said that you should always have certain generic metrics memorized: things like Your Cost of Customer Acquisition, LifeTimeValue of each customer, and your churn rate.

Next, Jiro Kondo – Assistant Professor of Finance here at McGill, along with Alex Barrett (VC Analyst at iNovia Capital) came in to talk about Venture Capital – specifically, downside protection & giving up too much equity.

Finished off week 9 with a great talk about fundraising with Assistant Professor of Finance @tweets_by_drj at @mcgillu and @Alexbarrett92

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) August 4, 2017

This week it was Debra Margles who grilled the startups on their pitches. She’s the President of Michael Kors Canada, and she gave us Michael Kors umbrellas, which unfortunately have been really useful this summer in Montreal. But that’s okay, ‘cause we have a therapy dog.

Thanks to Debra Margles – the President of @MichaelKors #Canada for grilling our McGill X-1 Accelerator cohort for Week 9 of #GrilledbyaCEO!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) August 3, 2017

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So you want to build your startup at McGill? Apply for the McGill Lean Startup Program 2017

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:47

Applications for the third cohort of the McGill Lean Startup Program are now being accepted until September 14, 2017 at 12pm EDT.

Hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the McGill Lean Startup program is designed to walk early-stage McGill startup teams through the Lean Startup methodology of launching their company. In many ways, the McGill Lean Startup Program is a simulation of what startups and entrepreneurship are like in the real world, including chaos, uncertainty, impossible deadlines with insufficient time, and conflicting input.

You are in it to build a viable business. The 10-week program involves getting your hands dirty and getting outside the McGill campus to speak to real people and test your ideas. As a result, the program requires about 20 hours of work a week.

There are a number of eligibility requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to be able to apply for the McGill Lean Startup Program:

  1. Teams must have at least 1 McGill affiliation
  2. Teams must be a minimum of 2 individuals who are founder, with one technical and one non-technical
  3. Teams must show proof of having worked on an idea, concept or prototype, ideally for 3+ months
Think you have what it takes? Apply today!

For more information on the McGill Lean Startup Program 2017 and all eligibility requirements, please click here.

Download the one-page flier here.


Notable McGill Lean Startup success stories:


Key2Access (Lean Startup 2015) is making pedestrian crossing more accessible. Learn more.



Kiffin (Lean Startup 2015, McGill X-1 2017) aims to replace manufactured food with real food by utilizing technology, implementing supply chain excellence, and incorporating sustainable food practices. Learn more.

Kiffin featured in The Globe and Mail



2D-CrystaLab (Lean Startup 2016, Dobson Cup 2017, McGill X-1 2017) brings crystal nanotechnology to clinical practice. The first application is a specialized decontamination paste (2D-Implantcare) for prevention and treatment of dental implant infections. Learn more.

A postdoctoral fellow at McGill University and Co-founder and CEO of 2D-CrystaLab, Dr. Ashwaq Al-Hashedi was recently named Mitacs Outstanding Entrepreneur 2017


Saccade Analytics

Saccade Analytics (Lean Startup 2016, Dobson Cup 2017, McGill X-1 2017) develops specialized analysis software that revolutionizes the way doctors diagnose concussion and dizziness. Learn more.

Saccade Analytics emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Health Sciences Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 powered by National Bank Think you have what it takes? Apply today!


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Startupfest 2017 Recap – The Future of Everything

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 14:34

Scroll down for the transcript!

People mentioned:
Mo Akif (McGill Dobson Centre) /
Trina Chiasson (The Future of Food)
Kharis O’Connell (The Future of AR)
Kathryn Hume (The Future of AI)
Sarah Lacy (PandoDaily) / Twitter 
Anne Vandermey
Fitz Tepper
Jason Feifer
Philippe Telio


Resources mentioned:
McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship
Free book – Designing for Mixed Reality is hiring!
Sarah Lacy’s book: A Uterus Is A Feature, Not A Bug / Canadian link here
Sarah Lacy’s article: The Toxic Masculinity Bubble Has Burst
Jason Feifer’s article: Pitching Your Business to a Journalist? Here’s What Works.


Entrepreneurs are notorious for keeping their head down and working away to build their business. But once in a while, it’s important to look up and feel like a part of something massive, so you can get a bird’s eye view of what the world could evolve into.


I’m Mo Akif, Editor-in-Chief at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, and today I’ll be sharing some of the highlights, of Startupfest2017. I won’t attempt to cover everything. Instead, I’ll be sharing handpicked insights from world-class experts covering the 3 domains which, if handled correctly, will have disproportionate results on the  future of the way we interact with the WORLD. I’m talking about: Food, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence. After that, you’ll be hearing about Silicon Valley’s Morality Crash, and exactly how to get the media interested in your startup.

Now, let’s talk about the future of food.

@startupfest 2017 is a wrap! Thx to #McGillAlumni for allowing this amazing group of people from the @mcgillu X-1 Accelerator be there!

