Top 10 tech startups moving forward in Montreal
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Photo courtesy: Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

It’s English, it’s French, it’s Canadian, and it’s beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to start their business in Montreal?

Americans know Montreal as that city just across the border from Vermont where lots of folks speak French. The world knows Montreal as one of the most cultured and diverse cities in the world. And studious, because the 11 degree-awarding institutions in the city gives Montreal the highest concentration of post-secondary students in North America, just edging out Boston.

Unlike America, Montreal has a long, long history. 4,000 years ago, native peoples lived on what is now Montreal Island. In 1611 it was a fur-trading post and has been a business center and port ever since. The residents started calling their home Montreal in 1705, but the city wasn’t officially incorporated until 1832.

Now with about 2 million in the city proper and 4 million in the area, startups have found a warm welcome. Several incubators prop up the hopeful, and those schools add brainpower. And since half the population speaks both French and English, it’s a global city with unlimited reach.

Lightspeed

Photo courtesy: Lightspeed

Online shopping is cool and convenient, but most real people still go to real places to eat and shop. Lightspeed provides Point of Sale systems for retailers and restaurants, along with ecommerce help. So they can support the small retailer who grows, goes online, and keeps growing. They’ve done it for 45,000 customers so far.

Beginning in the spring of 2005, early on in the ecommerce second wave, Lightspeed developed their software and support until one of the major VC players, Accel Partners, put $30 million in Series A funding in their tip jar in June 2012. September 2014 brought Series B funding of $35 million, followed a year later by a Series C jackpot of $61 million for a total of $126 million.

OMsignal

Photo courtesy: OMsignal

Billions of tiny and inexpensive Internet of Things sensors search for something important to do, and OMsignal puts them to work tracking data from bodies. One early product in their Smartwear Platform is the OMbra, the first running bra to track heart rate and breathing for a more accurate health assessment.

Biometrics for consumers didn’t become a thing all that long ago, as shown by OMwear’s start in 2011. Good news travels fast, however, and OMwear received $1 million in seed funding in June of 2013, followed by $10 million in Series A money a year later. Several undisclosed rounds of debt financing, along with a $13 million Series B round in September 2016, brings their investment total to $20.84 million.

Orckestra

Photo courtesy: Orckestra

Online, now the coolest place to shop, overflows with options for consumers demanding someone take their money. Orckestra focuses on “customized, flexible, and robust Customer Experience” solutions, meaning they help their customers attract and keep more customers than competitors. When other options are but a click away, holding attention takes specialized skills.

Starting in the ecommerce business back in 2006, Orckestra did like most developers and bootstrapped by satisfying each customer before adding another. That hard work paid off in October 2014 when $8 million in Series A funding from unlisted investors hit their shopping cart. Another $12 million in Series B money hit the shelves in December 2015 for total of $20 million in two rounds.

Frank & Oak

Photo courtesy: Frank & Oak

Online clothes retailing generally runs toward women’s fashion choices, but Frank & Oak went the other direction and focused on affordable men’s apparel. They have since expanded, but their early gamble paid off in a well-dressed way. Set up a Style Plan, get customized clothing choices on a regular basis, and see why they succeeded.

Starting late in the online fashion game, in early 2012, it only took eight months for Frank & Oak to attract $5 million in venture funding. Two years later, the Series B round hung another $15 million in their closet, for a total of $20 million.

Unsplash

Photo courtesy: Unsplash

Here’s a crazy origin story: Unsplash starts in May of 2013 as a Tumblr theme selling for $19. Then they pivot to making photos available for the world, and by early 2016 they claimed to be the most viral photography platform in the world, and with a billion photos viewed per month, who can argue?

Question: who wants to invest in a site giving away photos? Real Ventures started before they officially opened with $500k in September 2012. They and a dozen other investors added in another $2.1 million in April 2014. Series A funding in July of 2015 came from seven investors, for a total of $11.1 million. Answer: Lots of people.

Smooch

Photo courtesy: Smooch

You know that aggravation when you’re shopping and there’s no one to answer questions within a city block? That doesn’t happen online, thanks to Smooch and other companies who support easy conversations online. Smooch just happens to do it better than most, including covering every connection channel with advanced APIs.

Starting late in the online communications game, Smooch launched in November of 2015. Something about their chat and more product attracted a lot of attention, resulting in a seed round from three investors for a total of $7.6 million.

Felix & Paul Studios

Photo courtesy: Felix & Paul

Virtual reality viewings well disrupt entertainment, and movies will be one avenue. But who can help studios get into the VR business the right way? Studios like Felix & Paul. They just made a deal with Oculus, the $2 billion Facebook acquisition, and are also working with Universal Studios.

2013 was early on in the VR business, but that’s when F&P started up. Three years later, in June 2016, $6.8 million of Series A money arrived on set. Who from? Comcast Ventures, another major player in Hollywood. A Series B round was announced in April 2017, but no funder or amount was disclosed.

Mnubo

Photo courtesy: Mnubo

You’re heard the predictions that millions and maybe billions of low-cost Internet of Things sensors are so cheap they will be everywhere and in everything in no time. So how do you manage those? Collect their data? Call Mnubo and let them gather the billions of data bits and wrangle them using Big Data tools and advanced analytics. Doesn’t matter to them if the IoT devices serve healthcare, cars, industrial applications, or are stitched into your clothes as wearables, they’ll hand the data.

IoT isn’t a particularly old technology, so companies in this space tend to be fairly young. Mnubo actually got in fairly early in the spring of 2012. Two months on, an undisclosed amount of seed money appeared. In May, 21015, Series A funding showed up to the tune of $6 million.

Wrnch

Photo courtesy: Wrnch

Turns out Montreal is a hot bed of computer vision software and augmented reality startups. One of those, Wrnch, calls itself an Artificial Intelligence and computer vision expert. Capturing and separating video elements for augmented reality is just a daily thing for Wrnch.

AI and augmented reality companies tend to be new ones, and Wrnch got into the business back in the summer of 2015. Less than a year later, $450k of seed money came from an unknown source. In February 2016, a Series A placement from five investors led by Mark Cuban (yep, one of the Sharks in the Tank) added another $1.3 million.

Retinad

Photo courtesy: Retinad

What’s hot for businesses? Analytics. What are consumers thrilled about? Virtual Reality. Who provides virtual reality analytics for advertising and content companies? Redinad. It’s a brand new virtual world, and someone has to help companies what works and what doesn’t. Tracking where people look inside a virtual presentation is a great place to start.

Virtual reality isn’t old, and neither is Retinad with their official start date in December of 2014. But by May of the next year, angel investors dropped $1.6 million into their virtual coffers. Two more seed rounds in September 2015 and May 2016 have hidden details: VR tends to fall into company secret territory today.

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James Gaskin

About James Gaskin


James writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don't read his books and articles.

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