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Montreal Start-up Culture

Written by: Eliza Yadav, July 2020

What is Start-up Culture?

    • Regional start-up culture can be defined as a geographic area in which entrepreneurship thrives. Regions with good start-up culture generally have high levels of venture capital investment, job-switching, skilled labor, and an atmosphere that encourages “moving fast and breaking things” (5). 
    • Silicon Valley is internationally known for being a hotbed for tech-based entrepreneurship and start-up success. The Valley’s start-up culture can be described by researchers as tight-nit and professionally homogenous, preventing similar replication elsewhere (5).
  • Within the Canadian context, Toronto is said to be our own regional hotbed for entrepreneurship as it is the 12th highest city in the world for concentrated venture capital investment (3).

  • Montreal’s Start-up Culture

    • In Montreal, the start-up scene is much smaller than in Silicon Valley and Toronto. Because of this small market size, companies are forced to develop a refined expertise in their product or service offering. Fewer competitors in the market means that start-ups can determine early on who they want to be and what they want to achieve without the pressures of a busy local industry (1).
    • The Montreal food and beverage industry, for example, is a ripe field for entrepreneurship and innovation. 
      • Mandy’s, a gourmet salad company, began in 2005 with the simple idea of combining wellness and taste. With salads and smoothies that contain nutritious and fresh ingredients, their niche market contains health and environmentally-conscious consumers in Quebec. Today, Mandy’s has flagship stores in Montreal’s Old Port and Westmount, among many others and will be soon expanding into Toronto next (4). 
      • Evive, founded in 2015, began from the ingenious idea of combining healthy eating with busy lifestyles. As of June 2020, their 30 second smoothie cubes are retailed in over 2000 locations across Canada (2).

    How Remix was Founded

      • Our own company, Remix Snacks, was founded by Isabelle and Jamie, two McGill nutrition students at the time. Their idea was to compensate for protein deficiency in human diets with tasty chocolate snacks. 
  • After much product development and brand growth, they came up with Bean Bark: a delicious dark chocolate snack that contains high-levels of protein, fiber and iron from dehydrated fruit ingredients and our proprietary navy beans. 
  • Today, Bean Bark is retailed across 90 locations in Quebec and Ontario, as well online through Amazon and the company website (6).
    • The Remix founders and larger team hope to be able to retail Bean Bark in grocery store locations across all provinces of Canada, as well as the United States market. 

    Lessons Learned

    • First, firms need to create their own mold. Starting-up in Montreal’s young and emerging scene means that founders don’t have to follow one set model for entrepreneurial success. It is important to take the time to build one’s brand, refine one’s product or service, narrow down one’s company values, and identify the firm’s competitive advantage. At Remix, we have taken countless hours to perfect our Bean Bark recipe and are always on the hunt for new sustainable corporate practices that can challenge us to become more eco-friendly.
    • Second, start-ups need to know their customer well. Remix has recently launched feedback surveys to better understand Bean Bark’s consumer demographic and improve customer relationship management. Market research is absolutely essential in understanding Montreal’s niche markets and people’s needs and desires.
    • Finally, believe in one’s idea. It is a common saying that in order to be successful in the start-up scene, future entrepreneurs need to find a “gap in the market” that they can somehow fill with their own creative idea for a product or service. This is what makes one’s product or service “saleable.” At Remix, we believe that Bean Bark is the next delicious vegan and sustainable chocolate snack to lead the North American healthy snacking market.
    • Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more insight into what working at a start-up looks like. And stay tuned for more informative blog posts.

    @remixsnacks


    References:
    1. El-Barachi, Mohannad. (2016). “Why Montreal was the perfect place for my start-up.” Globe and Mail. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/leadership-lab/why-montreal-was-the-perfect-place-for-my-start-up/article31015949/
    2. Evive Smoothie. (2020). https://en.evivesmoothie.com/
    3. King, Karen and Florida, Richard. (2016). “Rise of Global Startup City: The Geography of Venture Capital Investment in Cities and Metros Across the Globe.” Martin Prosperity Institute. Retrieved from http://martinprosperity.org/content/rise-of-the-global-startup-city
    4. Mandy’s. (2020). https://mandys.ca/
    5. Saxenian, AnnaLee. (1995). “Discussion of Regional advantage: culture and competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128.”  Economic Geography, 71(2), 199-207.
    6. Remix Snacks. (2020). https://remixsnacks.ca/

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