McGill Dobson Chronicles

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Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the McGill Community
Updated: 7 hours 27 min ago

Takeaways from the Startup Financials Workshop

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:40

Editor’s Note: On the 7th of February, we held a Startup Financials Workshop to get the McGill Dobson Cup teams versed in the Finances 101 that they’ll have to know to move forward to the Finals. The presentation was lead by Rabih Atallah – Senior Manager, Commercial Banking, SME Market (National Bank), as well as Anthony Ferrara – Senior Manager and Market Lead, Life sciences and Health, Business Banking. (National Bank)

Have a detailed breakdown of your cash flow


  • To evaluate your liquidity
  • To maximize the use of your cash
  • To calculate your burn rate
  • To ensure your ability to meet short-term obligations
  • To secure more financing
  • To evaluate whether your projections are accurate.

Here are some tips on maximizing your cash flow:
  • Delay the payment of your accounts payable.
  • Use a credit card to pay your liabilities; you win a month delay to pay the balance and make points to be cashed in.
  • Make sure to keep only the required inventory to support your clients, as inventory can become a liability.
  • Structure your employees’ compensation with a mix of salary and short-term bonuses.
  • Minimize your investment in R&D (focus on your core business) and find partners to provide add-on services for a variable fee.
  • Consider leasing non-core materials vs. purchasing.
  • Discuss with your financial institution the option to have access to short-term funds (i.e. revolving credit line).
  • Improve the recoverability of your accounts receivable by giving discounts when a customer pays early.

Takeaways from the “How to Pitch” workshop

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 14:50

Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, January 31st we had Omer Dor (BEng’12,) give a workshop on How To Pitch. Omer was the co-founder and CEO of a company called MobiCare which was successfully acquired. 

1. Tell a story

The science is in. Human beings respond to stories: there’s simply no method in the book that’s more engaging and evocative than storytelling when it comes to transmitting information. If you think about human history, reading and writing are fairly recent developments. But oral storytelling has existed for millennia beyond that. The format is not only fun, but helps people remember information better because data can be linked to emotions. In other words, people won’t remember what you tell them if they don’t care. Step 1 is to make them care. With a story.

2. Practice

A polished pitch only comes through refinement. You have to put in the work. Here’s a secret: very few people will do this, surprisingly. Even though everybody’s heard the advice before. Even though you don’t have to put in THAT many hours for effective practice. It’s just too uncomfortable for most people to psychologically deal with feedback and then implement improvements. But that’s a good thing. Because if YOU DO, you’ll be way ahead of everybody else with a little bit of smart, hard work. Practicing in front of the mirror, your friends & family, is good, and that’s common advice. Let’s take it a step further. Go pitch in front of someone who YOU THINK has a great pitch.

3. Hook the audience right away

You can have an incredible presentation with lots of data, high polish, and a confident demeanor. But if nobody’s paying attention, you don’t really have a pitch. A great presentation doesn’t need to have you convincing people that they should pay attention to you. In reality, it should be win-win: they should ENJOY your presentation, and come away from it intrigued. One way to do this is #1: inserting a compelling story right at the beginning of your pitch, and then weave it throughout your pitch in an integrated way. For examples on how you can do this, check out our video library of pitches. 

4. Use visuals.

When you put up a picture, people instantly shift away from listening to you, to looking at what’s on the screen. Beginners ignore this. Intermediates are aware of it. Advanced presenters USE IT TO THEIR ADVANTAGE. If you’re aware of how powerful visuals can be when it comes to attracting your audience’s attention, you know that you should always search long and hard for the MOST compelling visuals. Don’t settle for the first result on Google Images. Use a few different sources to look for it. Consider paying for premium stock photos. Ask around.

Scott boosts his Chemistry mark by a whole letter grade with Basilisk!

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 19:45

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on – one of our McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 graduates.

Like many students, Scott often finds himself with little time to properly prepare for his exams.

Originally from Ontario and now his U2 year of Biochemistry at McGill, he still has no idea what he wants to do with his life – he’s just going with the flow. And that’s okay. But, like most of us, he wants to move forward and keep his doors open.

“I don’t have any specific goals like becoming a pharmacist, but I just want to be able to do a wide range of things if I wanted to. I don’t want my grades to be the limiting factor”, he says.

I don’t want my grades to be the limiting factor

The trouble with keeping your grades high in classes that end with “-ology” (especially ones high in memorization) is that professors often can’t afford the time it takes to create a “helpful amount” of practice questions to prepare you for their exams. And when they do, the questions are often outdated, or in no particular order making it difficult for students to identify which lecture(s) they need to spend more time on.

And that’s exactly what Scott found after his first midterm in the highly popular CHEM183: World of Chemistry – Drugs, a McGill course known for 3 things: the huge (600+) student capacity, the great professors, and the notoriously memorization-heavy multiple choice exams. Scott didn’t do quite as well as he would have liked. Luckily, there were still 2 exams left to improve his grade.


Why re-reading your notes doesn’t work

His study method of “re-reading and re-writing [his] notes” was not well-suited for this class. You see, in CHEM183, a superficial understanding of drugs and their outcomes wasn’t enough. You needed to understand the nuanced differences between different drug cause and effect well enough to be able to circle the right answer when faced with a multiple choice question where all 5 of the choices basically sound like the same thing.

When you re-read your notes, you trick your brain into thinking that it understands the material and that feels good. However, if you were to close your book and do a practice quiz, you’d quickly find the weaknesses in your understanding of the material.

A passive study method like re-reading and re-writing wasn’t enough: Scott needed instant feedback and an ACTIVE learning strategy.


How Basilisk helped Scott boost his grade by 10%

One day as he was scrolling through a carefully curated collection of memes on his facebook, he chanced upon a post about Basilisk in the CHEM183 page. Tired of his old study methods, he tried it out in a last-minute effort to prepare for his 2nd multiple choice exam.