— Maher (@ayammaher) July 15, 2017

Future of Food

Trina Chiasson presented us with the current situation: we’ve got a growing population, a changing climate, and an epidemic of diet-related diseases. What do we do? What CAN we do?
In 2050, there will be 9 billion people on this planet. It’s tough to design a system that will sustain all of them. That being said, there is some good news: “population growth is decreasing, and caloric output per unit of land is increasing”.

Trina encouraged us to consider ideas that conflict with our current ones. Case in point: eating insects.  Over a quarter of the world’s population eats insects. They are a high-density source of protein that could feed a lot of people for a fraction of the resources, and will play a major role in the future of food.

Insects as a new source of protein?Insights from @trinachi – co-founder at @InfoActive and tech and data scientist at @VizableApp

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 13, 2017

Future of AR

Now, let’s talk AR. A quick refresher: Virtual reality is when you’re seeing an entire world that isn’t really there. Augmented reality is when data is added to your vision of the real world. And mixed reality is when you can see virtual objects and data, overlayed on top of your real-world vision. Kharis O’ Connell fr om Meta, argued that we don’t need to be worried about the advancement of the underlying tech. The real challenge, is design. Designers need to be responsible about the experience they craft, because one misstep could be life-threatening. Picture someone getting a distracting ad that pops up on their display JUST as they’re about to cross the street. Not good!


If you’d like to learn more about Designing for Mixed Reality, Kharis literally wrote the book on it, and he’s giving it away for free.


Future of AI

Next, the Future of Artificial Intelligence.

Kathryn Hume from integrate.AI painted a picture of the AI-enabled world that our kids and grand-kids may grow up in. This incoming, rapid change has a lot of people worried so I went and asked her how we can future-proof ourselves for an AI-enabled world. She explained that machines may have superhuman capabilities in very narrow domains, but they’re very bad at combining multiple things to come up with integrated solutions. And they don’t know how to choose the best ethical outcome. So here’s what you can do to future-proof yourself:

On a side-note, Kathryn’s company is hiring, so if integrate.AI’s work sounds like something up your alley, go check it out.

Great talk about how AI could change our world by @HumeKathryn from @IntegrateAI at @startupfest 2017

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 14, 2017

She also said we need to be careful about the past coloring the future. AI develops its intelligence through analyzing previous data sets. If we don’t pay attention to that, we won’t be creating the future we want, we’ll be creating the past we can’t help but inherit. Here’s an example of where this could go wrong: Let’s say we were to use an AI system to try to predict whether or not someone would be a good hire for a company. If historically, the system sees that you’ve tended to hire rich white males, then the system will realize this and tend to hire more of the same.

Silicon Valley’s Morality Crash

Speaking of rich white males, let’s talk about Silicon Valley’s Morality Crash. Sarah Lacy from PandoDaily has always been open and candid about large-scale moral issues. She presented us with the facts: PLENTY of data was used to show everything that’s wrong with the toxic masculinity behind Silicon Valley’s bro culture, and she posited that in 2017, the bubble has burst. Here, is Sarah. 

If you want more of Sarah Lacy, go pre-order her upcoming book – it’s called: A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug.

Great way to kick off Day 2 of #startupfest2017 with a keynote by @sarahcuda – founder of @PandoDaily. #equality #genderbalance #sf

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 14, 2017

Get your media into the startup

Finally, here’s something you can take away if you’ve got a startup.

In a discussion with CBC’s Molly Kohli, three people from New York’s business journalism scene stopped by to share their wisdom: Anne Vandermey from Fortune, Fitz Tepper from TechCrunch, and Jason Feifer from Entrepreneur.

Here are some quick tips:

The number one reason most startups fail to get media attention, is that they don’t know what the media is looking for. Here are 2 ways to educate yourself:

The first way is to go study the publisher’s previous works – If you’re trying to make it into Entrepreneur Magazine for example, go look at the stories that have been published and take notes on what makes them interesting. See if you can find something about your startup that can fit into their narrative.

The second way, is to just ask. Get in touch with someone from the magazine you want to be in and ask them what they look for in a story. Magazines like Fortune often look at larger trends, not individual startups. So sometimes your way in is to find a way to be a PART of the story. Other publishers want to hear about your the memorable processes you used to get to where you are.

If you want more, Jason has written an article on what works when pitching your business to a journalist.

Startupfest is over, but the lessons we’ve learned, and the connections we’ve made will stay with us for years to come.  

If I can help you with anything, send me an email at

Special thanks to Philippe Telio, the founder of StartupFest.

There are links to everything I’ve talked about at the top of this page.

See you next year!

McGill Startup Tour 2017: Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, New York City

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 13:26

McGill Demo Days 2017 is back and bigger than ever!

Join the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship as we take the best McGill startups from the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 and the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 on the road to pitch their companies and engage with the global McGill alumni community of successful entrepreneurs, investors and VCs.

The goal is to highlight the best of entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill, while also connecting McGill startup founders with potential investors and mentors with the hopes of raising venture capital financing.

