Festival atmosphere attracts local startups to Montreal conference

Business conferences don’t usually have a reputation for being fun and casual but the Montreal International Startup Festival isn’t the average business conference.

By Jacob Serebrin

The four-day event, which runs until July 16, takes place outside in Montreal’s Old Port and attracts around 2,000 people.

The festival atmosphere was what attracted Felipe Izquierdo, founder of Ottawa-based Welbi, to the festival.

Mr. Izquierdo, whose startup develops software that turns existing wearable devices into tools for helping family members monitor the health of elderly relatives, says that for him, the event was “all about the people that I meet.”

Welbi was one of more than 25 Ottawa-based startups that travelled to Montreal on a bus that Invest Ottawa has dubbed the “Hustle Shuttle.”

The trip itself was a learning experience, he says. All the entrepreneurs on the bus had to pitch their startup.

Another high point for Mr. Izquierdo was pitching the startup festivals grandmother judges - a group of grandmothers with business experience who are some of the toughest judges in the startup festival’s pitch competitions.

“They seem really sweet and nice, but you know they were ruthless businesspeople not so long ago,” Mr. Izquierdo says.

For Urooj Qureshi, the co-founder at Ottawa-based Pinpic, a marketplace for travellers to hire photographers, the attraction of the festival was the speakers.

He says he was looking to learn more about raising investment and getting into a startup accelerator.

Ottawa wasn’t only represented by participants - Shopify’s CEO Tobias Lütke and COO Harley Finkelstein both spoke on the festival’s main stage.