This time, his studying was smooth.

“I used it to gauge how much I knew, or didn’t. If there was something I forgot or something I missed, I could write it down and go back to my notes to refresh it.”

One of the most important aspects of learning is getting feedback on what you know. The quicker it is, the faster you can learn. The problem is that most study methods (like re-reading and re-writing your notes) don’t give you any feedback, and fool you into thinking you know what you’re talking about. It’s easy, but it’s ineffective.

On the other hand, testing your knowledge by taking a practice quiz leaves no room for uncertainty. Either you know the answer and get the question right, or you learn. That’s why Scott used it: to gauge his understanding of the material.

“I studied 3 days before the exam, and the next day I’d just do practice questions to see how much I retained. Then I could see how much I knew and go back to my notes.”

Basilisk in action.

This time, Scott was a lot more confident walking into the exam room. And more importantly, he got a better grade. We asked him how much.

“For World of Chem, like…10% higher.”

That’s the difference between a B+ and an A.

Our secret? We only hire A students to make questions for you based on this year’s content, and all the questions are organized by lecture. When you sit down at your final exam, you’ll smile to yourself because you know the material inside and out. It was all in the Basilisk practice quiz you did the night before.

“[The questions] were pretty close to what the  exam ended up being, and the general difficulty level too,” Scott explained to us, relieved.

How you can improve YOUR grades with Basilisk

Scott’s a convert: he uses Basilisk for multiple classes (especially Pharmacology), because he knows it works.

Every student wants to do well in their classes, and for different reasons. Some want to get into medicine, some want to make their parents proud, and some want to master the material because it’s fun.

But maybe you’re like Scott. Maybe you just want to make sure that your grades are not the limiting factor when you step out into the real world to interview for your dream job.

And you’re not the only one. We’re working to support over 8000+ students at McGill alone, and you can join them by clicking below:

I want better grades in half the time!

Announcing Teams Competing in the Semi-Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 14:05

We’re excited to announce the McGill startup teams moving on to the Semi-Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 powered by National Bank. This annual startup competition at McGill University is hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship.

After an exhaustive and competitive application review process, 84 teams are moving on to the next round of the annual startup competition. The startups listed below will have the opportunity to pitch in front of world-class judges and mentors in the SEMI-FINALS of the McGill Dobson Cup scheduled for February 20-23, 2018.

Teams that make it past the SEMI-FINALS, will be invited to compete in the FINALS of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 scheduled for March 28, 2018. 

Get your tickets today for the Awards Ceremony on April 5, 2018 of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 powered by National Bank.

Join us on April 5, 2018 for the Awards Ceremony of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 where over $100,000 in seed funding will be awarded to the most promising McGill startups across four tracks: Innovation Driven Enterprise, Small & Medium Enterprise, Social Enterprise, and Health Sciences.

On April 5th, not only will we be marking the 10th Edition of the McGill Dobson Cup, we’ll also be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Additional Resources

For teams competing in the SEMI-FINALS of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018, here are some resources to help you prepare for your pitch.

1. We encourage you to use the Entrepreneurship Collaborative Space at the Dobson Centre. The Space is open from 10:00AM to 5:00PM Monday to Friday, located at 3430 Rue McTavish.

2. Mentorship Sessions are available for all teams competing in the McGill Dobson Cup

3. Attend one of the following workshops listed below. All of the events are free to attend, however registration is required as spaces are limited.

– Wednesday, January 31, 2018: How to Pitch Your Startup Workshop

– Wednesday, February 7, 2018: Startup Financials Workshop

– Wednesday, February 14, 2018Market Research Workshop

– February 20-23, 2018: SEMI-FINALS McGILL DOBSON CUP 2018

– Wednesday, February 28, 2018Public Speaking Workshop

– Thursday, March 22, 2018: The Business of Artificial Intelligence

– March 28, 2018: FINALS McGILL DOBSON CUP 2018

– Thursday, April 5, 2018McGill Dobson Cup 2018 Awards Ceremony / McGill X-1 Accelerator 2018 Applications Open 


Health Sciences Track – February 20, 2018

1. CURA Therapeutics: Developing innovative immunotherapies to cure pancreatic cancer and other solid tumors. Our patented technology inserted into viral vectors specific for cancer cells, targets and activates the immune system against cancer.

2. Docplus: A revolution in medical booking. Online Booking. Fast and easy, day and night.

3. e-Rehabilitation Advancement: Harnessing the power of AI and mobile phones to provide more accessible and personalized solutions to patients and physiotherapists.

4. EBHnow: EBHnow is a website that offers easy, instant and free access to evidence-based healthcare information, through a catalogue of nine fully developed applications addressed clinical decisions. EBHnow makes evidence-based healthcare a reality.

5. Foodoc: A C2C telehealth platform that connects Canadian dietitians with clients throughout the world.

6. Golden Water: Nanogold Plasmon Activating Water is a newly invented solvent that can reduce oxidative stress when consumed. It is the future of disease prevention and long-term health maintenance.

7. IntegOR: We are a multidisciplinary team of young professionals with disruptive ideas, aiming to maximize the capacity of the Canadian healthcare system to deliver care through improving efficiency amongst healthcare teams.

8. InVivo AI: InVivo AI is using artificial intelligence to streamline the development of new drugs. Our algorithms will empower pharmaceutical companies to bring therapies to market in less time and for less money than it takes today.

9. LineIQ Inc.: LineIQ aims to eliminate waiting rooms and queues by allowing customers to check-in remotely on their phones, monitor their place and be notified when their turn is near.

10. MedReqs: MedReqs serves as a secure online platform where medical professionals and patients can interact to make the treatment process more effective using advanced and accessible chip and scanner technology.

