This past summer, I had the chance to work closely with the six startups in the 2016 McGill X-1 Accelerator program. Just over three months later, it was great to see all six startups pitch in front of over 300 people at our McGill Montreal Demo Day.
Shortly after the Demo Day in Montreal, Venndor and NXTSENS, two startups from the 2016 McGill X-1, joined a handful of McGill Dobson startups on a tour of Silicon Valley where they got to pitch to an audience of McGill alumni, local entrepreneurs, industry experts, Angel investors and VCs at McGill San Francisco Demo Day on September 22, 2016. The last milestone in this journey was our McGill Demo Day in Boston hosted in collaboration with McKinsey & Co on September 28, 2016.
In 2013 and 2014, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship sent two promising McGill startup teams to participate in MIT’s Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (now known as the delta v program at MIT). When Thibaud Maréchal, one of the McGill startup co-founders who participated in the 2013 MIT GFSA program returned to Montreal, he helped to launch the inaugural 2015 McGill X-1 Accelerator program with the help of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship. For the McGill X-1 Accelerator program, we’ve adopted and adapted MIT’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship methodology and framework developed by MIT professor Bill Aulet when it comes to teaching our startups entrepreneurship principles.
It was great to be visiting Boston from September 27-29, 2016 given our history with the city and our previous collaboration with MIT and the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship who run the GFSA/delta v program. Both Boston and Montreal have a rich flow and talent pool of students, with higher education institutions and accelerator programs providing more and more resources to help emerging founders launch a new venture. On top of hosting our McGill Boston Demo Day event at McKinsey & Co., we also got to visit a number of different institutions that offer the best practices in the world when it comes to teaching and supporting entrepreneurship.
Our first stop was at the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-Lab) on September 27, 2016 where Lara Zimmerman, a McGill alumna and now running Marketing & Operations, gave us a tour of the facilities. The Harvard i-lab is an educational collaborative for Harvard students to explore innovation and entrepreneurship.
On top of creating a community of entrepreneurs on campus, the Harvard i-lab provides a 12-week Venture Incubation Program (VIP) that helps students take their ideas further, faster. The diversity of projects was phenomenal as Harvard startups from any industry and any stage of development are eligible. It was truly impressive to see such a big community of students and faculty all working in the same space, sharing resources and working towards making a real impact.
— Trish Cotter (@TriciaCotter) September 28, 2016
The next morning on September 28, 2016 we crossed the Charles River to visit the MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship. We were welcomed by Trish Cotter, the Entrepreneur in Residence and Program Manager. On top of offering resources to immerse students in entrepreneurship outside of the classroom, the MIT Martin Trust Center also run the delta v accelerator program. It was a great opportunity to speak with Trish, to discuss ways to improve both programs at McGill and MIT. Mentoring, coaching and peer learning is at the heart of the MIT methodology.
Our last stop was the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) in the Cambridge Innovation Centre. Susan Ahern, the Trade Commissioner and Coordinator of the CTA, dedicated some of her time to give us a tour of the space and tell us more about the opportunities available to later stage Canadian companies looking to enter the Boston/US market, many of whom are in technology or life sciences.
Managed by the Consulate General of Canada in Boston, the CTA provides Canadian companies with access to resources and contacts to help them compete internationally.
After two days visiting some of the best locations to develop entrepreneurial activities, it was time for the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship to showcase some of the best startups that have come out of our entrepreneurship programs this past year, including the 2015 McGill Lean Startup Program, 2016 McGill Dobson Cup, and 2016 McGill X-1 Accelerator program.
We had the privilege of hosting McGill Boston Demo Day on the evening of September 28, 2016 at the Boston offices of McKinsey & Co. The evening started off with opening remarks from Prof. Gregory Vit, Director as well as Renjie Butalid, Marketing & Operations Advisor for the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, on the progress and growth of the McGill Dobson Centre these last few years and its future expansion.
As Program Coordinator for the 2016 McGill X-1 Accelerator and now President of the Dobson Student Executive Team (SET), I had the opportunity to say a few remarks about student engagement and participation in entrepreneurial activities at McGill across all faculties.
Sean Brown, McGill alumni and Global Director of Alumni Relations at McKinsey & Co., highlighted the rich ecosystem that the city of Boston has and welcomed McGill and its alumni community to their Boston offices.
After opening remarks, we then heard a series of 5-minute pitches from the following McGill startups:
1. Venndor – The fastest way to buy and sell online
2. Key2Access – Making pedestrian crossing accessible
3. NXTSENS – Empowered tailored micro technology
4. UGo Smoothies – Building a vending machine that blends frozen fruits and vegetables into custom smoothies
5. Carbicrete – Developing cement-free, carbon-negative concrete that reduces CO2 emissions
6. Taiga Motors – Building the world’s first production electric snowmobile
The Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill, Isabelle Bajeux, also made the trip to Boston and provided closing remarks on how Desautels and McGill are working on advancing the innovation and entrepreneurship agenda, providing more and more resources to researchers, students, and faculty-entrepreneurs.
Overall, the trip to Boston with our McGill startups was great. We’re grateful to have met and connected with over 70 Boston-based McGill alumni in the process and look forward to building on these outreach efforts in the year ahead!
See all the photos from McGill Boston Demo Day on Facebook below!