Today, Stéphane Goyette has been named as director of the new Smart City initiative. It bodes well for the city’s future; in the same year that City is named the theme for Startup Fest.
Becoming a smart city has unique challenges in smart uses of energy, transportation, education, as well as open use of data collected and published. In our position at MTL NewTech, we’re equally focused though on startups. How would the concept of Smart City create more and better startups? Would it create more jobs? Will we have more successful startups? What are the possible business models for tech startups if they want to contribute to the Smart City vision?
When answering those questions, we can refer to the existing list of Montréal startups. It appears the most successful are divided in 3 groups.
The first successful group are the social startups, best represented by Flightfox, Vanilla Forums, E-180, Wikitravel, or green startups like Plantcatching. They thrive mainly because of Montréalers’ (and Québecers’) interest in all things community and social, best represented by the various social movements that moves the population. If craigslist or Wikipedia weren’t launched in San Franscisco, we believe Montréal would be the 2nd most fertile ground for those platforms to grow. As such, anyone with a new social and progressive startup, perhaps grounded in the Smart City initiatives, would easily thrive in Montreal. What’s not clear though are the associated business models and monetization to keep such platforms afloat.
Creative startups, best represented by BeyondTheRack, Frank & Oak, Clyde (available for pre-order since monday), Breather, Lagoa, Bonlook, MixGenius (see Forbes cover), Bandzoogle, are also one of Montréal’s best asset. Their success comes from strong and indie art communities in Mile-end, as well as a solid creative industry (cinema, video games, television production etc.) and the diverse festivals throughout the year. Artists, photographs, directors, musicians, writers, even if they don’t understand the startup world, can add creative energy to startups and give them a unique advantage on the market. Those creative startups can offer new solutions and ideas to problems that plague Montréal for years.
The last successful group of startups are technical and scientific startups, coming straight from Montréal’s vast pool of researchers, pHDs and technical geniuses. Hexoskin (new Android app this week) came out of University of Montréal’s labs, AdGear handles millions and billions of data points, PasswordBox researches security issues, plot.ly can visualize scientific data to replace one day MatLab. In the case of smart city, this proves that in Montréal we have the technical talent to handle, analyze and visualize the enormous quantity of data that Montréal could generate.
Between those 3 groups (social, creative, technical), there are a few startups that manage to do all three, such as Busbud or the Transit App, which proves that we have all the resources to support new smart city startups.
At MTL NewTech, we are looking at Copenhagen for its smart city efforts; but we are also equally looking at New York City with its friendly startup program, and also its new tech campus. On a country-wide level, it’s good to take a hard look at programs like Startup Chile which put the developing in the forefront of startup ecosystems. One only has to take a clear view of the strengths of Montréal and what are the leading initiatives worlwide to put the city on the map. Congrats to Stéphane Goyette and the team at the city of Montréal, and we’re looking forward to see the new developments!