MTLinTECH aims to build the platform that will allow Montreal to shine outside the province and the country, by sharing with the world the host of things happening in Montreal's thriving tech and startup community.
Montreal’s Landr, an AI-powered platform for musicians, is raising $26 million in Series B investment money.
The round was led by Sony Innovation Fund, microphone manufacturer Shure, state-owned financing corporation Investissement Québec and Fonds de solidarité FTQ, with investments from Warner Music, Plus Eight Equity Partners, Slaight Communications, YUL Ventures and PEAK Capital Partners.
“Having the support of established music companies like Sony, Shure and Warner as well as music industry investors such as Plus Eight and Slaight is a vote of confidence, and marks the start of a new chapter for LANDR,” said CEO Pascal Pilon. “This Series B will allow us to take our knowledge and expertise in music technology to new market shifting directions.”
The cash is coming via a $7 million convertible note from Investissement Québec and other investors, along with $19 million of equity from group of investors.
Landr offers a cloud-based, AI-powered mastering dashboard, using data from over 10 million tracks. The platform analyzes songs’ styles to create sets of audio post-production processors. A suite of collaboration tools lets artists share tracks, leave comments, and access tracks from the cloud, and Landr’s distribution program enables them to publish to major platforms like Spotify and Apple Music without giving up a cut of their earnings, wrote Venturebeat.
One of Landr’s more high-profile artists is A$AP Ant, who notched over 9.1 million steams on Spotify and Apple Music.
Landr says it will use the money to accelerate its growth and expand into new markets. New products and innovation will also be a key area of focus, such as new features to the platform.
Since launching in 2014, LANDR claims it has “revolutionized the music-making process,” and made studio quality sound more accessible for musicians and audio professionals of all levels. It recently crossed the 2.5 million artist milestone, mastering, releasing and promoting over 12 million tracks for artists in 160 countries around the world. The company releases thousands of tracks weekly on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.
“We are proud to support LANDR, a leader in the audio mastering sector, in order to give it the flexibility to develop the functionalities of its platform, seize expansion opportunities and consolidate its positioning in the market, both in Québec and abroad,” said Guy LeBlanc, CEO at Investissement Québec.
Around the world more and more industries are leveraging new technologies and automation to make themselves more efficient, increase margins and reduce their dependence on scarce human resources. Montreal’s YPC Technologies now brings that mentality to the kitchen. Yes, a robot can now make your dinner and there are thousands of recipes to chose from.
Tucked away in a small office near Little Italy, a small team of innovators has been hard at work building an automated kitchen in a class cage. It contains 1 robotic arm, 7 cooking devices, 2 racks of ingredients and a window that opens and closes for human assistance and interaction.
“There will always be a human involved in some way” says Gunnar Grass, founder and CEO of YPC Technologies. “We are still very far from being able to do plating. And some other tasks like adding butter or searing a steak will still have to be performed by humans for now.”
Plating aside, Grass’ invention is pretty impressive. The robotic arm takes ingredients off the shelf and either adds them directly in to a cooking device, or mixes them in a separate bin before adding them to the concoction. The system they’ve built can cook thousands of recipes, which YPC claims is a global first. The system also controls these cooking devices which can chop, blend or puree food as well as well as cook it. Outside the cage is a screen and a large red button. The screen displays the status of all the machines (some may be off, while other may be cooking at several hundred degrees). It also tells the human working with the machine if anything needs to be done, for example if any special ingredient needs to be added, or if the dish needs to be removed from the device and served. Once the human completes the task as instructed, he or she presses the red button which tells the system that it may now proceed to the next step in the recipe.
This becomes more impressive when multiple recipes are being made at the same time. Instructions on the screen may say “add bananas to pot 1” (for banana ice cream) and seconds later the screen might read “add garlic to pot 6” (for risotto).
