McGill Dobson Chronicles

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Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the McGill Community
Updated: 14 hours 38 min ago

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

TemperPack (McGill Dobson Cup 2013 2nd prize winner) Announces $10 Million Series A Financing

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 15:56

RICHMOND, Va., July 14, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — TemperPack (, the leader in earth-friendly packaging for insulated, temperature-sensitive goods, announced today that it has raised $10 million to expand its operations and further commercialize innovative, new products. SJF Ventures led the fundraising round, joined by Interplay Ventures, Third Prime Capital and Dolik Ventures. Robert Beckler, formerly the president of packaging at WestRock, an international paper and packaging company, also participated in the round and will be joining the Board as Executive Chairman.

Concerned with the steep increase in packaging waste from e-commerce, materials engineers James McGoff and Charles Vincent partnered with Brian Powers to found TemperPack, with the aim of lowering the environmental impact of shipping while improving the customer experience. Together, they developed and launched TemperPack in 2014 and have released a range of powerful insulation products that can be easily disposed of into existing recycling and composting facilities. The company currently serves over 40 customers including many market leaders within the meal-kit and grocery e-commerce sectors.

“We are excited to be partnering with SJF and the other syndicate partners in this next phase of growth for the company. TemperPack grew sales more than 500% in 2016 and the company is now ready to bring in outside capital to help meet growing customer and market needs for disruptive packaging and insulation products,” says Brian Powers, co-founder and co-CEO of TemperPack. “SJF Ventures, a leading impact investment fund, is highly aligned with our commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.”

Rapidly growing consumer demand for convenient delivery of perishable products such as produce, frozen meats and fish, meal-kits, prepared meals, and pharmaceuticals is driving significant packaging disposal concerns for retailers and suppliers as well as end-consumers. TemperPack’s mission is to provide these booming industries with sustainable packaging materials that consumers can feel great about.

“TemperPack addresses a core pain point for the e-commerce sector today,” says Cody Nystrom, Managing Director of SJF Ventures. “Their products replace environmentally-damaging materials such as styrofoam and other petroleum-derived insulation with a suite of proprietary, temperature-controlled products proven durable, safe and cost-efficient. TemperPack stood out as a highly innovative company purpose-built to compete effectively against the existing, uninspiring insulation solutions. The company refutes perceptions that ‘green’ should require meaningful trade-offs in effectiveness or price.” Cody Nystrom will also be joining the TemperPack Board.

According to Robert Beckler, Executive Chairman, “e-commerce is driving revolutionary change in the way consumers experience brands. Increasingly, packaging influences this consumer experience in a lasting way. TemperPack has tapped directly into this market trend, by providing its customers with a unique suite of insulating products that are not only great for the environment, but significantly enhance the brand experience.”

The company currently ships millions of insulation products each month to over 40 customers. Since 2015, TemperPack has recycled more than 5 million pounds of plant fiber, and is on track to divert more than 10 million pounds of plastic foam from landfills, preventing over 10 million pounds of carbon emissions from its sustainable alternatives.

About TemperPack
TemperPack brings sustainable packaging technology to companies that ship perishable goods such as food and pharmaceuticals. TemperPack helps companies reduce their environmental impact by using packaging their customers can feel great about. TemperPack’s proprietary insulated packaging ensures safe delivery in a sustainable manner. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, the company employs more than 200 associates, and is on track to create an additional 150 jobs in Virginia and Nevada by 2018.

About SJF Ventures
Founded in 1999, SJF Ventures invests in high-growth companies creating a healthier, smarter and cleaner future. Our mission is to catalyze the development of highly successful businesses driving lasting, positive changes.

Media Contacts:

John Briney, TemperPack

Cody Nystrom, SJF Ventures

SOURCE TemperPack

Related Links


McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 5 (2017)

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 19:45



In this week’s recap, you can look forward to Saad Benryane from GradeSlam, Alex King from Desautels, Alex Haque from RetinadVR, and a lesson from HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Welcome to Week 5 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 Product Development.

Here are some of the highlights:

Saad Benryane talked about developing a product roadmap based on inputs that you collect from your customers – this includes things like user stories or testimonials and different use cases which should inspire you to come up with new product initiatives. There’s no scientific method on the best way to collect these inputs – just figure out a system to be aware of the problems your customers are having, and regularly interview them to deepen and broaden your understanding of them.

Kicking Week 5 off by getting the cohort thinking about #Product #Roadmaps. Thanks @saadbenryane – VP Product at @GradeSlam!

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

On that note, he spoke about the importance of taking a customer-centric approach to creating products as opposed to pursuing cool ideas that you came up with. When doing this customer research and gathering inputs, it’s crucial that you speak to ACTUAL users based on the customer profile and market segmentation you’ve developed. Because if you don’t, the feedback you get will be inaccurate. (silent scene) It’s kind of like that scene from Silicon Valley where Richard gets feedback on his new product from a bunch of smart, technically-inclined engineer friends he has, as opposed to the target demographic: which were average everyday people that didn’t know much about tech. (silent scene begins) Because of the inaccurate inputs he gathered, he miscalculated the demand for his product. 

Alexander King – the director of Advancement at Desautels gave a talk on Networking so that we could get the most out of the accelerator since we have interesting people come to our space every single day. He pointed us to the basics, which people often overlook. Over the course of building your business you will need things from people. To get those things you’ll have to ask.

Thanks to Alex King from University Advancement at @DesautelsMcGill from @mcgillu for his #networking talk to our McGill X-1 2017 cohort!

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

The key insight which laid the groundwork for everything else he said was this: People actually  like when you come up to them after a talk and say thank you. They also like it when you follow up with them whether it’s through email or LinkedIn, to let them know how they improved your business or life, and to ask them for more help. In fact, put yourself in their shoes. If you just spoke at an event, and a dozen people (insert pics of smiling faces/teams) lined up to thank you and tell you how great your talk was, and they were asking questions and asking to follow up with you, wouldn’t you feel great? Treat people accordingly.

Next, Alexander Haque who’s the CEO of RetinadVR grilled each startup on their pitches and one thing that came up again and again was the notion of distilling and simplifying your presentation. He made it clear that people have limited attention spans and cognitive abilities – design your presentation accordingly. Having a lot of text and competing demands on people’s attention makes it tough to keep them focused on what matters – you.

