The Ultimate Guide to Launching a Technology Startup in Montreal

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This guide was originally written in 2008 by Heri Rakotomalala who founded Montreal Tech Watch a few years ago. It’s 2019, we’re bringing it back and updating it regularly with new resources. Hopefully, it will help you launching a technology startup in Montreal!

There are plenty of Startup Creation Guides on the Internet but this one is focussed on creating a startup in Montréal. Why Montréal? Because we’re convinced you’ll love the city and that it’s a great place for startups! Really! 😃

Low cost of living in Montréal

Let’s start with one of the best reasons to have Montréal as home for your startup: low cost of living. According to Expantistan’s Cost of Living World Map, Montreal ranks among one of the cheapest city to live in North America.

It ranks 174th worldwide and 87th out of 93 cities in North America (the lower the better, as cities are ranked from most expensive to least in terms of the cost of living).

While being relatively close to New York and Toronto, Montreal offers a big city environment and proximity to even bigger cities at a lower cost of living.

If you compare Montréal with other popular North American cities such as: San Francisco #4, New York City #5. and Toronto ranks #57. While being relatively close to New York and Toronto, Montreal offers a big city environment and proximity to even bigger cities at a lower cost of living.

In term of population, Montreal’s population was 1.78 million in 2017, while Toronto’s population was 2.93 million.

Driving from Montreal to Toronto takes about 5h30m. Driving to New York is about 6h if you avoid traffic. Flying to New York or Toronto is quick and usually cheap. Flying to France directly is about 6h45m. The location is definitely interesting if you need frequent connections with the US East Cost and Europe.

Pourquoi Montréal?

As you can read on Bonjour Startup Mtl, what makes Montreal exceptional is it’s varied population from all over the world, the bilingualism and a unique entrepreneurial community with plenty of resources for startups and entrepreneurs.

Montreal is full of talented and creative people. Really.

According to a 2018 report, Montreal is home to over 90,000 IT workers and a high concentration of AI scientists. It was named best student city in the world in 2017. It also hosts StartupFest, an event you can’t miss if you are moving into the startup world.

The path to launching a tech startup

Here is the “textbook” path to launch a technology startup, the one you would want to follow if your project involves R&D, hardware, and lots of resources. This chart migh be a bit outdated when it comes to the references (in white) since it was written in 2008 but the path itself doesn’t change (in blue) and still applies in 2019.

The Path to Launchin a Tech Startup in Montréal

The more resources you need to get a prototype or a beta product out, the more you will have to plan and spend time on plans. Make sure your business model works, look for investors, development & production etc.

Gather a team

If you want to build a Montreal-based team, we encourage you to join the community and show up at startup events in Montréal. There has even been specific events about How to start a startup in Montreal in the past. Have a look at the events calendar on Montreal in Technology, show up at some events and talk about your project.

Startup Drinks happens every last wednesday of the month and is always a good place to start. You might also want to have a look at Les Pitonneux that features regular Code & Coffee events.

Linkedin – It’s worth a shot to look here first to gather your team. You can target specific people you want to find using the advanced people search. Or better, join some Montreal Tech Groups (you can find some on Meetup).

There are Facebook groups such as Montreal: Tech Startup Jobs and Montréal + Startups you can join to discover the startup community. You can also post that you are looking for a team.

More resources to get started

Have a look at Built in Montreal if you’d like to focus on resources built in Montreal. You can find a bunch of tools and apps that can help you on your startup journey that are built by fellow Montreal entrepreneurs. We will list a few tools and Montreal-based businesses that can help you below.

Building a prototype working with freelancers

Before hiring your first full time employee, you might want to work with freelancers.

Building your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or prototype with freelancers is usually a good option to start quickly. You can find many local freelancers using Upwork – A top freelancer website with a wide range of expertise or Toptal – which allows you to find developers and freelancers with experience. Working with a local freelancer might make the transition from freelancer to full time employee possible in the future.

Remember your idea is worth nothing unless executed and it’s a lot easier to build a great execution team if you are transparent and open about your project.

You might also want to browse Linkedin or Github (search for Github Montreal Profiles on Google), Angel.co Montreal Startups and Dribbble to find freelance developers and designers from Montréal. Contact them, share details about your project and get them interested. Avoid requesting to sign NDAs and complicated processes. Remember your idea is worth nothing unless executed and it’s a lot easier to build a great execution team if you are transparent and open about your project. Talk about it with as many people as you can.

If you don’t mind working with a remote team, you can find many full time employees or freelancers using remote job boards like RemoteOK, We Work Remotely, JustRemote, Remote.co or Pangian.