11. Monitrix: Monitrix is a simple solution helping hospitals to better monitor patient satisfaction and to quickly identify areas of improvement. Patient-satisfaction data collection, management and analysis are automated and personalized.

12. OstoMentor: OstoMentor is an all-in-one, personalized educational software designed to simplify the transition process for patients living with new stomas, to reduce medical complication rates, and to and improve patient satisfaction.

13. PHIRE: At PHIRE we are developing an application that empowers people to manage their medication through automated scheduling, drug alerts and real-time feedback, thereby reducing the risk of adverse drug events.

14. ProTech: ProTech serves to protect the well-being and autonomy of Canada‚Äôs aging population. The ProTech watch strives to put seniors back into the centre of their medical and social support network.

15. VitalTracer Ltd.: We are in the business of mobile health, personalized medicine and Home-care Health. We aim to create a convenient platform for those who have a need to track their vital signs.


Social Enterprise Track – February 21, 2018

1. Abil Design Inc.: Abil Design is a technology company that builds inclusive digital experiences. We strive to build platforms that serve the full range of human diversity with respect to ability and age.

2. ArtMatch: ArtMatch is bridging the gap between the owners of commercial spaces and local artists unable to afford gallery fees by providing them with a mobile platform to find each other with a few simple taps.

3. Brique par brique: Brick by Brick is a social enterprise whose mission is to create affordable and dynamic living spaces for marginalized people. Brick by Brick achieves this ambitious objective by providing more privileged members our communities with secure and competitive investment products that transfer capital from those that have to those that don’t.

4. Canadian Students’ Nightline Association: A non-profit organization focused on helping make Canadian universities a better, happier place through mental health support services. We do this by offering help to students at night through a phone line. This is ensured by training quality volunteers in active listening skills and more.

5. Colorful Zone: We want to make the world a better place with making happiness a lifestyle.
Our goal is: Add the little things in life that help us create our own happiness.

6. Didomi: A crowdfunding platform, linking donors in the developed world to individual and community led projects in the developing world.

7. Fondation EsengO: Fondation EsengO is an international not-for-profit corporation headquartered in Montreal; it focuses on improving family and professional relational health through teaching its 9 Essential Life Habits to cultivate joy.

8. GetLit: GetLit device is a hardware, which enables people to access education anywhere at anytime. We empower our users by giving them the opportunity to access and be educated.

9. HappyDel: HappyDel is a non-profit social enterprise that leverages the current high mobile and internet penetration in Africa to offer free active listening services and create awareness on mental health.

10. Harvest for Health: Harvest for Health is a green enterprise working with a global-social responsibility to bring the humanity to zero Hidden Hunger, through implementing a particular Socio-Ecological Food Fortification Model.

11. Haven Hub: Haven Hub aims to radically improve health outcomes of physically, emotionally, and socially vulnerable populations by widely distributing integrative medicine and personalized health services.

12. Here!: Here! is an internet platform where users can give and receive second hand items to prevent them from going to waste and purchasing new ones.

13. HomeRoom by SelfEmotion Inc.: HomeRoom is an online crowdsourcing platform for teachers and parents to share local mental health resources and collectively construct a safe space for their children.

14. HumaNuts (formerly Cajou): Our vision is to be the largest premium cashew processor and trader in Ivory Coast and to provide sustainable and attractive income opportunities to local farmers and their families.

15. Intensive Care Unit Bridge Program: We help the therapeutic alliance develop between hospital staff, patients, and their families in the Intensive Care Unit through university students that volunteer and shadow weekly within the unit.

16. JoatU: JoatU is an online marketplace that rewards community projects, promotes altruism, and helps build local communities.

17. Lambar-Qabso: Lambar-Qabso service is an online doctor’s booking appointment mobile app and website. Our service will make online booking for clinic appointments possible for the first time in Somalia.

18. Opportutoring: Opportutoring provides refugees with free one-to-one online English tutoring to open up their opportunities in their country of relocation.

19. Phoenix Furniture Regeneration: Sustainability driven company that works to reclaim waste furniture, recycle them and make them available at affordable price to the student community and for temporary needs.

20. Simple Manic Phase Monitoring: Simple Manic Phase Monitoring works to tackle the logistical, financial and systematic barriers preventing low-income patients with Bipolar Disorder from receiving medical intervention by providing low-cost automated symptom monitoring.

21. SnackTOP: SnackTOP aims to reduce food waste by using aesthetically un-appealing produce to create natural, innovative fruit and vegetable snacks that help consumers to STOP wasting food.

22. Verde Hub: A communal hub that promotes, educates, and empowers sustainability through food, events, art, and collaboration for students and young professionals.

23. Viveau: Enabling access to higher quality drinking water: Viveau is an initiative aimed to improve the life and health of unprivileged populations lacking access to clean and safe drinking water.

24. Wiyaka Beauty: Wiyaka Beauty is a social enterprise transforming personal care products created by Indigenous workers into natural cosmetics that provide customers with cultural, spiritual and social connections to the Indigenous community.


Small Medium Enterprise Track – February 22, 2018

1. ArtVenture: ArtVenture is the first bespoke art market analytic tool that help collectors to make well-informed art investment decisions, bringing real-time auction information, data analytics, market research in one integrated platform.

2. Branch: Branch is a software startup seeking to increase productivity and employee satisfaction in the workplace. It wants to change the way people work.

3. BreakBuddy: Since thousands of students all have different school schedules, they all have different breaks. BreakBuddy is a FREE application that provides “All your friends’ breaks. All in one place.

4. Bright Media Advertising: We are a small startup focused on outdoor mobile digital advertising. We advertise through the use of digital tops mounted on the roofs of taxies that gravitate to areas with high densities of pedestrians and commuters in order to generate large numbers of impressions.

5. CAPTR: No more tedious Google-searches or “shot-in-the-dark” Facebook requests. CAPTR makes booking a photographer easy.