More information on dates and registration links below:

  • Montreal – Tuesday, September 12, 2017
  • Boston – Thursday, September 14, 2017
  • San Francisco – Thursday, September 21, 2017
  • Toronto – Tuesday, October 3, 2017
  • New York City – Tuesday, October 10, 2017


McGill Montreal Demo Day 

Date: September 12, 2017

Time: 5PM-8PM

Location: Club Soda, Montreal, QC

As the McGill X-1 Accelerator barrels towards a strong finish, Demo Days are top of mind. On September 12, you can come cheer on the home team, right here in Montreal. Get your free tickets now!


  • 5PM-6PM — Doors open
  • 6PM-615PM — Opening Remarks
  • 615PM-715PM — Pitches from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 cohort
  • 715PM-8PM — Closing Remarks & Networking


McGill Boston Demo Day 


Our first away game is in Boston, known for its world-class research institutions. Join us, along with Boston-based McGill Alumni to celebrate McGill’s leaps in entrepreneurship and innovation. Get your free tickets now!

Date: September 14, 2017

Time: 530PM-8PM

Location: McDermott Will & Emery LLP, 1775, 28 State St, Boston, MA 02109, United States


  • 530PM-6PM — Doors open & Registration
  • 6PM-615PM — Opening Remarks
  • 615PM-715PM — Pitches from McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Dobson Cup startups
  • 715PM-8PM — Closing Remarks & Networking


McGill San Francisco Demo Day

Date: September 21, 2017

Time: 530PM-8PM PDT

Location: DocuSign, 221 Main St #1000, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA

San Francisco is to entrepreneurs what Los Angeles is to actors. Join this year’s McGill X-1 cohort, Dobson Cup winners, world-class entrepreneurs, and San Francisco-based McGill Alumni to support Canadian entrepreneurship and innovation. Get your free tickets now!


  • 530PM-6PM — Doors open & Registration
  • 6PM-615PM — Opening Remarks
  • 615PM-715PM — Pitches from McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Dobson Cup startups
  • 715PM-8PM — Closing Remarks & Networking


McGill Toronto Demo Day 


Date: October 3, 2017

Time: 530PM-830PM

Location: Shopify, 80 Spadina Ave #400, Toronto, ON M5V 2J4

At 20% of the national GDP, Toronto is the largest contributor to the Canadian economy. And Canada is the fastest developing nation in the G7. How do we continue to build our economy? Local entrepreneurship, which means this Demo Day could be huge. We’re proud to say we’re partnering with McGill University Alumni Relations on this one. Save the date: October 3! The registration link for our Toronto event will be live soon!


  • 530PM-615PM — Doors open & Registration
  • 615PM-630PM — Opening Remarks
  • 630PM-730PM — Pitches from McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Dobson Cup startups
  • 730PM-745PM — Closing Remarks
  • 745PM-830PM — Networking


McGill New York City Demo Day 

Date: October 10, 2017

Time: 530PM-8PM

Location: Spring, Inc., 360 Park Avenue South, Floor 16, New York, NY 10010, United States

Entrepreneurs are no strangers to taking advantage of the occasional, strategic all-nighter to get things done. So to cap off our tour, we’re showing off McGill’s best to the city that never sleeps! Join our McGill X-1 startups, McGill Dobson Cup winners, world-class entrepreneurs, and New York-based McGill Alumni to support for Canadian entrepreneurship and innovation. Get your free tickets now!


  • 530PM-6PM — Doors open & Registration
  • 6PM-615PM — Opening Remarks
  • 615PM-715PM — Pitches from McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Dobson Cup startups
  • 715PM-8PM — Closing Remarks & Networking

What are your business’ 3 fundamental values?

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 08:32

We all have values, and it’s better to establish yours right from the launch of your start-up in order to stand out.

You have your hands full with the development of your business. On top of that, you’re asking yourself questions about your mission and your core values. Great! Choosing three fundamental values for your business right from the start is a key to success!

“Values are a defining characteristic of businesses, whether, for their products, services, reputation or notoriety, and they are an essential element for start-ups,” believes Manaf Bouchentouf, Director of the National Bank | HEC Montréal Accelerator.

He singles out Netflix, which conveyed, from the beginning, the fundamental value of trust in its work teams. Concretely, this translates to greater employee autonomy, but with the obligation of obtaining results.

Closer to home, the National Bank | HEC Montréal Accelerator supported ÉAU. The company develops vertical aquaponic farms that produce vegetables, fruits, and fish year-round. It goes without saying that the team relies on social values to produce healthy, local food. But another non-negotiable value is the inclusion of the community and all its various socioeconomic levels in its projects

View the full article on the National Bank’s Financial Tips website.

McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 8 (2017)

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 22:32


On today’s recap, Design with Sebastian, Venture-Readiness with Jean-Nicolas and Christian, Growth Hacking with Simon Lejeune, and advice from Tim Tokarsky.

Welcome to week 8 of the McGill X-1 Accelerator, where we’ll be getting 8 McGill startups venture-ready for demo days in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City, in fall of 2017.