There is prep work involved in preparing some of the foods and stocking the shelves for the machine. Some of that will also be automated over time as new features, more machine learning and computer vision are eventually added. But Grass believes that for a mid-sized kitchen, the kind you might find in some offices, seniors’ homes or cafeterias, his system can provide tremendous cost savings over time. The German-born founder insists his objective is to return fresh cooking to the people, which is gradually disappearing due to today’s modern lifestyle. There are competitors in this space, but they are virtually all focussed on fast food, and don’t offer healthy options.
As part of a demo last week for MTLinTech, the YPC system (short for Your Personal Chef) served up fresh made asparagus soup, mushroom risotto and a delicious banana sorbet. All of which was made simultaneously by the system, in under half an hour. The number of recipes this system can put together is one of the features that makes it unique. However, Grass explains that each of the recipes can be modified quickly and easily, adding extra ingredients, reducing the amount of salt or other seasonings. “The recipes right now are ok” he says. “Pretty good for a bunch of engineers anyway. But they are easy to tweak so it can be modified for people’s different tastes.”
The inspiration for YPC came when Grass created a machine to mix cocktails in his home. His friends loved it. Then he realized how much more he could do by pivoting to food. Initially he started bout building the hardware too, but after “a few fires”, it became clear that sourcing the equipment was a better option, and they pivoted to their current model in 2018.
YPC is hoping to be the first mover in the “Cooking as a Service” market. They are looking to raise a round in the short term to add new features, and have already approached companies like Sodexho about partnerships. Grass believes the system he and his team have created can create process optimizations in certain sized kitchens that produce 2.7 times the performance of a human alone. Add to that the value of a reduced amount of training and turnover in staff, and there just may be a YPC robot preparing a meal for you in the near future.
The 9th edition of Startupfest wraps up today, this time at a warm and sunny Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Île Notre-Dame. Thousands of people turned up from all over to hear from leading innovators, pitch investors (or grandmothers), learn from mentors and just generally network with those who are trying to innovate and make the world a better place. As always, this event was a breeding ground for ideas, deals and cultivating new relationships.
Best of the Fest – Women in Tech ($100,000 prize): Canscan Technologies
Hundreds of other startups made their pitches and were not selected, but all were able to take something away from what is arguably Canada’s most beneficial event for startups. A number of other ecosystems also participated this year with delegations from Toronto, Saskatchewan, Calgary, Quebec City, Marseille France and …. Laval!
Of course, this list of prize-winning startups remains incomplete for the moment as there are still awards from Toronto’s DMZ program and Banque Nationale (Elevator Pitch) still to come.
18 months after raising a $16.5M series B round, Montreal headquartered Mnubo has been acquired by a Massachusetts-based maker of optimization software. For more than 30 years, Aspen Technologies has helped customers optimize the design, operation and maintenance of critical assets in complex, capital-intensive environments. The transaction is valued at an impressive CA $102M.
Founded in 2012, Mnubo became one of the darlings of the Montreal tech space, and enjoyed tremendous success helping its customers leverage the rapidly evolving world or industrial IoT. A number of companies on both sides of the border operating in this field have been acquired over recent years, illustrating just how valuable IIoT technologies are becoming to the world’s major manufacturers. Mnubo had enjoyed success in foreign markets as well, perhaps most notably in Japan, where it had already opened an office.
“The global adoption of AI and IoT technologies is powering the next wave of industrial-digital enterprises. The Mnubo AI and analytics infrastructure was purpose-built to accelerate the digital transformation of traditional industries by democratizing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Our location in Montreal’s world-class AI ecosystem enables AspenTech to establish a Centre of Excellence for these cutting-edge technologies, and to attract some of the best talent in this space. We are very excited to continue to develop innovative AI solutions that target the industrial internet of things at enterprise scale, under the AspenTech umbrella,” said Frédéric Bastien, co-founder and CEO of Mnubo.
Aspen is clearly pushing itself deeper into this space as the potential for exponential growth is clear. Just last month Aspen acquired Sabisu, a UK-based company that provides a flexible enterprise visualization and workflow solution to deliver real-time decision support.