6. Chef-Mate: Chef-Mate is a mobile application that uses optimization methodologies to help users manage groceries more efficiently. It recommends dishes and provide cooking instructions based on historical grocery receipts and user preference.

7. DogR: An all in one mobile application that seeks to help dog owners having enough information and make them save their time while helping dogs enjoying more the dog park.

8. Entr: Discover unique spaces and book everything you need to host the perfect event.

9. JobSlide: An innovative way to apply to jobs and look for employees? A way to market yourself professionally? A platform developed by students, for students? Think LinkedIn meets Tinder, think JobSlide!

10. JPondE: JpondE is a food company that produces, processes and delivers African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) products mainly for African Cuisine in Canada. These catfish products are delivered fresh, smoked and dried, or mashed.

11. NightLoop: NightLoop is a crowdsourced news network of nightlife events in real-time, all through the eyes of students.

12. Nimbus Tutoring Inc.: Nimbus Tutoring Inc. is a mobile peer-to-peer tutoring platform that strives to promote education by connecting students to passionate tutors for in-person tutoring lessons.

13. Racine Creations 3D: At Racine Creations 3D, our mission is to enable teams to create through additive manufacturing by providing them with the quality tools and services they need.

14. reMIXed: reMIXed transforms the concept of traditional trail mixes by introducing dehydrated beans and re-purposed fruit, providing an affordable alternative that combats food waste.

15. Shohm: Shohm connects students with landlords through a platform that provides transparency. We then facilitate every step of a landlord-tenant relationship from communication to lease signing to payment.

16. SitFitt: We are the first co-working space completely designed around health and wellness.

17. SlideIn: A simple and easy-to-use online platform to outsource the mundane part of a projects presentation.

18. Stellar Talent Acquisition Group (STAG): Specializing in the recruitment and hiring of highly trained PhD students for the non-academic world.

19. Stiila: Stiila is a platform dedicated to creating community connections and promoting locals to local communities.

20. Toro Matcha Inc.: Toro Matcha is Canada’s ready-to-drink Matcha. Made with organic Japanese matcha green tea, it is an innovative option for those who want to fuel their life with healthy energy.

21. TranscendFinals Inc.: TranscendFinals Inc. is a crash course tutoring company made by students for students. The company was built with the purpose of improving the learning experience of university and college students.

22. Ugly Harvest: Comprising primarily “ugly” vegetables, pulses, and grains, Bagelution by Ugly Harvest is a vegan and gluten-free wholesome meal that is not only satisfying, but is also an on-trend initiative for limiting food waste.

23. Where2Find: Can’t find which store is selling Paprika Powder? Search for what you are looking for in the app and get results for the best and cheapest products in a store near you.


Innovation Driven Enterprise Track – February 23, 2018

1. Aventa: For political campaigns, Aventa uses AI to predict political preferences and voting behaviour, and provide messaging and strategy that increases turnout for our client at the ballot box.

2. Avro AR: Avro AR helps maintenance and field service representatives increase their efficiency by providing them with hands-free state-of-the-art industrial augmented reality software, connecting them to company databases and remote support experts like never before.

3. Axiom: Our mission is to provide everyone with an official secure digital identity.

4. BlueCiTech: BlueCiTech has developed a smart city platform to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity to provide solutions that will improve quality of life.

5. Calvin Payments: Calvin Payments radically reduces the wait time in restaurants by simplifying the payment process to the benefit of both consumers and establishments using computer vision.

6. DisruptEd Enterprises: DisruptEd Enterprises is the easiest way to master your courses and increase your academic performance by enhancing engagement in the classroom, optimizing access to information and improving communication between students & professors.

7. Fifty50 Casino: Unlike other online casino-type games that offer traditional and seemingly repetitive casino games, Fifty50 Casino offers both traditional and new forms of entertainment, all customized to give players even odds of winning virtual coins against the house.

8. FYT: FYT is an Artificial Intelligence powered personal trainer housed on a smartphone application that provides customized workouts based on user’s individual needs.

9. Haply Robotics: Haply Robotics is a simulation company that is integrating the sensation of touch into our electronic devices. Their goal is to bring high-end simulation tools to the classroom.

10. Inti Aerospace: At Inti Aerospace, we deliver a vertical solution for large scale agricultural surveying, that encompasses long-range drones, big data processing and cloud-based analytics.

11. KiBi: Bracelet integrating all the functions of the wallet and backed by a highly secure mobile app, allowing the user to personalize his usage of the different elements available to him.

12. Lotus: Lotus Water Technologies aims to create a sustainable water future providing affordable water made from thin air using solar energy.

13. MinuteBox Inc.: MinuteBox is an end-to-end cloud-based corporate minute book management service for law firms and their clients, combining physical minute book scanning, artificial intelligence based parsing, document automation and government filing.

14. Ori Technology: Ori Technology endeavours to maintain the protective capabilities of football helmets by signalling when a helmet’s air pockets have deflated to a level no longer optimal for head protection.

15. Quokka: Quokka is an employee recognition and rewards platform tackling high staff turnover, low motivation at job in business by offering perks, recognition badges, loyalty programme, milestones challenges embedded in blockchain-based network.

16. Spinyt Technologies Inc.: Spinyt allows restaurant owners to create flash deals to attract students to their restaurant taking advantage of the economics of supply and demand in real-time.

17. SWTCH: SWTCH is committed to improving electric vehicle (EV) charging accessibility in urban multi-tenant settings. Our AI-powered EV charging management platform optimizes charging accessibility through machine-learning-based enforcement, scheduling, and energy management.

18. Thinkwire: Thinkwire is a thought leadership discussion platform. Thinkwire allows brands to run text-based roundtables and interviews via LinkedIn. Thinkwire hosts these discussions in a white-label micro-site so brands can build content and community, year-round.