On a quick side-note, we had a lovely BBQ hosted by the Kiffin family, as a reminder that nothing brings people together like good food – check out Kiffin at

Sebastian Tory-Pratt explained that design is not art, or a craft, or decoration – it’s a tool and a mindset for achieving business objectives. To that end, a general rule is that you should do less, but better.

Kicking Week 8 with a #design workshop by @yellinglouder – the director of #product at SD6.

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 24, 2017

During the workshop, each team did a journey map to understand potential investors, although you can also use this exercise for customers. The teams then identified crucial make-or-break moments along the path to gain a deeper understanding of the investors or customers. He gave the example of a child who’s scared of MRI machines. First, identify their pain points. In this case, it was Sofia’s fear of the machine. Now, you can design a different emotional experience, say by physically reframing it to look like a fun adventure.

Next, Jean-Nicolas Delage & Christian Jacques from Fasken-Martineau came in to talk about Venture-Readiness. We discussed fun things like stock option plans, cap tables, and employee agreements… and they made 3 book recommendations that can help you figure out what it is you don’t know, so that you can at least ask your lawyer better questions: The books are Venture Deals, The Startup Checklist, and What Every Angel Investor Wants You To Know.

Next, Simon Lejeune – who’s the Growth Program Manager at Hopper, talked about growthhacking.

Thanks to @lejeunesimon for his talk to our McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 #cohort about #growth #hacking.

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 26, 2017

His suggestion was that you invest in growth AFTER you have found your product-market fit, which can broken down into a few characteristics:

  • Organic growth – meaning that your business is growing through word of mouth and referrals
  • Delighted users – meaning that reviews are GLOWING
  • Great retention – make sure your bucket of customers is not leaky

When building a growth team in the Early Stage, look for people that have:

A skillset that includes digital marketing, analytics, and spreadsheets. And it’s ideal that they’ve worked at a startup before.

If you want to learn more about growthhacking, Simon recommended you read Traction.
This week, it was angel investor Tim Tokarsky who grilled our startups after watching them pitch.

He also had some general advice on showmanship, and dedication.

We had the honour of welcoming a @DobsonCentre pioneer and @mcgillu #alumni for Grilled by an #AngelInvestor.

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 27, 2017

McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 7 (2017)

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 12:34

On today’s recap, you can look forward to some good news and some insights from pros like Isaac Souweine, Sam Haffar, and Eduardo Mandri.

Welcome to Week 7 of the the McGill X-1 Accelerator,  where we’ll be getting 8 McGill startups venture-ready for Demo Days in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City in Fall of 2017.

I’ll share the highlights of the week in a second, but first: We’d like to share that on Tuesday July 18th, we announced a generous $2 million gift from the John Dobson Foundation to the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship to support the McGill X-1 Accelerator program and we had an announcement ceremony to celebrate. 

Excited to share we’ve raised $2 million from the #DobsonFoundation to support #McGillX1 #entrepreneurs @mcgillu!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 18, 2017

The next day, Isaac Souweine who’s an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Real Ventures, and GM of FounderFuel talked about Product-Market Fit.

Great to have @sonofsarah – GM at @founderfuel, come speak to our cohort during our #mcgill x-1 #accelerator 2017!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 19, 2017

Here’s the basic process he shared: 

First of all, choose a problem that’s worth solving IN A VENTURE-BACKED CONTEXT. A Chinese Restaurant may have a great PMF, but no VC is going to invest in them. Pick a problem that’s VC-backable, and scalable.

Step 2 is to assemble a team that’s capable of executing the solution for the problem. This involves having people with the skills necessary, and also the schedule – Isaac is a big proponent of recruiting people who are ready to commit full-time.

Next, solve the problem in a very focused way for a very focused user base. Here’s what that involves: find and deliver the solution to the early adopters –  people who really feel the pain. Service them with a very focused feature set. The more narrow you can be at the beginning, the better.

Here’s a question you can ask to gauge how good your product-market fit is: How sad would your early adopters be if your product didn’t exist?

This week, it was Eduardo Mandri (Co-Founder & Co-CEO at,  grilled our startups on their pitches, but he also gave some general advice.

Back at it with another #GrilledbyCEO for Week 7. Thanks to @eduardomandri – CEO at @tuango & @mcgillu #alumni!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 21, 2017

Sam Haffar – Principal at Real Ventures, did an extended Q&A session where we crowdsourced questions from the class and then selected the most popular questions using a real-life upvote system. One of these questions was: When will my company be ready to raise capital?

We closed Week 7 with a fantastic workshop by Sam Haffar – Principal at @realventures! #VC #Entrepreneurship

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 22, 2017

That’s all for now, I’ll see you back here next week.

Innovator Spotlight: François Lamoureux – Music is Magic

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 08:12

Editor’s Note: We got a chance to sit down with François Lamoureux and pick his brain a little bit. Born in Sudbury, he’s an alumnus from McGill’s music program. Now, he’s a film director over at FogoLabs, where he’s had the chance to work with big names like deadmau5, Rush, and Joe Satriani. Together with his brother Pierre, he’s won a Grammy, an Emmy, 2 Juno Awards, and 2 Gemini Awards.