The company says these acquisitions will enable AspenTech to accelerate the distribution of embedded AI in both its existing and future solutions. By combining first principle engineering models and deep process expertise with AI capabilities, these solutions will enable the automation of knowledge and data-driven decision-making for continuous improvement across the design, operation and maintenance lifecycle of industrial assets.
Sonder, a platform that provides thousands of short-term rentals around the world, is announcing a Series D round of funding totalling $225 million. The company’s new valuation puts it at just over $1 billion, making it the newest Canadian-founded startup to achieve “unicorn” status.
The company will also open a second global headquarters in Canada and hire several hundred engineers, designers, finance and operations experts through next year.
For CEO Francis Davidson, there are several reasons the company is bringing on the funding. Sondor’s customers love the experience, the unit economics are favourable and they’ve got a clear growth trajectory. The company wants to add fuel to the fire and expand aggressively, he told MTLinTECH.
“The way we view is there’s immense benefits to scaling. And to build ubiquity for our customers, we need to have more markets for them to think about when they travel,” said Davidson.
Sonder leases large amounts of units in office buildings through partnering with developers. For example, they’ll partner with a developer building a new office building, and they might sign for 75 or 100 units of a 200-unit building, and turn all of those into Sonder stays. The company will sign a five-year lease and guarantee the developers a number in monthly rent. Once they’ve signed a deal, Sonder designs and furnishes its spaces up to guest standards.
“We’ve really nailed the core foundation of our business over the last 18 months. All of the subcomponents are working and the engine is humming on all cylinders. Customer satisfaction is really high. Secondly, the unit economics of the business is working really well, so contribution margin and payback periods are hugely attractive. We’ve made a lot of progress on that front and we now pay back our investments within 12 months. And finally, we’ve unlocked the regulatory compliance in pretty much every market we’re in, so we’ve found a way to find out what standards apply to the hospitality industry and then meet those standards.”
Davidson founded Sonder while living in a basement as a student at McGill. Today the company has over 8500 boutique living spaces in over twenty cities all over the world.
The base round is worth $210 million, led by Valor Equity, Westcap and Nicholas Pritzker (through Tao Capital Partners). However, over the coming weeks Sonder will add an additional $15 million in investment through developers partnering with Sonder on new deals around the globe. The $225 million will bring the company “closer than ever before to making exceptional travel experiences available to everyone.”
In Montreal, Sonder says it’s taken a significant amount of time to work together with the City in terms of ensuring regulation through its units. That said, Davidson assured us that we’re about to see explosive growth above its current 600 units across the city. Along with the product growth, Sonder’s headcount will also grow significantly.
The 9th edition of Montreal’s iconic Startupfest got into full swing on Wednesday and it was filled with networking, learning, interaction and sun… so much sun!
One of the day’s highlights was a new report on the state of Montreal’s tech ecosystem released by Bonjour Startup Montreal and the Institut d’entrepreneuriat Banque Nationale of HEC, in collaboration with Montreal NewTech and other partners. Nearly 400 startups took part, and more than 30 community organizations also provided their input.
The results of the Montreal study found:
More than 1,300 startups in Montreal
23 organizations investing in startups
25 coworking spaces
Over 100 different meetups
Over 1,300 events per year (+/- 4 per day, 7 days a week)
42 different incubator and accelerator programs
and more than 2,800 startup founders presently operating in the ecosystem
Drilling a little deeper into the data and the economic impact of startups in Montreal, we find the following stats.
68% of Montreal startups employ fewer than 10 people. However, 65% say they plan to hire between 1 and 10 new people over the coming year. Companies in incubation and early stage employ about 5.5 workers on average, whereas later stage startups average about 22 employees each.
Only 3 in 10 startups have over $100,000 in annual revenue, while just 1 in 10 take in over $500,000.
Just 15% of Montreal’s startup founders are female, which shockingly is well above the 4% nationwide statistic for Canada released in 2017.
34% of founders in Montreal were born outside Quebec and 58% of startups have at least one co-founder from outside the province.