19. TravelBudd: TravelBudd is a social networking app that matches culturally similar long-term travellers and gives privileged access to local tips to provide easy settlement and a feeling at home in a foreign land.

20. UltraSense: UltraSense aims to improve water quality monitoring systems with low-cost, high-precision sensors realized with integrated graphene technology.

21. Volt: A company made up from the sheer curiosity of young minds who have not been influenced by the harsh realistic realities of this world – Attempting to create energy in revolutionary ways.

22. Zillow: Zillow is a technology start-up based in Montreal that makes affordable smart pillows which prevent one from snoring. Zillow will help you and your love one gets quality sleep.

The post Announcing Teams Competing in the Semi-Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

5 legal pitfalls you should avoid when building your startup

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 19:19

Editor’s Note: On January 24, 2018, we held a Startup Legals event to help get everybody (especially the participants in the 2018 McGill Dobson Cup) up to speed about what they need to know and what they don’t. Whether it’s about patents, incorporation, or shareholders’ agreements, these are important questions that every startup faces at the beginning of their journey.

Our speakers included Philippe-Olivier Daniel from PodLegal, Camille Provencher & Leonardo Lombardi from the Compass Legal Clinic (which provides pro bono legal advice for startups), and Scott Rozansky from Dentons Canada LLP.

The Compass Startup Legal Clinic strives to provide valuable legal information to entrepreneurs who would otherwise be unable to obtain or fully comprehend the implications of such information, and, at the same time, create a practical learning environment for participating McGill law students.

#1. No shareholder’s agreement

 Although it might be an uncomfortable conversation to have, you need to figure out exactly what the terms and conditions of your shareholders’ agreement are. That way, you’re protecting yourselves down the line from each other and from investors who may try to take over when you don’t serve their interests. For both legal and financial reasons, a shareholders’ agreement is a MUST for startups.

#2. Inappropriate templates

Generic templates are no good. Every company is different, and therefore has different needs. A medical technology startup that has developed patent-pending technology is different from a startup that makes awesome muffins. You can’t copy-paste company A’s template and expect it to to work for company B. A good lawyer will know what templates are right for you based on their initial meeting with you. Keep in mind that companies like PodLegal and Fasken-Martineau provide unlimited templates for a fixed fee.

#3. Ignoring regulations

Do thorough research on your industry within the city you want to operate in. Every place has different laws and regulations: whether it’s food, alcohol, taxis, dietician services, or medical approval, there are usually some barriers before you can enter the market and start selling. The website of your provincial government is a good place to start doing your research.

#4. Unenforceable contracts

If you don’t have a way of measuring or proving a behavior that your contract is meant to defend from, don’t put it in the paperwork.

#5. Inaccurate corporate records

 Whether you’re outsourcing it, using software, or doing it yourself, always keep an up-to-date set of records of EXACTLY what’s going on in the company. This includes things like:

  • articles of amendment, including amended articles of incorporation or restated articles of incorporation
  • by-laws and their amendments
  • any unanimous shareholder agreement
  • minutes of meetings and shareholder resolutions
  • notices that have been filed
Want to learn more about startup legals? Read this book: Venture Deals.

The post 5 legal pitfalls you should avoid when building your startup appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

The Business Model Canvas: A Tool for Starting and Reshaping your Startup (Startup Bootcamp recap)

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 19:44

Editor’s Note: On Saturday January 13th, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship held its 2018 edition of the Startup Bootcamp – an annual, full-day event where potential entrepreneurs come in to get prepped for the McGill Dobson Cup, as well as what comes after. 

After a round of inspiring speeches from our Associate Director Renjie Butalid, as well as angel investor Tim Tokarsky, we offered several different options depending on the needs of our attendees: a starting block for those without an idea or team, and pitch practice with judges for those who are already on their way. The starting block was focused on developing the idea and building a great team, as well as best practices when it comes to pitching. On the other hand, pitch practice was useful to get real feedback from experienced business mentors. After lunch, we all gathered for some important lessons and final pitches.

But arguably the most powerful lesson for most people thinking about business, was the presentation on the Business Model Canvas, delivered by Renjie Butalid. Our writer Hasan Bilgen found a way to scale the lessons learnt, and share it with ALL of our readers – this article.

Before we jump into it though, here are the slides from the bootcamp:

The Business Model Canvas can help you think about all the different types of hypotheses for your business. They’re hypotheses because you don’t know if they’re true or not just yet. This uncertainty comes from having to actually go out there and look to see if you are actually addressing the concerns you think your business is addressing. You can’t take your business’s structure for granted and you can’t assume everyone on you team is really on the same page.

So who are your customers? What are you offering? Is your team all talking about the same customers? Following this model allows your team to have a conversation about your business and customers and to more clearly define your company’s internal and external organization.

If your team can go through the Business Model Canvas and answer all the questions then you will have a clear pathway to creating and writing your business plan.

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value”

What is the business model canvas?

Think of this model as wording your business in a simple way: 3 or 4 words, so you can know how your business will be functioning: the customers, the financials, the labour. This is the dissection of your whole idea for everything. Remember, the McGill Dobson Cup Business Plan is short (5-pages), you should be struggling to condense all of the background, vision, prospects, and success of your company.

Going through this model is a way to think and express the most important things precisely and effectively–it is a visual snapshot of your entire company. It can also be value changing, it can really change how you think you know the operations of all that you are actually doing. It will help you express your ideas by thinking of your business differently and possibly connecting different aspects of your team that haven’t been before. Your company is creating value, it is solving a problem being wanted by customers, and it is your job to also capture this value.

Here’s an example, using LinkedIn:

The 9 Building Blocks:


This is your elevator summary of your startup – three or four sentences which can sum up your company’s vision. What are you offering customers? What is it that is getting done for them? Why should they care? You have to create a need for your company to exist and understanding why and how you are needed is the key. If the customers you are trying to reach can’t see why they should need you, then you need to change how you target them till they think that they couldn’t possibly live without you.