Tell us a little bit about yourself Francois!

Sure! I graduated from McGill’s music program back in the day – now I’m a film director and I work with my brother Pierre over at FogoLabs. My mother was entrepreneurial, and my father was an education commando dropped in every job from teacher to the head of school boards. My sister is the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ottawa. Growing up with them was great, and I was very competitive. I was born in Sudbury, Ontario, and then I moved around a lot – I now reside in Hudson, Quebec, and have 2 kids: Victoria, and Charles.

Fun fact: I’m an early riser – I get most of my work done between 4AM and 9AM and the rest of the day I do meetings.

What natural entrepreneurial spirit looks like

My daughter Victoria has been good at business since childhood.

I went to a parent-teacher meeting when she was in kindergarten, and her teacher said “I love Victoria, she draws me a picture everyday”. Months go by, and I ask Victoria if she’s still drawing pictures for her teacher. She says yes. At the next PT meeting, I ask her teacher about it and the teacher says, “She doesn’t draw for me anymore.” So I wondered where all her pictures were going.

The teacher said that one day she decided to follow her after she finished drawing her picture. She went into the hallway with her picture, went and gave it to someone at the next door over. I thought “who’s at the next door?” And it was the principal! “There’s a lady that’s much more important than the teacher”, my daughter said. That’s what natural entrepreneurial spirit looks like. She was 5….

On parenting, and working on weaknesses versus strengths

More people should focus on building their strengths instead of covering up their weaknesses. My parents did a great job at fostering my curiosity and helping me cultivate my knowledge. People work on their weaknesses, but as I get older I realize now that I should work on my strengths.

I got good at a lot of things (because I wanted to cover my weaknesses), which helped. People like to talk about Malcolm Gladwell’s “10 000 hours” theory a lot but they don’t talk about how intensely focused you need to be. The hours aren’t enough – many people put in a lot less hours than that, yet are able to focus and outperform people that put in way more hours. The deep focus and intensity is more important than how long you’ve practiced.

On specialization versus being a generalist

There was a girl at McGill who was a piano player back in my day. One day she picked up the bassoon just for fun, and the teacher said “Who are you?” and the girl says “I’m a piano player”. The teacher replies, “Why aren’t you playing bassoon? You’re one of the best bassoon players I’ve ever seen.”

With music, you are a musician first, the instrument comes later . Train to be a musician, not a bassoon player – that way you can be good at all instruments. The same idea can be applied to athletes, and even business: you can succeed at selling cellphones, or coffee, or anything else. Seek to become a strong businessman or businesswoman.

On transitioning between being a musician and being the boss

Transition: It’s a tough transition! I used to be one of the guys. But all of a sudden, I wasn’t being invited to watch the Super Bowl at the guys’ house. And that’s when I realized I’m no longer one of the boys… I’m the boss. Your initial reaction is resistance: “I don’t want to be the boss” But as you grow your business, that’s just what happens – things change.

My father (who was in education) handled a similar transition when he went from being a teacher to being a principal. You can’t really be both, there needs to be a separation.

No matter what you do, you’re a salesman – you’re always selling yourself.

Using gum as currency with children to teach them about money

As soon as my kids were young enough to count, I started using gum as currency with the kids. I figured the currency in prison is cigarettes, right? Well, the currency with kids is gum. If the store is closed and you’re 4 or 6 years old, you can tell them “You gotta wait until tomorrow when the store re-opens” and the kids would say “No I want it now!”

So now we can trade, because I have some gum – something they want. And they can trade in things for it. Over time, the kids became street smart, good with money, and good at business…without even knowing it.

No matter what you do, you’re a salesman – you’re always selling yourself.

McGill’s Schulich School of Music now offers a Minor in Entrepreneurship for Bachelor of Music students who want to learn how to manage a professional career in the creative arts – click here to find out more!

What do you wish they taught you in school?

When I was studying music at McGill, I wish they taught us how musicians can take the skills they learn, and apply them in real world settings that don’t necessarily involve playing music. (Editor’s Note: McGill’s Schulich School of Music now offers a Minor in Entrepreneurship for Bachelor of Music students who want to learn how to manage a professional career in the creative arts” – click here to find out more!)

Students that study music are incredibly skillful. We’re great at listening, we can listen to complex conversations and retain everything, because we’re used to listening to complex symphonies that move. You also have to balance the playing and listening with rigorous academic-oriented courses in the curriculum. You have all these skills that the average guy doesn’t have.

There was this one course back in my day called “Life as a pro musician” – that was useful, but even more would have been better.

Also, they should teach you how to approach education: go to school for knowledge, not the credentials. The knowledge and experiences and the connections are what’s going to shape you. Nobody cares about your degree. Meeting like-minded people who had the same goals is what got me to where I am today. I always made it an active effort to seek them out, and they’re still lifelong friends.

Having kids is the most wonderful thing because you get to discover everything again for the first time.

His definition of success

My definition of success is constantly changing.