Always good to have @AlexanderHaque (CEO @retinadvr) back @DobsonCentre -this time he brought the bbq to #Grill the cohort on their #pitch

— Maher (@ayammaher) July 6, 2017

Finally, Rubin Gruber who graduated from McGill in 1965 and went on to found multiple million-dollar companies, and who’s a member on the Board of Directors at Kaybus (a knowledge automation company)  came in to share his wisdom – my favorite takeaway was his point about building an A-TEAM: Only hire people who are smarter than you.

Honoured to welcome distinguished @mcgillu alum., serial entrepreneur & @DobsonCentre mentor – Rubin Gruber, to the #McGillX1 @McGillAlumni

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) July 7, 2017

He also had this practice of having the whole company meet for dinner at his apartment at 6PM every Wednesday to just talk about work. He would say that “Wednesday night doesn’t belong to you – it belongs to the company.


That’s it for now, I’ll see you back here for week 6.

Want to get your idea in front of investors? Apply to Montreal’s first-ever TechShuk!

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 08:54
What is the Tech Shuk?

Tech Shuk (Shuk= “market” in Hebrew) offers the ultimate marketplace for innovation. Highlighting entrepreneurs and startups, Tech Shuk provides exciting networking opportunities while raising funds to benefit cutting-edge treatments for mental illness and PTSD. An elite selection of the best ideas will present their concepts at Tech Shuk in front of a select group of Lions with the potential for life-changing results! Submit your application for the Lion’s Den competition July 10, 2017, to get your idea on the fast track!

The VIP Reception

The VIP Reception provides the ultimate opportunity to network with potential investors in an intimate and exclusive setting, featuring delicious dinner and drink.

The Demo Pit

Startups and Entrepreneurs will display and demo their products/services/ideas to the Lions, other potential investors and 400+ attendees while networking with other companies and venture capitalists.

The Lion’s Den Competition

Four (4) startups will be selected in advance of the event, and attendees will vote for the 5th Lion’s Den contestant.  These five (5) finalists will then pitch their ideas to our prestigious Lions. The winning company will receive a mentorship package complete with professional services, media exposure and the opportunity for investments.

When: Tuesday, November 28, 2017 5:30 PM VIP Session 7:00 PM Demo Pit 8:00 PM Competition Begins Where: EVO – 420 Sherbrooke St W Who: Investors, Venture Capitalists, Entrepreneurs, Networkers, The Jewish Community and beyond. All are welcome!

Mentor Spotlight: Alexandra Conliffe (Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship)

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 08:26

Editor’s Note: Alexandra Conliffe, the Director of the Policy Innovation Platform at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship sat down with us for a short interview during the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 where she was a Judge during the Semi-Finals for the Social Enterprise Track.

Their platform assists policy professionals engage citizens using innovative tools and approaches to generate better policy outcomes and services for Canadians.

Between 2013-16, Alex was VP Operations at Engineers Without Borders Canada, a movement of 40,000 Canadian and African leaders working to end poverty and inequality through innovations in targeted sectors, including Global Engineering Education in Canada, Small and Growing Businesses in Africa, and Responsible Mining globally.

Alex holds a doctorate in Geography and a master’s in Environmental Management from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and a bachelor’s in Engineering from McGill University, where she was a Loran Scholar. She is a member of the McGill Faculty of Engineering Advisory Board, and a Board Director of the Institute on Governance.

What do you think of the teams you saw during the McGill Dobson Cup 2017?

Every team so far has come with an issue that they’re really passionate about, which is what I love about the Social Enterprise track – people seeing that something in the world is not quite right, and then creatively addressing those issues.

On the role of education in building an entrepreneur

Great question! You could be a Bill Gates or a Zuckerberg. But increasingly, universities are developing great ways to support entrepreneurs on campus. It’s not just about the studies, there’s a lot of resources that students can leverage for startups! Universities across Canada and the US are helping students improve their entrepreneurial skills – it’s no surprise that Waterloo and MIT, and now McGill has incredible projects coming out of it, because these schools are helping students leverage their skills. Sure some people might strike out on their own. But more and more, education is becoming a valuable ally for those interested in the unconventional, entrepreneurial route as well.

Work hard enough to be competent, and invest the rest of your time in making the world around you better.

How to get the most out of one’s education

I worked very hard to win the Oxford Scholarship, but I suspect that most of the other winners had GPAs higher than mine.

I worked just hard enough to know that if I was to practice as an Engineer, people would be safe. Sure, I could have put in to increase my grade from 80s to 90s through doubling my study time. Instead, I put that time into side projects that I felt were more important than a marginal increase in my grade. Is that a good strategy? I don’t know if that’s the best approach for everyone, but it paid off for me. The stuff I focused my attention and energy outside the classroom was seen as being valuable, so I hit the jackpot.

Work hard enough to be competent, and invest the rest of your time in making the world around you better.

On lifelong learning

In my generation, lifelong learning is going to be essential in a way that it has never been before. With the digital revolution and automation, I suspect I’ll have to pick up new skills and packets of knowledge on a regular basis.  I also haven’t ruled out the possibility of returning to some form of formal education at some point. Not another degree, but maybe some skill-enhancement stuff.

Right now, I learn really actively from my community – I work hard to nurture my relationships and surround myself with people who challenge me.

In an ideal world, I alternate between reading fiction and nonfiction. I just started a new job so to that end, right now I’m binge-reading stuff related to policy innovation.

Many thanks to our #SocEnt Track judges in the @McGillU #DobsonCup yesterday! Super pumped for #SME Track today! #startup #MTL

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 16, 2017

On the challenges of being a woman in entrepreneurship 

I think being taken seriously by older men is always challenging, but I’ve worked in environments where people are pretty aware about these types of things. But even in those places where people care deeply and try to make everyone feel comfortable, there are all kinds of small things people say without realizing that are gendered in some way. Even to our allies, we have to sometimes point out these things because there’s so much that’s implicit.

Also, as a woman, noticing one’s own implicit biases is important. All of the research tells me that even though I am one, I’m going to be biased against women too. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I won’t have implicit biases. If I get two  CVs that exactly the same and one is Nick and one is Nicola, I’m more likely to hire the guy. It’s important that we become aware of that and continue to work on it. Implicit association tests are really a wakeup call – that’s not who I think I am, but I need to know that my subconscious works that way so I can develop tactics to overcome it.