Which customers and users are you serving? Which jobs do they really want done? If you say your target group is ‘everybody’ you need to narrow that down…a lot. You cannot create a startup trying to target everyone. If you do that, then you will target no one. How do you stand out? When Zuckerberg started Facebook his target community was just Harvard . It was only after he captured that market he expanded to other Ivy League Universities, then Universities in general, and only then, the world.  

Furthermore, are you sure you are targeting the right people. 18-30? 18-22? Being 27 is very different than being 20. You must be nuanced in how you break down the assumptions of your customer segment. Uber used the rule of 3’s. Identify (1) where, (2) who, (3) how. They started with a pilot in (1) San Francisco with a  target market of (2) individuals in the tech industry earning over a 100k a year (3) using their mobile beta app, and it worked! After their trial in S.F. they went to New York City with same variables, and so on. Only now do we all know Uber. Focus on getting to know a niche market’s customers – and the only way you can do that is by talking to them!


How does each customer segment want to be reached? Through which interaction points? For example, professionals may want to be contacted through LinkedIn while 16 year olds may be best reached through social media like SnapChat or Instagram. You don’t need to (and you shouldn’t) be on every single platform, just the ones that actively promote your company to your target audience.


What relationships do you establish with each segment? Personal? Automated? Acquisitive? Retentive? You want customer loyalty. There is no point, or sustainability, in signing up many one-time customers. It’s cheaper to have a customer keep on coming back to make purchases than to get a 100 new, one-time customers every week. How will you establish loyalty for customers? (Air Miles card, Sephora card, etc.,) What program can you create to retain loyalty?


What are customers really willing to pay for? How? Are you generating transactional or recurring revenues? There are many different ways to go about it. One-time transactions are the easiest but perhaps your company needs a subscription service, or maybe customers can buy in blocks, or maybe you offer it for free to a certain amount and then charge premium, or maybe you start premium right off the bat. You should find the most efficient and customer preferred method of payment for your company.


Which resources underpin your business mode? Which assets are essential? How do you deliver? If you ‘need’ an office, you don’t need a real office, a living room will do. Need wi-fi? Maybe go to a coffee shop. It isn’t important to have everything yet, but you NEED to articulate what resources you do and will need, including human knowledge or labour! If your team doesn’t have everyone (or thing) it needs to have, prioritize finding a way to be complete.


What activities do you need to perform well in your business model? What is crucial? If you need 100 sign-ups, then you need sales people. If you are an app focused on students then you might need to research where students gather. Find out what your team needs to know to be delivering  your value proposition.


Which partners and suppliers leverage your model? Who do you need to rely on? Through whom can you earn credibility? You’re a seemingly unproven team but you can use previous references and experiences to establish relationships and partnerships right off the bat which could lead to users. If you want people to trust you, show them that they can through other people who have trusted you, or highlight how you are right for the job.


This all costs money; you want these resources to deliver, you want to pay people to do these activities., What is the resulting cost structure? Which key elements drive your cost? By going through the 9 blocks your company will be able to articulate what it needs to construct and operate under an appropriate sustainable business model.


If you don’t have these basic answers it’s okay because your startup is a work in progress, but to start becoming successful you need to be able to breakdown and answer these questions. You can also use something like this to deconstruct similar companies or competition to compare and set up.

Back to the concept of hypotheses, you don’t know if these are true and the best way to test them is with going to customers. If your model works then keep going and add improvements. Otherwise, pivot, make small changes where you saw deficits, and remember to always be learning. This model is just one way that you can Build, Measure, and Learn how your startup is doing and it’s the role of a successful startup to be constantly, quickly, and effectively be monitoring their performance this way.

What’s Next?
  • January 17, 2018: Application Deadline @ 11:59PM – McGill Dobson Cup 2018
  • January 24, 2018: Startup Legals, Protecting Your IP & How to Incorporate your Startup
  • January 31, 2018: How to Pitch Your Startup Workshop
  • February 7, 2018: Startup Financials Workshop
  • February 14, 2018: Market Research Workshop
  • February 20-23, 2018: Semi-Finals – McGill Dobson Cup 2018 and much more!

Learn more about our events at

The post The Business Model Canvas: A Tool for Starting and Reshaping your Startup (Startup Bootcamp recap) appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

Founder Spotlight: Yves Guillaume A. Messy from QGS Technologies Ltd.

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 18:45

Editor’s Note: This week, our founder spotlight is about Yves Guillaume A. Messy: Political Science student, self-taught programming genius, and founder of the insurance startup QGS Technologies. Buckle up for a long conversation with Yves Guillaume about his background, his company, entrepreneurship, and some interesting reads and personalities to look up to.

Dobson Chronicles (D.C.): Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is?

Yves Guillaume A. Messy, founder of QGS Technologies

Yves Guillaume A. Messy (Y.M.): My name is Yves Guillaume Messy. I was born in Sub-Saharan Africa, and moved to Canada as a political refugee. I went to high school here, in Ottawa and in the Greater Toronto Area, before studying Political Science at the University of Toronto. I originally intended to study engineering prior to moving to Canada, which may explain how technical or mathematical my view of political science and international relations eventually unfolded. The rise of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence provided me with a unique opportunity to deploy machine learning and quantum computing -driven models of how international politics work and apply this view to financial markets.  So in this way, I’m an accidental scientist, and still a definite foreign policy nerd.


D.C.: And what is it that drove you towards Political Science?