Sure, the projects that I’ve worked on have gone on to win things like Emmy, Grammy, Juno, and Gemini awards. I’ve even worked with all my heroes. And all that stuff was great.

But now my definition of success is making sure my kids succeed.

Things he learned from having kids

You gotta make sure the inputs are right. Just like a glass can be filled with different types of things, so can kids. They’re empty glasses, so you have to make sure that the things you put into them are high-quality.

The values you have are transferred by your actions to your kids. Pick the inputs carefully. Try to put the best ones into your kids – they’re blank slates when you start.

Having kids is the most wonderful thing because you get to discover everything again for the first time.

“He wanted to show that yeah, he can do a big show with everything set up, but he can walk into any club with no equipment or set-up and still blow people away.” – Francois Lamoureux (on deadmau5)

A cool story about deadmau5

People sometimes look at someone great and think “I could do that”. When most people do this, they assume ideal conditions: they think they’ll have all the equipment and a team, and everything. Some people figure out everything beforehand and just put it on a USB key.

The people at the highest level don’t need any of that.

Many years ago, he (deadmau5) was at the Juno’s in Ottawa. He didn’t win, and he wasn’t too happy about it. I was hanging out with him and his manager. After he finished his show at the big stadium, he wanted to blow off some steam so he decides, “Let’s go to a random club and do a show tonight, and I’m not going to put the mousehead on.”

At the time, nobody really knew what he looked like. So a few of us went with him to take over a club in Ottawa at midnight. Nobody announced who he was and nobody knew it was him, man. He just started doing his magic, and the people went nuts. He wanted to show that yeah, he can do a big show with everything set up, but he can walk into any club with no equipment or set-up and still blow people away.

François Lamoureux with the team at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship

Click here to find out more about FogoLabs!

Mentor Spotlight: Ben Yoskovitz (Co-Author of Lean Analytics)

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 08:45

Editor’s Note: Ben Yoskovitz is an entrepreneur, angel investor and author, with 20+ years of experience in the Web and technology space.  Currently, Ben is Founding Partner at Highline BETA (, a startup co-creation company. Highline BETA works with large companies to create and invest in new ventures and startups. Previously, he was VP Product at VarageSale and GoInstant (which was acquired by Salesforce.)  

Ben is the co-author of Lean Analytics, a book about using data to build your startup faster. He’s a recognized leader on Lean Startup and product management.  Ben was the co-founder of Year One Labs, an early stage startup accelerator based in Montreal, which exited Localmind to Airbnb. He’s invested in 15+ startups including Breather, LANDR, Mirametrix, CareGuide, Sendwithus and others. You can find Ben on Twitter @byosko.

He was also a judge during the Semi-Finals of this year’s McGill Dobson Cup in the Innovation-Driven Enterprise Track, where we got a chance to interview him.

What do you think about the McGill Dobson Cup?

I think it’s cool! Everybody who pitches today is already in the 1% of the population that may have what it takes to company. I don’t believe that everybody has what it takes, but I’m glad these people have the courage to take a shot. I started my first company when I was still in university. Maybe starting something is the answer, instead of a mediocre job at a mediocre company – hoping that it will work out somehow. So I’m a big fan of encouraging more entrepreneurship, and I think The McGill Dobson Centre is doing a good job at it. I think college is the time to try this stuff out and figure out what the hell you’re going to do with your life.

Business as a domain can be nebulous – nobody needs to go to school for 4 years to learn how to run a business. And I think that’s where initiatives like the McGill Dobson Centre comes in – teaching the application of the lessons, and helping people learn through doing.

I realized that if I want to be a doctor, I would have to be in school for the next thousand years.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?

I love books. There’s a sci-fi novel I read at the beginning of the year: “Ready Player One.”  If you are a child of the 80s, this book was written 100% for you. Read it.

Thoughts on schooling, and becoming a sports doctor for the Habs

I didn’t go to business school – I was doing a psych degree at McGill and started my first company in my 3rd year. I learned it on the fly. I had no idea what I wanted to do but I met some guys over the summer and we talked about an online magazine – this was in 1996. They were techies, and I offered my help. I still went to school, but that’s when I fell into entrepreneurship and realized I want to do some form of this for the rest of my life. I actually did apply for an MBA as a backup after my BSc. in psychology, and just never went. University was super fun, but I didn’t have a direction: some people go in thinking “After studying four years of Engineering, I will become an Engineer”, and I didn’t have that sort of mentality. I suspect most people are like me. They see the value of the education, but they haven’t carved their destiny in stone – the world doesn’t spin that way.

In fact, if you had asked me what I wanted to become during my first or second year, I would have told you “sports doctor for the Montreal Canadiens” – that was my dream in grade 5. Then I realized that if I want to be a doctor, I would have to be in school for the next thousand years – this is mental. That’s where me and university had a falling out. I am not spending the next 8+ years of my life memorizing shit and regurgitating it for you; I’m gonna go do something else.