A whopping 82% of Montreal startups plan to launch outside the country. 50% are already present in the US and 38% are active in Europe.
Over the years Montreal has become known as a global hub for artificial intelligence. AI talent is continuously being lured to our city, while our universities crank out more and more graduates each year. Perhaps for these reasons two thirds of Montreal startups say they either use or will use AI in their offering. Furthermore, 65% say attracting AI talent is not an issue for them at this point. Yet 45% of later stage and mature startups say talent attraction and retention is an issue for them.
On the financing side, 12% of Montreal startups have received VC investment. Perhaps not surprisingly, 70% see financial constraints as their principal obstacle to success. Of the 64 deals in Montreal in 2018, most were early stage (26 seed / 12 series A / 8 series B). 15 transactions accounted for a massive 89% of all the dollars invested in Montreal startups in 2018. That being said, the report went on to say there were no notable exits in the ecosystem in 2018.
Startupfest 2019 is upon us and as usual there are a number of new events as part of Montreal’s biggest tech gathering of the summer. In a rare example of the startup community following the lead of major corporations, this year the festival will feature the launch of a program focussed on mental health support for founders and investors.
“Founders Mental Health will kick-off July 13. A group of like-minded people will get together, discuss the mental health of founders and entrepreneurs. We’ll bounce ideas off one another on how to help provide support for entrepreneurs’ mental health and we will have an action plan ready by the end of it” says Francis Beaulieu, a long-time entrepreneur and well known member of the Montreal ecosystem.
Beaulieu expects this to be the start of a regular thing, with meetings taking place every month or month and a half. What exactly those meeting will look like will largely depend on the outcome of this weekend’s kick-off event. He wants input from people who have been affected by mental health in this field.
“Almost half of founders will struggle with depression, anxiety, alcoholism or other challenges” he says. “It’s an event mainly for entrepreneurs, founders, co-founders and investors, who can also struggle with similar mental health issues. A second group who are invited to attend are those who are close to entrepreneurs, such as co-founders, spouses, family and friends. We’ll have a number of like-minded people together who take mental health seriously.”
Beaulieu knows of what he speaks. He was diagnosed bipolar more than 10 years ago. He says 2018 was a hard year, and even though he has access to medication and the right treatment, he feels like he lost a significant chunk of the past year due to mental health issues. For these reasons, he’s decided to take action.
In fact, a recent study points out that entrepreneurs are facing mental health challenges in greater numbers than most other professions. For example, 62% of business owners feel depressed at least once a week. It may not be surprising given the level of stress many entrepreneurs face in getting their businesses off the ground and keeping them growing over time.
For these reasons, Founder Mental Health will be launched at Startupfest this Saturday at 1:00 PM. There is no fee for this event, provided you already have access to Startupfest. Click here to reserve your spot today.
C2RO, a Montreal-based provider of enterprise grade cloud A.I. services, has raised $2.25 million in funding.
The round was led by Fonds Innovexport, with participation from GCI Capital Inc., Harbor Street Ventures, Tandemlaunch, Ministère de l’économie et de l’innovation, and several angel investors in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
“We led the investment in C2RO because it has an excellent execution team, a significantly expanding Tier1 customer base, and a formidable technology position in the field of real-time machine vision A.I.,” said Richard Bordeleau, President at Fonds Innovexport. “C2RO will have a tremendous impact on the industry and we want to support them through this journey.”
C2RO uses proprietary real-time cloud AI to provide data driven businesses with analysis and recognition tools to transform their physical spaces into personalized and interactive smart environments.
The company intends to use the funds to accelerate the commercialization of its enterprise grade cloud A.I. services.
According to the company, the global market for A.I. analytics solutions in retail and commercial real estate will exceed US $5 billion by 2022 and is growing at 40 percent CAGR. The growth is being fueled by global retail and commercial real estate brands that are blending digital and physical assets to provide consumers with increasingly frictionless and highly personalized experiences.