Her new job at the Brookfield Institute 

I’m really excited! I had worked for 3 years in the government in the federal public service, and the role of public service is changing. There are a lot of ways to develop new policies, there are a lot of ways to do it better. The job that I’m doing now is asking important questions like: How can we innovate in how we develop policies? How can we engage citizens differently, and how can we use data to improve the process?

Nicholas Toronga (2nd place winner – McGill Dobson Cup 2017) featured on McGill Giving!

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 13:23



Nicholas Toronga, a MasterCard Foundation Scholar from Zimbabwe, is a management student at McGill. Photo: Owen Egan

Nicholas Toronga leapt into the air when the result was announced at McGill’s Dobson Cup.

The business startup he pitched at the popular annual student competition won second place in its category in March – and $7,000 in seed funding.

“I didn’t care about people’s reaction, I was just so excited,” says Toronga, a first-year management student from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Toronga and a friend from Zimbabwe came up with the idea for FamKeepa. It’s a proposed web-based service that would allow migrants to buy goods and services for relatives back home through gift cards with partner stores, sparing them the time and expense of sending money abroad.

“They’ll pay a small fee and the retailers will also pay us commission based on the service that we generate because we are opening up a market that they did not serve,” he explains.

Toronga came to Montreal last August as one of 91 students from sub-Saharan Africa who will study at McGill over a 10-year period as part of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. The first cohort of MCF Scholars, who arrived in 2013, began graduating this spring.

The MasterCard Foundation, the private Toronto-based foundation that launched the $700 million scholars program in 2012, has a global network of education partners that includes four Canadian universities – McGill, Queen’s University, the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia.

The program provides comprehensive scholarships for talented students who have impressive track records of service and leadership in their schools and communities and who would not otherwise have the opportunity to obtain a world-class university education. Students accepted into the program are also committed to giving back to their communities after graduation.

The head of the MasterCard Foundation, Reeta Roy, received an honorary doctorate at McGill’s spring convocation and spoke of this commitment at a luncheon held in honour of the scholars.

“The key value of the program is your leadership, and the importance of giving back,” said Roy. “You are young leaders on a special assignment – to transform your home countries and the world.”

Fabrice Labeau, Associate Dean (Faculty Affairs) in the Faculty of Engineering, is also the lead faculty mentor for the program at McGill. “Everybody who is working on this project finds it’s such a rewarding thing to interact with these incredibly brilliant students,” he said.

One of the scholars was a principal at a school for girls that he founded. He felt that in his area there weren’t enough opportunities for them to be educated, says Labeau.

“We’re talking about a guy, I think he’s 23.”

Many are engaged in formalized activities, while some are involved in local associations helping people in their community before they come to McGill, he adds.

“That’s what the program is about, to make sure that the leaders of tomorrow are trained through the best possible program.”

Members of the first cohort of McGill’s MasterCard Scholars. From left: Fauziat Serunjogi, Quinter Faith, Kathyrn Mwathe, Njeri Muguthi, Ignace Nikwivuze and Betty Opiyo. Photo: Christinne Muschi


Toronga has been involved in a few educational projects in Zimbabwe, including helping teach people basic entrepreneurial skills. With the same friend with whom he developed FamKeepa, he also launched a non-profit tutoring service for disadvantaged students that still operates back home.

He and his friend, Tafara Makaza, who attends Williams College in Massachusetts, hope to build FamKeepa into a business. A venture capitalist and Williams College alumnus is interested in their idea and has invited them this summer to an incubator program affiliated with the college, Toronga says.

“They gave us some funding and they’ll help us seek more funding because they really want to see us trying this startup. So we’re really excited.”

In addition to McGill, Toronga says he was also accepted at the University of California, Berkeley and Michigan State in the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, as well as at Cornell.

“I really love Montreal,” he says, his face lighting up with a smile, “so I just chose to come to McGill.”

He checked rankings – “Montreal is one of the best cities for students” – and looked into McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management.

“I was fascinated by Desautels, the fact that it’s like a separate business school.”

Overall, how has his experience been so far?

“It’s great,” he says, praising the foundation and McGill.

As for Montreal, he likes the city’s diversity.

“You see every culture is represented here and it’s something which is very cool. And it’s dynamic, there are a lot of activities that you can do, climbing to Mount Royal, enjoying different types of food.”


The snow was gone in late April when Toronga talked about his first year at McGill and the initial jolt from winter.

“The first days were terrible…at first I hated the snow, then it changed, I started loving the snow and hating the ice. The ice was the worst,” he laughs.

The scholars, most of whom arrive at the end of August, are “always surprised at how much time we spend talking about the weather around here,” Labeau says.

“The adjustment to the winter is always difficult for most of them.”

The scholars are a tightly knit group and support each other, Toronga says.

The first-year scholars are paired up in twos with two other McGill students who offer tips and guidance about university life. “Peer mentors are like friends. It’s really cool,” Toronga says.

Each scholar is assigned a faculty mentor, described as an “academic elder”.

“The idea being that we also want to humanize the role of professors,” says Labeau, who currently mentors four scholars in the Engineering faculty.

“Other cultures than North American have a completely different perspective of what a professor is and there is clearly a very strict wall between the students and the professors,” says Labeau, a native of Belgium.

In North America, it’s a much more friendly relationship between the two “and the professors are available and reachable and the office hours are serious office hours. You actually talk to the students, which is not the case in a lot of cultures.”


One of the nicest things about McGill is the diversity of its undergraduate population, says Labeau. Thanks to the program and the scholarships associated with it, McGill receives top students from places where it typically doesn’t receive many students from, he says of sub-Saharan Africa.

“And they’re bringing that new dimension, different perspective. Because of their leadership kind of profile when they’re selected to come, they’re engaged in their community.”

That involvement extends to McGill.

“They’re out there, they’re in clubs, they’re in local charities, they’re active in the community, so not only are they there with their own perspective on life, but they’re actually sharing it,” Labeau says.

Toronga says they meet some people who have “no clue about Africa” and overlook its diversity.

“There are a lot of things that are happening in various countries. So I think the diversity is something that is valuable, that they can also see ‘oh these people are from Africa, but… what we don’t see on TV or what is usually published on social media,’” he says.