Low cost marketing for your startup

Montreal is home to some great marketing technology companies that can be of great help for your own startup. Or should I say that Québec is home to some great marketing technology companies. 😉

Leadfox, from Sherbrooke, offers a great tool to automate your marketing. Dashthis, from Québec City, offers an app that allows you to maintain and track your marketing efforts on a nice dashboard.

Incorporation, law and legal advice

From incorporation to merger and acquisitions, many Montreal-based firms can provide legal services. The most popular firms for entrepreneurs are Brouillette & Partners (lawyers specialized in technology entrepreneurship) and BCF (specialized in patents and intellectual property). BCF stands for Brouillette Charpentier Fortin and was founded by Robert Brouillette who later left BCF to found Brouillette & Partners.

Recognized law firm names in Montreal also include Borden Ladner Gervais, Gowlings, Fasken Martineau and Stikeman Elliott.

You can also find help and resources about incorporation online. Legallogik offers a startup kit, Revenu Québec has resources about starting a business in Québec and you might also want to have a look at incorporation in Delaware for Canadian startups if you are thinking about a US incorporation.

Online resources like Lean Startup Legal Checklist, Open Source Seed Documents from MARS or Founded Legal Platform can also be of great help.

Accounting

If you are generating decent revenues (>$2M), selling and/or considering raising money in the US, you should go for one of the big accounting firms. Deloite, PwC, RCGT, BDO or Richter are good names. I have always been served well by RCGT but know sometimes Deloite can be less expensive.

Office or Coworking spaces

There’s no need to think about renting an office yet.

Montreal offers a great selection of Coworking spaces. Notman House is a technology hub that offers office space, events, and supports the startup ecosystem in Montreal. It’s a great place to visit first. CoWorker will help you find coworking spaces around Montreal. There’s also WeWork (one of this year’s top tech IPOs) that offers Coworking and office rentals and Breather, a Montreal startup itself, that offers workspaces all around Montreal. You can also find office space or coworking spaces on OfficeSherpa.

Other coworking spaces in Montreal include GAB and Crew Cafe. You can discover others on Montreal Cowork.

Incubators, Accelerators and VCs

If you are into incubators and accelerators FounderFuel is a high intensity program to kickstart your startup. District3 is an innovation hub. MTLab is great for tourism and entertainment projects. Diagram is a Fintech hub and Techstars Montreal is an AI accelerator.

Once you are at a later stage and thinking about venture capital you might want to look at RealVentures, BDC, Desjardins Venture Capital or iNovia Capital.

Montreal Tech Community

There are many tech groups in Montreal. To find your preferred tech group, have a look at Meetup for Montréal. For the latest Montreal Startup news, subscribe to Montreal New Tech and Montreal in Technology. You can also find some Montreal Startup-Related news on Betakit and PlanetWeb. You can also find a list of Montreal startups on AngelList.

Agile development

It’s possible to follow another model, but Agile is trending and is the path of fast, iterative development. Here, releases are early and often, and reaction times aspire to be instantaneous. It also means investing in a great product experience, rather than heavy planning, sales and marketing.

The bet is that by having early feedback, it will be easier to adapt your product to your audience, instead of planning 6 or more months for development and discovering that you have lost focus, that it’s too late to change, and that the technological and business environment has changed since then.

Worse, the market might not be there anymore, as others have filled the need or it’s not the “right moment” anymore to launch a product in this market.

Agile entrepreneurship en

In practice, you will want to keep the overhead as low as possible. For instance, it’s quite possible not to raise any capital, you might not have to write any business plan at all, you don’t need either a large development team – although a few good great, talented developers and designers are key.

Instead, you should focus on intensity, shortened development cycles, focus on the few core features, and then get early feedback from democamps, facebook groups, blogs, and social bookmarking websites like Reddit.

If you get enough traction, it’s quite possible to raise capital and accelerate growth. At that time, hopefully, you would have a business model that works.

Conclusion

As we have outlined, Montréal is a great city that offers a unique environment for technology startups. The city is gifted with great institutions and infrastructure that fosters a dense and active community. The support available to you is abundant, and the living costs are relatively low for the size and location of the city.

There have also been many great startups that have begun in Montreal. These include the afore mentioned Breather, but also Lightspeed, Unsplash and Wealthica.

If you have any other resources you’d like us to add, email us at hello@stockchase.com or leave a comment!

Are there any reasons why you chose Montreal to start your technology company? Share it with us below.

About the author

Simon B.

I'm Simon, CEO and founder at Wealthica. Coding and building Fintech apps from Montréal.

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I'm Simon, CEO and founder at Wealthica. Coding and building Fintech apps from Montréal.

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