I have kids in school, so I think about this a lot. They ask me “Why do I need to know my timetables?” And I say “Trust me, it’s useful later on.” They reply “Doesn’t the computer do it?” And it gets harder and harder to answer these questions. If they ask “Why do I have to go to school for 4 years to get X job if I’m not even sure I want to do that?”,  I have no answer.

THANKS to our #Innovation Driven Enterprise judges in @McGillU #DobsonCup yesterday! Finalists #startups announced next week Feb 21 #MTL

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 18, 2017

Why’d you write Lean Analytics?

When I was working at Year One Labs, which was an accelerator in Montreal, we were helping startups right around the time that Eric Ries popularized the notion of The Lean Startup. It was still pretty theoretical and not a lot of people were applying the principles to their business, and so that’s what we were trying to help businesses do.

So Alistair Croll (who was working with me at the time) and I decided to take Lean Startup and what we learned in the accelerator, and write a book about it. Where the lean startup really breaks down is the analytics part of it. People were having trouble with questions like “What should I measure? Why should I measure it? How does that help me learn and do things quickly?”

So we decided to literally write the book on it: Lean Analytics helps bridge the gap between theory and application for new startups. It’s a reference guide, as opposed to a motivational pageturner.


Any advice for the McGill Dobson Centre?

Show people that there’s the possibility of starting a company. It could also simply be teaching people to be more entrepreneurial in general – not everyone needs to start a company. The McGill Dobson Centre is there to help people become more entrepreneurial. And the most effective way to “convert” people is proof – case studies, stories, and personal journeys of the entrepreneurs who have gone through the McGill Dobson programs. Where are they now? How did they get there?

When I was in college, this didn’t exist – so it wasn’t a publicized path to take.

You don’t need a business background, you don’t need an MBA. Making entrepreneurship more accessible as a legitimate opportunity for students, is important work.

The first thing I would do is figure out where the smart people doing interesting things hang out, and then go there.

Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew nobody. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, and your food and shelter was taken care of.  All you have is a laptop and $500 – what would you do in the next 7 days?

The first thing I would do is figure out where the smart people doing interesting things hang out, and then go there. Find the entrepreneurs and the startups! Then I’d sneak into a conference or something. I’d save the money until I knew how to best spend it, which I would figure out by making friends and talking to people at the conference.

If you’re looking for a way to measure or quantify what your startup is doing so that you can use that data to iterate more quickly, but don’t know where to start, buy Ben’s book today on Amazon.

McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 6 (2017)

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 07:51

Editor’s Note: There is no video for this week’s X-1 recap – tune in soon for a video recap of StartupFest!

Welcome to Week 6 of the the McGill X-1 Accelerator, where we’ll be getting 8 McGill startups venture-ready for Demo Days in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City in Fall of 2017.

This week’s focus was on Sales. Here are some of the highlights.

Week 6 included a lot more time for the startups to push hard on their businesses, and the 2nd half of the week was spent at StartupFest – recap coming up!

@startupfest 2017 is a wrap! Thx to #McGillAlumni for allowing this amazing group of people from the @mcgillu X-1 Accelerator be there!

— Maher (@ayammaher) July 15, 2017

That being said, we had Marko Jelavic from Ferst Capital Partners in to talk about the personal challenges of starting a business. This is important because 90% of startups fail – so you need to prepare yourself with support systems and mental frameworks that will get you through tough times and make it out stronger than you were before.

Here is an exert from a Forbes article (written by Neil Patel) so you can explore this deeper:

#4. The team knows how to recover.

Every startup is backed by a team of people. The more versatile that team, the better chance they have of succeeding.

“Versatility” is often viewed in a limited sense, that of possessing more than one skill or talent. Versatility in the startup environment involves much more than someone’s skillset. It involves mindset. Startup teams must possess the ability to change products, adjust to different compensation plans, take up a new marketing approach, shift industries, rebrand the business, or even tear down a business and start all over again.

It’s all about recovering from blows. Teams that are able to recover together, also possess the unique trait of harmoniously working together through tough times.

I’ve also noticed that startups with co-founders have a higher success rate than companies with a single founder. Having a cofounder creates a partnership. There’s much more accountability, which helps you to avoid some of the pitfalls of a single charismatic leader. Plus, a cofounder will have skills that you don’t have.’

We welcomed @markojelavic – Associate at @ferstcapital and @mcgillu alumni, to give a talk to our McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 cohort!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 10, 2017

We also had Adela Schicker from – a hub for personal development & productivity, for a talk on sales. Adela started off by asking us what we found to be the difference between good and bad salesmen. Overall, most people agreed that a great salesman asks questions, is honest, and knows when a product is not a good fit for you. A bad one is often found monologuing, and may make you feel stupid.

The biggest takeaway from her approach to sales was the notion that most people have two different sides. There is the rational side, which can be imagined as a rider. There is also the irrational, emotionally driven side, which can be imagined as an elephant.

You need to address both your clients’ elephants, AND riders.

How do you do that?

Sell to the elephant with BENEFITS, and to the rider with FEATURES.