“Most of the time we form such strong connections,” he adds. “You see some people, they’re getting some knowledge about us and we’re also getting some knowledge about them … we end up having a mutual understanding.”

McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 4 (2017)

Tue, 07/04/2017 - 15:45


Welcome to Week 4 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 customer profile development. Here are some of the highlights.

Simin Foster (course lecturer at McGill) came to talk about go-to-market strategies. The 2 C’s to know when going to market are Customer and Costs. In terms of customers, you need to help them solve a problem through eliminating a pain point or adding positive value to their lives. In terms of cost, you need to keep them down and compromise to maximize efficiency, and realize that cost is a general term: it can be money, time, or other forms of capital.

What’s your strategy?
Thanks to Simin Foster from @Engage_Works for her talk to our McGill X-1 Accelerator cohort!

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

We also had 2 guests come in for 1 on 1s with some of the teams, including Andrea Coury, who founded Grandma Emily’s Granola, Soula Chronopoulos who’s the President of an e-learning platform called Ellicom, and Antoine Begin from BIOGENIQ.  

In this week’s “Grilled by a CEO”, Phil Cutler, CEO of GradeSlam (who we’ve interviewed by the way – click here) gave everybody advice on their pitches, here are some of the general takeaways:

Great to welcome back @pacutler from @GradeSlam for our #Grilled by a #CEO #pitching session! @DobsonCentre

— Maher (@ayammaher) June 29, 2017

  • Sell the benefit (the why – what can you help people accomplish?), not the features (the how) – it’s even better if you can quantify the benefits with metrics whether it’s in dollars saved or something else. Save the features for in-depth 1-on-1 meetings where each party will do their due diligence.
  • Another thing he mentioned was that you need to have an ask in the pitch. If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. You never know who’s in the room, and Phil’s experience has been that someone in the room may just have exactly what you’re asking for.
  • Brand your decks. People take pictures of pitches. If you have your logo on each slide, it ends up on the social media stream. Make it subtle, but it should be there.

Next, Veronique Beaulieu – Marketing & Communications Coordinator for the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill, gave a talk on on social media marketing.

Thanks to Véronique Beaulieu – Marketing&Comms Coord at @DesautelsMcGill, for leading a Social Media Strategy workshop here at the #McGillX1

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) June 29, 2017

  • She explained that social media has always existed, it used to be Sunday church – people gathered to socialize and gossip and spread messages. Now, we can harness its power with our fingertips.
  • In terms of practical advice, she mentioned you should always stay relevant when it comes to social media trends: for example, doing an ice bucket challenge in 2017 doesn’t really make sense, but it did back when it was popular.
  • She also gave us two websites to check out if you want to study good advertising, stay on top of social media trends, and stay ahead of the crowd: &

That’s all for now, we’ll see you back here for week 5.

How to land your first venture capitalist

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 08:44
Tips to make your first million

Obtaining venture capital is a step that many entrepreneurs find daunting or view as unattainable. Several question how they will convince people to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, in their company. François Gilbert, President of Anges Québec, agreed to share a few tips.

Is venture capital right for you?

According to François Gilbert, this is the first question you should ask yourself as an entrepreneur when considering venture capital.

“It’s a tool, but not a necessity,” he states. “Several entrepreneurs succeed in developing a solid business without venture capital. It’s an interesting option when entrepreneurs need money quickly to take advantage of an opportunity and are unable to raise the funds themselves.”

You also need to have the appropriate personality to seek venture capital since this means relinquishing a part of your company.

“This is not an option for individuals who want to control everything,” shares the President of Anges Québec. “These entrepreneurs might find it too difficult to have people questioning their key strategic orientations. Those made for venture capital view the arrival of new players in the company as something positive that could push them further.”


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

McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 3 (2017)

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 10:41


Welcome to Week 3 of the the McGill X-1 Accelerator.

Hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the McGill X-1 Accelerator is an intensive 10-week summer program designed to accelerate later stage McGill startups towards investment readiness and launch for the Demo Days we have planned which will take place in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City, in Fall of 2017.

Week 3’s focus was on Business Models and Startup Financials. Here are some of the highlights.

First up, we hosted Philippe-Olivier Daniel from Podlegal who talked about some nitty-gritty stuff like option pools and vesting, but in terms of easy actionable takeaways, here are two: A) Choose a distinctive name so you can protect it easily, don’t go for a common noun like table or heater because you’ll be at a higher risk for going to court. B) He recommended a book to get your startup venture-ready: It’s called Venture Deals – Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.

Kicked off Week 3 of the McGill x-1 Accelerator 2017 with a legal talk by Phil – lawyer at @podlegalMTL! #mcgill

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

Next up, Corey Phelps, who’s the Associate Professor of Strategy & Organization here at McGill, gave a really engaging talk/workshop about the business model canvas as well as how important money is to turn your dream into reality when it comes to business. Since most startups don’t have money, you have to get creative with how you spend your money in order to maximize your results. To illustrate this, he showed us a scene from Moneyball. 

A second major insight he shared came from a report from CBInsights on the top 20 reasons startups fail. Number one is no market need at a whopping 42%. Just to re-iterate, the number one reason that startups fail is because nobody needs what they’re making – they’re creating a product that doesn’t solve a burning pain. #2 at 29% is running out of cash, and #3 at 27% is that the startup doesn’t have the right team.

Thanks to @DesautelsMcGill's Associate Professor for Strategy, Corey Phelps, for discussing various business models during the X1!

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

We also had our first of three advisory board meetings, during which each team had a 1 on 1 with a number of successful entrepreneurs who gave them feedback as well as milestones they need to achieve by the next meeting which will be in 3 weeks. Following the board meetings, we had lunch with the advisory board!

Next, Francis Martel from National Bank talked about Accounting 101. An important point he made was that a bank is not a nonprofit organization – while they do want to help you, they are inclined to make decisions that will make them money in the long run. He also said to be aware of your debt to equity ratio because that’s one of the factors that go into how much banks will lend you.

