Last night was Montreal’s first StartupCamp, which was held at the fabulous facilities of the SAT on St-Laurent just below Ste-Catherine. It was a very well-run event that featured 5 interesting startups and a couple of great keynote speeches bracketing the startup presentations.
Sylvain Carle liveblogged Graham Hill’s keynote so I won’t write much about it other than to say that guys like Graham are important to listen to. The message is essentially quite simple – listen to and respect your clients/customers, don’t complicate things, and be wary of money and strings.
The startup presentations were generally good though not great. In a couple of cases the products being presented were significantly more interesting than their founders’ presentations, and frankly that’s an important problem that Montreal-based entrepreneurs are going to have to improve on as we continue to develop the web/tech startup space in the city.
First up was Cozimo, which is an online graphical asset sharing application that allows companies to create collaborative workspaces in which to work on graphics (and video) files in an iterative fashion with virtual teams and clients. There are a lot of collaboration tools out there, but having gone to the site after the event last night, Cozimo is clearly raising the bar in terms of the overall quality of the experience and the richness of the tool they provide. Unfortunately the presentation given didn’t make that nearly obvious enough – they should have devoted most of their time to simply demoing the site rather than talking about it. Cozimo is going to be at DEMO 08 next week, and I think they’ll do much better in that very strict format.
The second presenter was Marc Gingras from Tungle, who is also a veteran of DEMO. I already knew something about Tungle having watched the video of their demo at DEMO (!), and Marc is a very good speaker whose product and value proposition came across very well. Tungle is all about providing tools to coordinate meetings beyond the corporate network, and from what I can tell, they’re getting a lot of the details right. One of the questions following his presentation was important though – if most people don’t know that meeting management functions are built into Outlook (and that is a key point in Tungle’s presentation) it’s not clear how making it even more remote from users is going to foster adoption. You can take that further still – I don’t remember the last time I tried to set up a meeting consisting of 100% Outlook/Windows users – but nevertheless Tungle plans to go to market without any real solution for Mac users let alone Linux folks.
Next up was Streametrics who have a solution that enhances the ability to measure and monitor online video presentations. Although it’s pretty clear that the ability to measure online video usage is important, I wasn’t at all clear on how Streametrics can really enhance this in practice. Their dashboard seemed relatively interesting, but for such a solution to work it has to be platform agnostic, I would think, and Streametrics confused me as to whether they are or are not able to integrate with all of the existing video sharing sites (i.e., YouTube, Facebook, etc.). Nevertheless it’s probably a good target for a VC because the exit strategy is clear – sell out to one of the incumbent monitoring companies whether or not the tech is ready for prime time.
Fourth was iGotcha Media, a company that is trying to establish itself in the interactive display medium. One of the founders presented and did a pretty good job, although comparing adoption rates of interactive displays to the Internet was a big mistake – it’s not a reasonable comparison because the scope of the audience of end-users is radically different. Although iGotcha has some interesting clients, it seems that their model is essentially an agency/service approach, which can be profitable but is an entirely different proposition for a VC.
Last up was YourTeleDoctor.com. There’s not much to say about it, frankly. The presentation was distracting (although I was happy that at least one presentation was given in French), and the business itself needs a radical re-think before it stands any chance of success. I have worked in their field for a dozen years, on and off, and I know that they won’t be able to do a credible public launch for a long time – there are too many structural issues in the Canadian health care environment that they don’t seem to be addressing in any way. Most importantly, their message seems that they will enable clients to engage with their existing physicians – but in fact the service will only be an option for physicians who opt out of the public system entirely. In general, they don’t seem to understand their business environment very well, which is a killer for a startup.
The end of the evening was given to Albert Lai, a serial entrepreneur from Toronto who gave a fantastic, tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating presentation about how he is a huge failure (not!) and how failing quickly has allowed him to be pretty lucky. I think some of the audience didn’t really get the art of his presentation – but it was one of the best conference keynotes I’ve ever seen.
Update: Denis at Quebec Valley has also posted a recap of last night’s event
Update 2: Here’s Heri Rakotomalala’s summary from Montreal Tech Watch.