For example, if you’re a made-to-measure fashion company targeting high-profile women, you don’t want to sell to them by talking about how good your fabrics are – that’s just a FEATURE. What you want to be doing, is selling them on how powerful she’ll feel in the boardroom – that’s the BENEFIT.

Once her emotional side is engaged and interested in your product, her rational side (the rider) will kick in to decide whether or not she really wants to pull out her credit card for you. At that point, you can talk about the features that are underlying the benefit: the quality of the fabric you use, and the fact that she’ll have a perfect fit because your clothes are made-to-measure.

Kicking off Week 6 of the McGill X-1 Accelerator at @mcgillu with @adelaschicker – partner at @endprocrast, giving a talk about sales!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 10, 2017


September Event: How to Encourage Business Creation in Canada

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 15:59

September 19, 2017 — 7:00PM
Montreal – How to Encourage Business Creation in Canada
The MEI is happy to invite you to a panel discussion featuring Professor Peter Boettke and Economist Mathieu Bédard.

Taking inspiration from the teachings of the Austrian School of Economics, what are the public policies that need to be improved in order to encourage more entrepreneurship and business creation? The analysis will address, among other things, issues of taxation, labour regulation, and ease of trade.

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Peter Boettke is Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University. He is Vice President of Research at the Mercatus Center, a think tank based in the Washington, DC region. He is the current President of the Mont Pelerin Society.

Mathieu Bédard is an Economist at the MEI. He holds a PhD in economics from Aix-Marseille University in France. Mr. Bédard is the author of many studies and articles on Canadian public policies and regularly analyzes current affairs related to public policies in the media.

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Date: Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Leacock 232, Leacock Building, McGill University – 855 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal
Cost: Free event
Reservation required – Limited number of seats – Reserve quickly!

John Dobson Foundation donates $2 million to to support entrepreneurship at McGill

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 09:44

By Rosalie Nardelli, Desautels Faculty of Management

The John Dobson Foundation has announced a donation of $2 million – its largest gift to McGill yet – to fund the McGill X-1 Accelerator program run by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship. The gift  will support the X-1 program, now in its third year, as it grows to support and promote entrepreneurship across McGill.

Ari Kiriazidis, President of the John Dobson Foundation, stated, “the Foundation is delighted to continue Dobson’s long-standing relationship with McGill with what represents one of the largest gifts ever granted by the Foundation’s Board. The Board is extremely proud to be associated with one of the most prestigious universities in Canada through the Dobson Centre and its various programs.”

Randy Kelly, John Dobson’s long-time partner and Chief Executive Officer of Formula Growth, as well as Chairman of the Dobson Foundation, noted,  “McGill was always close to John’s heart and he would be very pleased with the continued commitment.”

Launched in 2015, the McGill X-1 Accelerator is an intensive 10-week summer program designed to accelerate the growth of later-stage McGill startups toward investment readiness and launch. The program runs annually from June to August and is open to teams, of which at least one member must have an affiliation to McGill, either as a student, a recent graduate, or a faculty or staff member. This year’s program has accepted eight McGill teams who are building their business on an idea based on technology or science.

The overall curriculum builds upon the MIT startup methodology of Disciplined Entrepreneurship, an integrated and proven framework for developing an innovation-driven product towards launch.

The McGill X-1 Accelerator co-working space, located in the Bronfman Building, McGill Desautels Faculty of Management

The McGill X-1 Accelerator culminates with a series of Demo Day events in Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York and San Francisco, where the teams will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas  to groups of McGill alumni, entrepreneurs and investors.

The donation from the Dobson Foundation comes at  a time of crucial development for the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, which resides in the Desautels Faculty of Management. Dean Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou of Desautels remarks, “Through the vision and generosity of the John Dobson Foundation, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship is affirmed as the leading hub for entrepreneurship on campus. In classrooms, research labs, and across the University, McGill is full of ideas and talented individuals driven to innovate. Thanks to this donation, the McGill X-1 Accelerator will catalyze our community of innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Prof. Gregory Vit, Director of the McGill Dobson Centre, notes, “The McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship has played a central role in creating young McGill entrepreneurs. Many recent McGill startups have had an important impact on the economies of Montreal and Quebec. This significant gift will ensure that we continue to serve the vibrant entrepreneurship culture at McGill. I’m highly confident that our entrepreneurs, will have a major positive impact on the planet.”

The McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship has grown considerably since its founding in 1988 under the late John Dobson, BCom’64, a known advocate for free enterprise and entrepreneurship.  Since then it has become the hub of entrepreneurial activity at McGill, with a mission to identify, teach and develop world-class entrepreneurs through tailored education, applied entrepreneurial frameworks, and iterative mentorship.  The Centre has played a central role in advancing entrepreneurial innovation and discovery through its flagship annual startup competition, the McGill Dobson Cup, and other initiatives that have followed, including the McGill X-1 Accelerator. Overall, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship has offered mentorship to more than 2,200 McGill entrepreneurs, and launched more than 125 successful startups that today employ over 1,200 people and have raised over $100 million in venture funding.