Thanks to Francis Martel- Account Manager @nationalbank for speaking to our cohort about #accounting101!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) June 23, 2017

In this week’s edition of the Grilled by CEO series, we had Amelie Morency. who’s the Founder & CEO of The Food Room, which is a Culinary Coworking Space for small and medium food businesses. She pitched at Dragon’s Den twice, and just to give you an idea about what it takes to get to that level, one of her actionable pieces of advice was that “You should have every answer to every question people might have about your business, without needing to read it off your slides.” She also shared that she used to be terrible at pitching, and that it was tough because her English wasn’t that great. To overcome this, she went out and pitched as often as she could for 6 months, after which she was finally comfortable up there. She mentioned that this was a really useful skill because it opened up a lot of opportunities: nowadays, people approach her to give talks at events. This is a great example of the notion that opportunities are maximized with preparation.

Grilled by CEO Session 3! We welcomed Amélie Morency, CEO of @the_food_room to “Grill” our cohort on their pitches. #mcgill #entrepreneur

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) June 23, 2017

That’s all for now, we’ll see you back here, for week 4.

Mentor Spotlight: Kathy Megyery (Health Sciences)

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 09:05

Editor’s Note: At the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, we got the chance to interview Kathy Megyery, one of the judges for the Health Sciences Track.

Kathy Megyery is partner at Pivot responsible for the Pharma & Payers practice. She specializes in strategy, market access and policy design for the healthcare and life sciences sectors with over 25 years-experience both as a consultant and a pharmaceutical industry executive.

During her tenure at Sanofi, she successfully spearheaded strategic initiatives to capture opportunities around the emergence of specialty pharma, the increased focus on wellness and prevention as well as the growing role of payers. During the past year, she developed the payer strategy to support the commercial launch of a new vaccine. Kathy holds an MBA from McGill University and a Master’s degree in Economics from Concordia University.

On the value of education for entrepreneurs & the McGill Dobson Cup

I think regardless of whether you want to be an entrepreneur or not, education is important. There are few other places where you’re exposed to big ideas, learn how to think creatively – both of which are crucial. I don’t think you necessarily know right at the beginning of your studies whether you will be an entrepreneur or something else. Being exposed to other smart people and discussing ideas are things that are relevant for everyone.

In my family, education is highly valued. It’s really helped me guide and cultivate my curiosity – I mean just look at what I’m doing right now: I’m not here at the Dobson Cup as an investor, yet I’m grateful for the opportunity to see and judge the pitches. Why? Simply because it’s interesting to me.  Going through an educational process can definitely be an important element to feed that curiosity.

I found the McGill Dobson Cup incredibly refreshing.  The creativity, passion and commitment of the teams left me very energized.  I heard several proposals that address providing better, more accessible health care and as such, provide value to patients, the healthcare system and society overall.

With this Dengue vaccine, Sanofi decided to flip the model on its head and target the people who really needed it first.

On being a part of the team that developed a Dengue vaccine and how they flipped the traditional business model on its head

Sanofi Pasteur, the company I worked for previously, developed the first vaccine against dengue. Dengue, believe it or not, affects 50% of the world’s population. It’s very endemic in emerging countries – parts of Latin America, Africa, Asia Pacific. Pharmaceutical companies typically market vaccines to richer countries first – basically selling to to business people and tourists that are traveling to recoup their money, and then taking it to the poorer countries. With this Dengue vaccine, Sanofi decided to flip the model on its head and target the people who really needed it first. Their first market was the Philippines, and then Brazil. In other words, we decided to help people first, and then figure out the business model after.

It was a 15 year process, and the manufacturing plant was built at risk – meaning the company took the risk of building the plant even before we knew that the authorities would approve the vaccine.

In terms of results, 2 dimensions are important to look at: mortality, and hospitalizations. I’m proud to say it was very effective in reducing both deaths and hospitalization rates, which is important for these developing countries that don’t have a lot of money to spend on healthcare.


Many thanks to our #HealthSciences Track judges in the @McGillU #DobsonCup yesterday! Super pumped for #SocEnt Track today! @DesautelsMcGill

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 15, 2017

Where the health industry is headed next

I think we’re really heading towards a place where “The 4 P’s of medicine” will really begin to become the focus. They are: predictive, personalized, participatory, and preventive.

Gene sequencing and rapidly advancing medical technology are allowing us to make some major changes in the way people are treated. We’re moving towards preventing people from getting sick in the first place, and if they do get sick, finding the most appropriate, targeted, treatments because that’s the only way to keep the health care system sustainable – you can’t just send everyone to the hospital.

Today we pay for drugs, not health outcomes.

Her next projects

At Pivot Strategic Transformation, I am working on a number of initiatives related to tying payment for healthcare to value and not just volume.  By way of example, in the area of pharmaceuticals, this requires rethinking the way we pay for drugs.

Today we pay for drugs, not health outcomes. But this unit-based pricing model is too one dimensional for the evolving market needs.  Given the high cost of specialty medicines, the rapid growth of this segment is challenging the sustainability of the current model of paying for medicines.

This is impacting the entire healthcare ecosystem.

For pharmaceutical companies, value-based agreements provides a game-changing opportunity as they are increasingly facing price pressures based on discounts and rebates not linked to the value of the product. By tying the price of drugs to agreed-upon outcomes, pharma companies will be able to demonstrate the full benefits of their products.  Private payers want to secure more competitive prices for their clients.  And finally, it is an opportunity for intermediaries to leverage data analytics capabilities as data is the cornerstone of value-based reimbursement.

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Sign up for StartupFest 2017 while there are still tickets left!

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 09:15

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Startupfest has grown into a global gathering of the world’s best entrepreneurs, founders, investors, and mentors. It features world-class content, from back-of-napkin ideas to champagne-popping exits, across three days of keynotes, interactive how-to sessions, thought-provoking predictions, and a healthy dose of irreverence.

See our Sizzler videos!

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• Every aspect of our content is hand-picked and carefully crafted, and ranges from inspiring lessons from seasoned entrepreneurs, to informative how-to sessions, and interactive panels.

• We offer tangible investment opportunities and prizes, from top accelerators, looking to fill their next cohorts, to world-renowned VCs- in 2016, over $500,000 worth of investments and prizes were awarded at the event.

• Whether you’re looking for exposure, to acquire new talent, connect with investors, corporates, or different sectors of the industry- you’ll find it in our tent village, where people are gathered under relevant themes.