C2RO introduced C2RO EngageTM, a real-time cloud based facial recognition platform, in June 2018. They call it the world’s first real-time cloud based facial recognition platform.
In March of 2019, the company augmented its A.I. services portfolio with PerceiveTM, an anonymous customer journey analysis platform and demographic classification system.
For C2RO, Engage and Perceive are the “two key ingredients to enabling the transformation cycle that is taking place in the retail and commercial real estate industries toward highly personalized and data driven interactive smart environments.”
Five Canadian and international startups have been selected to join the inaugural cohort of the AI@CENTECH program, hosted by Thales.
AI@CENTECH is a six-month program focused on “the most promising AI innovators around the world.” It claims to accelerate growth and market potential.
Here’s the five companies:
Age of Minds (Canada) is building a training platform for artificial intelligence agents using entertainment to engage large quantities of users in rich, two-way interactions.
BlackBox (Canada) instantly generates summary keywords of every discussion and scans through video and audio files to find desired information.
Delfox (France) designed and developed an artificial intelligence solution that allows vehicles in aeronautics, space and defense to evolve autonomously without human intervention or pre-programming.
Fieldbox.ai (France) has created a platform deploying AI-trained industrial bots in the hearts of factories, continuously and autonomously optimizing processes and operating machines.
ICM Hub (USA) develops conversational artificial intelligence for airlines, providing an automated, first-class and AI-powered customer service solution that couples natural language processing and machine learning.
Each startup will receive guidance from business and AI industry coaches providing advisory services related to fundraising, product enhancement, design, visibility, proof of concept, and market access.
Since 2014, Thales has invested nearly 7 billion euros in digital technologies, including artificial intelligence.
Montreal’s Neomed Innovation Centre is poised to construct a major addition in a new, $25 million-dollar innovation and commercialization complex specializing in life sciences and health technology.
The ground-breaking ceremony was held Thursday morning in St. Laurent, at Technoparc Montréal, a major contrutor to the rebirth of the life sciences sector in Montreal. Montreal mayor Valerie Plante was on hand, as was federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains.
“This new innovation and commercialization complex is poised to become a thriving focal point for the development of a business ecosystem and innovation networks that will amplify companies’ productivity, and ensure they become more effective and more competitive on the global market,” said Pierre-Yves Desbiens a venture partner with the NEOMED Innovation Centre and adMare BioInnovations. “This project would never have seen the light without the commitment of visionary partners who, like us, seek to make major contributions to scientific innovation in the Canadian life sciences and health technology sector.”
The first phase of the 50,000 square feet addition will complete in 2020. It will feature customized labs, shared equipment and support and guidance services in commercialization, including expertise and experimentation centres, modular spaces and corporate spaces, incubators/accelerators, training centres and specialized services like access to sources of funding.
adMare BioInnovations says the new innovation centre will add hundreds of jobs to the area, several resident companies, partnered programs and a spin-off company.
In addition to a $1.5 million contribution from the City of Montreal, the NEOMED Innovation Centre will be receiving $1.5 million in funding from Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED). The latter funding will enable the organization to implement its project aimed at increasing the innovation capacity of SMEs in the LSHT sector, in particular through the purchase of laboratory equipment.
“adMare BioInnovations is an important player in the life sciences ecosystem in Montreal and across Canada. The expansion of their NEOMED Innovation Centre will ensure that this sector’s SMEs have the tools and knowledge they need to continue to innovate, grow and contribute to the Canadian economy,” said Bains.
“Montreal is a vital hub for life science companies focussed on innovation and collaboration. With the continued growth of the LSHT sector in Montreal, the City is proud to invest in this priority sector in order to remain globally competitive,” said Montreal’s mayor, Plante.
The Neomed Innovation Centre is a part of adMare, a pan-Canadian life sciences organization. Neomed’s mission is to deploy a combination of infrastructure, scientific and business expertise, and capital to help existing Canadian life sciences companies scale up. The expansion is part of the new Montreal Geared Up for Tomorrow 2018–2022 Economic Development Strategy and its action plans.