Y.M.: I had an early interest in global affairs, to the point where I still have this vivid memory of me at 10 years old watching the news, looking at Koffi Annan at the UN with intense interest. Since then I studied, volunteered, got involved in, or otherwise explored various ways to personally make an impact on some of the pressing global issues we face today, from access to finance among what Paul Collier refers to as “the bottom billion”, to human security issues, to issues of war and peace. Having this engineering disposition and this focus on the study of war and peace and global affairs, it seemed like a natural progression that I would take political science models that we traditionally were taught, and pretty much insert them into Big Data and Artificial Intelligence-related analytics, which is what brings me here today!


D.C.: You say you have an engineering disposition, but how did you concretely come to master the actual skills behind programming and that exposure to innovative technologies that you leverage in your startup?

Y.M.: Of course you can take coding classes in university, but I was lucky enough to to be really into video games when I was 10 or 11, so I have a little bit of a history playing with MS-DOS and Windows 95 from the command line, sometimes take video games apart or get free ones. And even though I took 6 or 7 years off of that to study political science intensely, with logic and math at the core of my approach, I had an easier time than most in relearning the main languages a few years later. It was easier for me to learn the basics of C++, Python, and Java, computational logic and basic data structures and algorithms, thanks to my earlier educational background. At the end of the day, to me, social sciences and computer science are both about logic and probability theory. That link what allows me to navigate both spaces from an interdisciplinary perspective.


D.C.: You learned programming on your own, so would ”student during the day – programmer at night” describe accurately your experience?

Y.M.: Exactly. Being a student at the University of Toronto was an immense privilege since the school has the third largest library system in the world. I had access to the best academic and hands-on resources available on C++, Java and Python, and then looked around for additional textbooks on data structures online. The issue for me was to find out what was the best language available out there to translate political systemic behavior into logic language. And I guess that quest led me from political science to logic, to stats, to mathematical logic, all the way to AI research and programming. Again, there are resources online available for simple translations, textbooks to help you implement programs, but at the core of it, it’s all logic and statistics.


D.C.: And so those long nights of studying led to the birth of QGS Technologies, the startup you founded. Can you tell us about what it is and what it does?

Y.M.: Yes, by the time we’re done with QGS Technologies, we want the political environment of an investment destination to be no more important than its temperature, when making the decision whether or not to invest. We recognize that political uncertainty overall will increase to highest levels seen pre-World War II, so our mission to reduce, or even eliminate political uncertainty’s ability to expensively prevent investment decisions from being made. QGS Technologies and our software, was a hobby research project initially, but two major political surprises Donald Trump’s election and the Brexit vote, combined with the hysteria that followed from both, motivated us to put a working solution out there as soon as possible. The timing worked out.


 If you enjoyed reading about this story, you might also like: Recap: The Future of Technology – 3D Audio, AI, and Blockchain, or even AI and FinTech: Takeaways from the Canada Forum

D.C.: About your company now, what is the key value that you are trying to create for investors?

Y.M.: Prior to starting QGS Technologies, my core business experience lied in private equity and venture capital; as an advisor, analyst, and limited partner, looking at risky emerging and frontier market investment destinations like Niger, Senegal, and Brazil as investment destinations. These often present a dilemma for institutional investors, not much data to gauge the risk and the evidence on the ground is often anecdotal at best, and often comes with a lot of moral hazard and reliability issues. To me, having that uncertainty reduced to a number at all times, to contribute to market participants’ risk management and investment decision-making models is key. This is effectively what we do for investors, we make this previously unavailable talk to our clients in real-time, in a way they and their models can understand, this saves them time and money, it augments their decision-making abilities.


D.C.: So you provide them with this number, and then based on their appetite for risk, investors will adjust their decisions accordingly.

YM: Exactly. We are working to provide one of the fastest real-time scores of any financial investment’s political risk outlook. For example, the typical  private equity deal takes 6 months of due diligence, after which, investors decide whether or not to invest in a deal meeting. They then get stuck in politically risky investment destinations for five to seven years based on some of the most casually political considerations seen in finance today. We want to give investors that political agility, model it, and insert it into their workflow and board meetings, thanks to artificial intelligence’s recent progresses. That is fairly new stuff. Now, investors will be able to see the evolutions of the political situation in real-time and have a ‘liquid’ outlook of their investments’ political context. To us, this is key to increasing ease of access to finance worldwide.


D.C.: And so without trying to steal your secret ingredients, what are some of the technologies you leverage to achieve those goals?

Y.M.: We leverage open data and purchase others. We also use natural language processing, sound, video, and some other techniques such as traditional machine learning, some unconventional artificial intelligence techniques, and some really interesting big data visualization techniques that enable us to make sense of the huge amounts of data at once, because it can be overwhelming.


D.C.: During your last presentation at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, you mentioned that you are also using virtual reality to streamline the due diligence process. Are you using proprietary equipment?

Y.M.: We prefer to be hardware agnostic, to focus on building a virtual reality platform for government relations and asset management exchanges, powered by blockchain technology. Blockchain technology will be key to this platform, to allow for cheaper verifiability (and therefore trust) between investment decision makers and the stakeholders they deal with for advice as they consider international investment. So for example, if you’re in New York, and you want to invest in a Brazilian opportunity, but you don’t have time to tour to the facilities and check on recent changes in the local political and regulatory environment, we hope to make it possible for you in days, not half-years. We have, however, looked seriously at custom hardware in Shenzen, China, specifically, but this is very much exploratory at the moment.


D.C.: How did you jump from having the concept and doing your research as a hobby to realizing your ideas into a business?