“I was here 3 years ago, and pitched Onavo, my company, and we picked up one of the top prizes and 3 years later we get picked up by Facebook. It’s awesome.” – Guy Rosen, Facebook


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Life On Air, Inc (Houseparty)
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Transformation Group
Melinda Richter
Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS
Montreal is the cultural capital of Canada, and as soon as you get here you’ll understand why. The city has an unbeatable festival vibe, and is second to none in the summertime, especially this year, as the city celebrates its 375th! As the city thaws, it becomes a vibrant, diverse, cultural hub and is North America’s number one host city for international events. Between the european charm, unparalleled nightlife, arts, culture, and world class restaurants- Montreal makes the perfect stomping grounds for Startupfest. Hotels are in high demand this year! Book your travel NOW to ensure the cheapest rate.

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Vent Over Tea in the Gazette! (McGill Dobson Cup winner 2016)

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 08:54
Montreal’s Vent Over Tea is free service offering empathetic listener CHARLIE FIDELMAN, MONTREAL GAZETTE
More from Charlie Fidelman, Montreal Gazette
Published on: June 13, 2017 | Last Updated: June 13, 2017 6:00 AM EDT

When Montrealers Chloe Chow and Sarah Fennessey were undergraduate students of psychology at McGill University, they waited months for an appointment with a campus mental health counsellor.

“This was incredibly frustrating, but I knew I was far from alone,” recalled Chow. “The wait room during exam time had people crying.”

As the Montreal Gazette reported last month, universities across the country are facing a mental-health crisis on campus  because of an explosion in demands for services from students who feel hopeless, depressed and suicidal. Also, campus resources mirror challenges seen in the public health-care system at large. Demands for help far outstrip availability of services.

Frustration over lack of accessible resources for students who just want to talk to someone, “a real human, in person,” prompted Chow and Fennessey, now with degrees in psychology, to create Vent Over Tea. It’s a free service that pairs people who need to vent with an empathetic listener, in any café in the city, as quickly as the next day.

“It’s in a casual and approachable environment, meetings take place in cafés so to an outside observer it looks like two friends catching up,” Chow said. Meetings usually last about an hour, and that’s it — no follow-up or strings attached, just one hour of authentic human connection, she said.

“I started this service because it was something I wished existed while I was in university,” Fennessey said. “I wanted there to be an outlet for people whose problems ‘weren’t serious enough’ for immediate support at McGill mental health.

“I wanted a service for those who were struggling, but didn’t necessarily have a mental illness or need professional help. If only there was a way to find a great listener, removed from your network of friends and family, who would be willing to lend an hour of their time to just listen to you vent.”

Vent Over Tea, which last year won the annual McGill startup competition, is not a replacement for mental health therapy that psychiatrists and psychologists can deliver. But the response has been wonderful, Chow said, because finding community is harder in a big city compared to a small town.

About three to five people a week contact Vent Over Tea to get something off their chests. “Ventees” book online, selecting a time and a café, and then a volunteer confirms via email.

Chow and Fennessey screen potential volunteers who apply online. “We choose people we would feel comfortable talking to, and being vulnerable with,” Chow said.

Volunteers are trained in workshops to be active listeners. Some people come to the service seeking advice or solutions to their problems, but that’s not the role of Vent Over Tea. Chow and Fennessey teach volunteers to “redirect so people come to their own conclusions,” Chow said.

Vent Over Tea is a drop in the bucket considering the need for services, even for a sympathetic ear.

The Canadian Psychological Association is calling on all provinces to make access to psychological services a priority.

The association is concerned that such services are not covered adequately through public health plans and private insurance, said Dr. Karen Cohen, CPA’s CEO.

“There are huge wait lists and part of the problem is how we fund health care,” Cohen said in a telephone interview. “Some plans only cover mental health with few hundred dollars. It’s like saying, ‘Here’s 10 cents, go buy a loaf of bread.’”

Last year, local mental health groups circulated a petition that garnered 3,000 signatures calling for the government of Quebec to add psychotherapy to the basket of health and social services.

“People have no access unless they have insurance, or they are rich,” Ella Amir, executive director of AMI Quebec (Action on Mental Illness) said last February.

There are other free services similar to the one provided by Chow and Fennessey in an attempt to fill a gap. For example, in Montreal, Centre de Relation d’Aide de Montréal, which trains relationship therapists, will offer a series of 10 free sessions with students (under supervision) who are in their final years of study.

The centre’s therapists-in-training use a “creative non-directive approach ,” explained the Centre’s Émilie Girard Paquette, also a therapist. The method helps clients find their own ways to solutions for such issues as grief, job loss and broken hearts, she said. “Mental health problems are beyond our capacity and we refer to medical professionals.”

There are also mobile telephone applications that can help combat chronic stress, for example iSMART, developed by the Université de Montreal.

As for Chow and Fennessey, they’re about to embark on a two month bus tour in the United States to gauge interest in starting Vent Over Tea in other cities.

“The most important element of  Vent Over Tea is the accessibility of support,” Fennessey said. “You can book the next day, and get everything off your chest.”

McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 2 (2017)

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 16:29


Welcome to Week 2 of the the McGill X-1 Accelerator!

  • Hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the McGill X-1 Accelerator is an intensive 10-week summer program between June 5th and August 11th designed to accelerate later stage McGill startups towards investment readiness and launch, until the Demo Days which will take place in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City in Fall of 2017.

The focus this week was on Customer & Market segmentation, here are some of the highlights.

Kicking Week 2 off with Luc Giguère from @CentechMTL giving a talk to our McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 cohort! #entrepreneurship #mcgill

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) June 12, 2017

Luc Giguere who’s an entrepreneur-in-residence Centech came in to give a general talk about entrepreneurship and marketing:

  • Marketing: Measure everything, all the time (then use the data to make decisions and take action – data without action is useless)
  • The “expressed need” (what the client says first) is not always what the client wants. Find the real need (what the client really wants to say). How? Ask questions and just listen.

Disciplined Entrepreneurship Workshop #2 by @renjie and @ayammaher at @mcgillu. Thanks to @EshipMIT for the guidance! #Entrepreneurship

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

We also continued working through the Disciplined Entrepreneurship workbook with the cohort, specifically on the sections that cover Market Segmentation.

Mike Ross from Juniper came in to lead a Design thinking workshop. Design thinking is a methodology for coming up with creative solutions, that can be broken down into 5 steps.

