At TickSmith, our employees are encouraged to participate in activities happening in our bustling city. Especially since the summers are so short, it’s nice to get out of the office once in a while to check out local innovation in data and technology. Montreal is rapidly becoming well-known for being a big player in both software engineering but also in the startup world. We spent a couple days checking out the ninth edition of Startupfest which is Canada’s largest startup event, for aspiring founders, ground-breaking innovators and veteran entrepreneurs from around the world.

We kicked off our first day on Tuesday and attended April Dunford’s intriguing talk on “How to Make Complex Products Obviously Awesome.” This was a truly excellent way to kick off this year’s startup-mania as it really addressed the crux that many companies face: we’ve got a great product, but how are we going to explain it to the rest of the world?  Our very own products and technology are not the easiest to explain but we try. 

April continued by stating that many companies, like yours probably, fill out a template for “marketing positioning” which addresses target markets first. April goes on to say that this is where the mistake is. She says that the pieces are not in the right order. You must first figure out how you are unique and what sets you aside in order to really leverage the rest of the exercise. 

The example she provided was great. She met a company that was calling themselves “email for lawyers” but because of their positioning, were mainly competing with the likes of Google and Microsoft Outlook (which is basically a death sentence). She spoke to them a bit more and figured out their true “value prop” was not email but rather the encryption software that enables confidential file transfer. She suggested they re-position to “file-sharing software for lawyers.” After that move, they finally started to receive tons of funding. 
I could go on and on about the wonderful presentation and examples April gave but what I recommend for anyone who’s interested is to check out her book. In her book, she really breaks down positioning strategies step by step.

Another homerun presentation was the one about “Technology Of Better Humans” which was given by the guy who invented the #hashtag, Chris Messina. I fully expected him to take the stage and talk about how awesome hashtags are for our new generation.

However, to my surprise, his discourse was much more focused on how we should perpetuate mental health awareness on all platforms and support those who might have been cyber-bullied or ostracized with the emergence of social media tools. He said the hashtag is still a great way to assemble people but we must try and do so for more notable causes (note: #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter).

In the midst of all the Startup talk about data, growth, and performance; Chris’ presentation provided a nice human-centric break to talk about the things that really matter.


Startupfest took place on Parc Jean Drapeau which felt like a nice escape from the corporate daily grind. There were so many interesting companies that were pitching in all sorts of funding competitions. One of the competitions was called, “Grandmothers Judge,” where companies needed to pitch the technology and software they use to 5 grandmothers – just imagine the hilarity that ensued! 

We’re so happy to attend these events and meet like-minded people who are ambitious and goal-driven. Some of our friends at FinTech Cadence were also there to highlight that there’s a ton of action for FinTechs in Montreal and we all need to stick together as a niche market and make ourselves known worldwide. 

Thanks for the good time and here’s to the next. 

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