Y.M.: It was a bit of an accident, to be honest. I was at a conference in London around this date last year, where I heard a prominent banker speak about the implications of the Trump election on world markets, and how bankers couldn’t have seen it coming. He was explaining how events such as Brexit or the Trump election are not foreseeable, and I was sitting there in a room full of some of the smartest people in the world of finance, realizing that there were a few simple data points that could really help them see the big picture better. As a political commentator on these issues, I’ve had a track record of forecasting political surprises rather consistently, since the rise of emerging markets back in 2010. It occurred to me that, if I can manage to formally model some of my intuition forecasting dozens of earlier similar political surprises, these financial market participants’s work would become a whole lot easier, with respect to political risk. From then on, I started working with investment managers directly, to get a clearer picture of what’s being done poorly today. Engaging directly and validating some of my assumptions also showed me how and why some of the lesser quality political forecasts get made today. We are leveraging these lessons today, as part of our product design process.

D.C.: So it’s been about a year since that breakthrough moment. Where is QGS now? Are you already in operation?

Y.M.: We pitched the idea at a competition called Startup Bootcamp Insurtech in London, which was one of the first insurance technology competitions worldwide. At the time, we went from concept to proof of concept, which is what got us into the competition, and on to the final round but didn’t end up making the final cut because we lacked the capacity to service more than a few people at a time. So I went back to Canada to focus on scalability, quality assurance, and product validation. Based on these efforts, we were able to fine-tune our proposition, making it available became able to prototype users via APIs, robot-advisors (conversational computing interfaces) and some basics of our virtual reality solution. We are about to get into the go-to-market phase to make an alpha version of our software available to a wider audience.


D.C.: This is very exciting! So what is your vision for QGS in the future?

Y.M.: The way I see QGS going, I would like to see most international financial centers, from Tokyo to London to Paris or New York using Geoff, our AI, comfortably, as a risk-management colleague in a way. We want to make sure that we become a tool of reference when it comes to political risk in international investment management going forward. Hopefully, by next year, most financial centers will have some kind of QGS software available.

In terms of our business model, right now our beachhead strategy is to provide data on a Software as a Service basis. From there, we plan to add robo-advisors and virtual reality goodies to an eventual beta launch.


D.C.: Who are you currently working with on QGS Technologies?

Y.M.: QGS Technologies is a distributed team, which means that we are not bound by geography, but we have a core team of eight and a peripheral team made of crowdsourced efforts. Some of the core team members are people I was already with during the London startup competition, and some aren’t. Typically, I’ve learned that there are different teams to meet different needs at different stages of startup growth. We’ve been interviewing rigorously people from around the world, and our team now counts people from France, Brazil, the UK, Greece, Canada, and China. What matters is their ability to be comfortable in a virtual space and distributed teams, and their willingness to tackle complex problems at the intersection of political science and programming.


D.C.: Thank you for answering questions about your company. The McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship seeks to inspire entrepreneurs in the McGill community, so now has come the time for a little inspiration! I’ll start with a basic question: what is your definition of an entrepreneur?

Y.M.: To me, an entrepreneur is a problem solver who’s comfortable looking outside of the box, possibly with a sense of urgency. Entrepreneurship seemed a natural thing to me because I come from a family with a long tradition and experience in entrepreneurship, going back to 1935. I’m still learning to think in other ways!


D.C.: Would you define yourself as a risk-taker?

Y.M: Yes, in a way. One thing I’ve seen is that the more success I meet going forward, the better I get at taking calculated risks. Most people see a lot of risk in some things, but they simultaneously fail to see the risk in others “safe” options. The world of business, society overall actually, is being disrupted left and right, every day, in ways no one is able to foresee. You could say that given the future of work brought about by AI and other exponential technologies, doing nothing, not daring a little, is the riskiest move of all.


D.C.: What would be your biggest advice for our community?

Y.M.: The biggest advice I can give is to really get out of your bubble, of your comfort zone. We’ve never lived in such a time when established models of functioning are changing so fast and fundamentally. You need to always keep an eye on adjacent innovation hubs. Hang out in other faculties’ buildings, talk to people. Going forward, people who will thrive the most are those who are able to be post-disciplinary. One thing I’ve seen is that the ability to see across disciplinary boundaries enables you to see change sooner than colleagues who are stuck in silos.


D.C.: Can you tell us about the people that you admire and inspire you?

Y.M.: Oh dear, that’s a tricky one! First off, obviously Muhammad Yunus, who is a great inspiration. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him on a few occasions at the University of Toronto during my school time. As someone with a passion for access to finance, human security and international development questions, I was very curious the first I came across Banker to the Poor, one of his books about social entrepreneurship. The fact that he was able to use business methods to bring human security, dignity, and innovation at the grassroots SME level to most of the developing countries today is amazing.

Another one would be Ray Dalio, head of Bridgewater Associates, a US hedge fund. He has a very systematic, logical, and empirical way of looking at real world situations, in his case in Finance. But more than that, he is disciplined and rigorously focused on real-time learning from both mistake and successes while in business. That principled approach to change is  inspiring.

And finally, Christine Lagarde. She is legendary, both as a policy-maker and as a trustee of financial stability, international cross-cultural consensus, and empathetic leadership whilst at the helm of International Monetary Fund. She did this right through, and past, more than a decade-long financial recession.  She’s an inspiration on all accounts.


D.C.: Finally, do you have some great reads or resources that you would like to share with us?

Y.M.: I would suggest a book called the Mathematical Corporation by Angela Zutavern and Josh Sullivan, and The Seventh Sense, by Joshua Cooper Ramo. These books will tell you everything you need to know to start thinking about disruption today.


D.C.: What are preferred sources for keeping up with international news and political issues?

Y.M.: I really focus on the Financial Times and the Washington Post, and I try to keep up with anything by the Eurasia Group, which I find very useful.


D.C.: Thank you for your time, I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview. Best of luck to you with QGS Technologies and we hope to see you again soon at McGill!


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Recap: The Future of Technology – 3D Audio, AI, and Blockchain

 AI and FinTech: Takeaways from the Canada Forum

 Startupfest 2017 Recap – The Future of Everything

The post Founder Spotlight: Yves Guillaume A. Messy from QGS Technologies Ltd. appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.