  • 5 steps: Learn, Frame, Create, Build, Iterate
      • Learn: empathize, observe, ask. Iceberg top is observable behaviors. Bottom is preferences, knowledge, beliefs, values.
      • We talked about using in-depth interviews with potential customers to see who they really are below the surface and what drives them. Getting to know them at a deep level will help you understand how best to design a product for them. 

Fantastic #DesignThinking workshop this afternoon led by @mikerossca @JadeVaill and Scott from @JuniperAdvisers with the #McGillX1 startups

— renjie butalid (@renjie) June 14, 2017

In this week’s Grilled by CEO, we had Randeep Singh come in – he’s a cofounder at AON3D, which makes industrial 3D printers. He grilled each team on their pitch, and he also did some Q&A at the end.

  • He mentioned “It’s okay to set a large, arbitrary goal not based off of anything. Angel investors will often throw a number at you to see you scramble to reach it and sometimes, even if you reach it halfway, that can be a substantial achievement.” He also mentioned you have to almost have an annoying level of confidence, to break investors out of autopilot and show them how large the potential of your startup is.

That’s it for now, we’ll see you back here for week 3!

Thanks to Randeep Singh – founder of @AON3D and @ycombinator alum., for participating in our 2nd #X1GrilledbyCEO session for 2017!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) June 15, 2017

Our very own Ashwaq Al-Hashedi (2D-CrystaLab) was named Mitacs’ Outstanding Entrepreneur!

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:20

TORONTO, June 8, 2017 /CNW/ – Six up-and-coming Canadian entrepreneurs received recognition, and a total of $25,000, for their groundbreaking industry contributions that are helping to improve the lives of Canadians. They were awarded at the 2017 Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards tonight at MaRs Discovery District in Toronto.

Mitacs launched the awards in 2015 as a way to celebrate start-up companies founded by outstanding former Mitacs interns, postdoctoral fellows, and training participants, who have gone on to lead their respective fields as independent business owners.

Applicants for the 2017 Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards were evaluated according to their ability to demonstrate sound business planning, entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to continued excellence in research and innovation.

The 2017 Mitacs Entrepreneur Award winners are:

Next 150 Entrepreneur: Yaser Roshan, a former PhD student at Simon Fraser University and co-founder of Vancouver-based Ophthalight Digital Solutions, a company whose first-of-its-kind eye exam headset makes it possible to administer routine tests quickly, accurately and remotely — a first for teleophthalmology — and helps with early detection and prevention of diseases such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and eye cancer. The company’s flagship product, O-Glass, will be available in the Middle East this summer and in Canada by the end of the year.

Social Entrepreneur: Arash Samimi, a former PhD student at Queen’s University and co-founder of the Toronto-based Livelihood Project, a not-for profit organization that has developed a state-of-the-art, science-backed career coach app. The technology helps refugees and under-skilled workers find meaningful, long-term employment in today’s challenging work environment where jobs are at risk due to advances in automation. The company’s innovative program includes mobile technology that works like a Fitbit to keep people on track with their career goals, and shifts the mindset of employment services from job matching to job readiness.

Global Impact Entrepreneur: Asha Srinivasan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia and co-founder of Vancouver-based Boost Environmental Systems, a company that is working to safeguard the world’s water quality through the commercialization of a novel approach to treating dairy farm manure and sewage sludge. Called IMPACT, the breakthrough technology is solving urgent problems facing the worldwide agricultural and wastewater treatment industries and is positioning Canada as a frontrunner is clean tech solutions for sustainable waste management.

Outstanding Entrepreneur: Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University and co-founder of 2D-CrystaLab, a company that is working to improve dental health among seniors through the commercialization of advanced toothpastes that prevent infection and improve long-term hygiene of tooth implants and dentures. The toothpastes use a food-grade nanomaterial — developed in partnership with scientists at Université de Montréal and Harvard University — that is 20,000 times thinner than a human hair but that has shown to be more effective at cleaning dental implants compared to existing conventional toothpastes. The product is a first-of-its-kind in North America and represents a breakthrough innovation in dental implant hygiene.

Change Agent Entrepreneurs: Ilyass Tabiai and Rolland Delorme, PhD students at École Polytechnique de Montréal and co-founders of 3D TRIP, a company that specializes in 3D printing. Capitalizing on the rapidly growing 3D printing industry, 3D TRIP is developing new advanced polymers and composites that will help companies to advance 3D printing of plastic materials from prototype to production line.

Alejandro Adem, CEO and Scientific Director, Mitacs
“Mitacs is building on Canada’s strengthened commitment to technology and innovation by continuing to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Our programs equip researchers with the career skills they need to successfully transfer breakthrough technologies, community and educational improvements, and environmental solutions from the lab to the business world.”

Quick facts:

  • Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 17 years to support industrial and social innovation in Canada.
  • Mitacs’ research internship programs connect graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with industry and not-for-profit partners for collaborations supervised by faculty.
  • Mitacs acknowledges the Government of Canada, along with Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support.

SOURCE Mitacs Inc.

Strategic plan 2021: For a more innovative, cleaner and inclusive Quebec economy

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 09:00

Canada is the fastest developing nation in the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) both in terms of population and economy, so you’re probably wondering: “How will this affect startups?”

Well, the CED (Canadian Economic Development) has a plan prepared on how the country will allocate some of this growth towards fostering sustainable innovation, specifically in Quebec.

Their Strategic Plan 2021 sets out CED’s key directions until 2021. They plan to focus on innovation, clean growth, economic diversity and the development of a more inclusive economy.

  1. Innovation: Support growing and innovative businesses.
  2. Cleantech: Support businesses and regions participating in a clean-growth economy.
  3. Economic diversity: Support communities to foster their economic diversification and their participation in an inclusive economy.
  4. Inclusive: Foster the participation of Indigenous peoples in CED programs and the economic growth of Quebec.

Click here for the full plan!

Strategic plan 2021 at a glance: Top priorities are on innovation, cleantech, economic diversity, and inclusivity.


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

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 10:03



Welcome to the Week 1 Recap of the the McGill X-1 Accelerator. Before we jump into what happened, let’s first summarize what the X-1 involves.

Hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the McGill X-1 Accelerator is an intensive 10-week summer program designed to accelerate later stage McGill startups towards investment readiness and launch.It’s going to take place from June 5 to August 11, 2017, prepping for the Demo Days which will take place in Montreal, Boston, and San Francisco in Fall 2017.

Some of the benefits include:

  • $5,000 available for each eligible co-founder based on milestones achieved
  • Dedicated startup space available all summer at McGill.
  • World-class mentorship and resources
  • Opportunity to pitch to investors at Demo Days in Montreal, Boston and San Francisco.


The focus this week was: Value proposition & Team-building


Day 1:

The cohort came in for breakfast, we introduced them to the program, everybody in the cohort met each other for the first time, we showed them their space, did some quick icebreakers, had lunch, and let them start working.


Day 2:

Jean-Nicolas Delage came in to talk at legals. He’s a partner at Fasken-Martineau, which helps startups from pre incorporation all the way to exit. Startup package includes incorporation and organization for share and being VC-ready, along with 2 hours of free consultation per month and all the templates you need to jumpstart your legals.

3 simple rules to use IP to your benefit:

  • Own what you say you own with clear assignment language in contracts
  • Spend your first dollars on trademarks.
  • Keep your house in order
    • Store your documents
    • Document your Open Source Policy

We also introduced the cohort to the Disciplined Entrepreneurship workbook by Bill Aulet, which uses his framework developed at MIT – this is going to be an extremely valuable companion for the startups throughout the accelerator as a roadmap that asks them to actively think through their processes and answer difficult questions.

Day 3:

Lisa Cohen gave a talk on team – extremely important. The way you hire & fire can literally make or break your team)

TMPF meetings: Internal X-1 team had meetings with each startup to really dig deep into what their goals are and how we can help achieve them. Each week, we’ll be holding internal meetings with the startups talking about the team, their market, their product, and their financials.

Day 4: 

Thibaud Marechal who first developed the X-1 after visiting MIT, came in to give a talk and a workshop on value proposition. He helped the teams come up with good answers as to why their product matters, why they’re credible, why now, and why people should join their cause.


Day 5:  

First Grilled by CEO session: Helge Seetzen (TandemLaunch) listened to each pitch and grilled them on their weaknesses. 

Helge’s takeaway: Manage risk. If you take risk in one area, be damn sure you’re minimizing it in other areas. For example, if you’re taking an R&D risk by making a brand new technology, don’t take market risks. 

There is such thing as unnecessary creativity. Take risks in the area where there’s huge reward. But it’s a smart move to be conventional and follow pre-existing templates in others.

That’s it for this week, we’ll see you back here for week 2.

Innovating with McGill: Additive Manufacturing – New materials and production methods

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 08:21
are pleased to invite you to a BREAKFAST CONFERENCE on: INNOVATING WITH MCGILL:
New materials and production methods Thursday, June 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. GUEST SPEAKERS Damiano Pasini, Ph.D., M.Eng. Professor, McGill Univ., Dept. of Mechanical Engineering Damiano’s main research thrust is the development of structures with controlled micro-architecture, where materials and/or space are optimally structured at the microscale to obtain unprecedented physical properties at the macroscale. His work finds a balance between fundamental and applied research, where Nature is often our object and source of inspiration. Joonphil Choi, Ph.D. Post-doctorate Researcher, McGill Univ., Dept. of Materials Engineering, Laboratory for Processing and Additive Manufacturing of Advanced Materials, led by Prof. Mathieu Brochu Joonphil is conducting processing-related research to increase the utilization and service performance of real-scale components fabricated from powder materials. His work focuses on preparation and synthesis of metallic powder and development of net-shaping technology of metallic powder including metal injection molding and additive manufacturing. Fiona Zhao, Ph.D., M.Eng. Assistant Professor, McGill Univ., Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
Director, Additive Design and Manufacturing Lab
Fiona’s research interests are focused on two central and connected themes, Sustainable Manufacturing and Additive Manufacturing (AM), to explore and discover applications for new and emerging additive manufacturing technologies, within a sustainable manufacturing perspective. Her research program includes the exploration of new multiscale and multidisciplinary design methods as well as part consolidation design for AM, the use of advanced technologies, and the integration of better computer software and metrology tools to improve production. Matt Kinsella, Ph.D., M.Sc. Assistant Professor, McGill Univ., Dept. of Bioengineering Matt’s research group has expertise in micro- and nanotechnologies for medical applications, applications of materials at the interface of the fields of Biology and Medicine, development of analytical and automated platforms for diagnosis, sensing, and monitoring of biological processes at the scales of molecules through tissues, and rapid prototyping technology for tissue constructs. Katya I. Marc, M.Eng., MBA McGill Univ., Industry Liaison Manager, the McGill EngInE Katya manages the McGill Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (EngInE) hub whose two-fold mission it to grow the R&D interactions between industry partners and the McGill’s Faculty of Engineering, and to encourage technological entrepreneurship through education, advice, mentoring, and funding. She has worked at McGill as a commercialisation and technology transfer officer, and has previous experience as an Industrial Technology Advisor with NRC-IRAP and as an engineer with Eastman. She holds bachelors and masters degrees in chemical engineering and an MBA, all from McGill University. OBJECTIVES

Is your business leveraging the extensive knowledge and creativity of Montreal’s unique university community to speed the development of your products?

Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing how we think about designing and producing new products. From customizing material properties or manufacturing biological tissue at the micro-scale, to rapid product prototyping, to mass product customization, to more material and energy efficient production of complex assemblies, these new technologies are triggering innovation in a vast array of applications ranging from surgical materials to prosthetics, from architectural and building materials through to jet engines.

Join us to learn how the multi-disciplinary talent at McGill University can be deployed to support your innovation.

The leaders of four McGill development teams focused on the technologies and applications of additive manufacturing will discuss their accomplishments in the field and their departments’ capabilities available to work on your specific projects.

Mrs. Katya Marc, McGill Industry Liaison manager, will discuss how McGill makes it easy for SME’s to work with McGill efficiently and effectively, with concrete examples of work done in the past.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how you can take advantage of McGill’s resources and to connect, one-on-one, with the experts who can help you bring your new products to market faster.

AUDIENCE Managers and founders of start-up and emerging companies LOCATION CEIM
20 Queen Street, 3rd floor
Montreal QC H3C 2M7 RSVP

Free entrance but registration is mandatory.

Nicole Bigras
Tel: (514) 866-0575, extension 200