January 18, 2017
Tracey Lindeman, Special to Montreal Gazette
More from Tracey Lindeman, Special to Montreal Gazette
Montreal has startup incubators for everything these days — health, engineering, mobile apps, video games and your garden-variety tech companies.
But for a city that so fervently upholds itself as a place teeming with creativity, there’s a surprising dearth of startup services specifically geared toward cultural and creative fields.
“It’s hard to get creatives into business. They don’t like the word ‘business,’ ” says Madeleine Bazerghi, the lead on Dawson College’s entrepreneurship initiative.
The term “creatives,” in this context, means everything from architecture to fashion to crafts and nearly everything in between. Dawson is hoping to bridge the gap between such a broad range of specialties by assembling them under one singular goal: starting a business.
In September Dawson, in partnership with CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal, will launch its pilot project version of iC — incubator + campus — an eight-month intensive program stocked with mentors and financial and legal helpers designed to get would-be entrepreneurs ready for the startup world.
The directors of both CEGEPs pitched the idea at Je vois Montréal in November, although in reality it already existed on paper. The pitch was one of the 180 community-improvement projects to make it to the second phase — the Je fais Montréal stage.
“I think it helped us formulate our ideas better and commit to doing it,” Bazerghi says of the pitch process.
The iC program is open to the community at large and anyone who has been out of high school or CEGEP for at least a year, and will have costs comparable to other CEGEP programs.
The intent, Bazerghi says, is to find the next Moment Factory or Cirque du Soleil. She says the program’s focus on cross-pollination could really help one-track minds see beyond their most immediate needs and goals.
“We are focusing on the artists themselves who typically become self-employed. We want to leverage their talent to create something bigger than they are,” she says.
Louis-Félix Binette doesn’t apply the term “creative” solely to people working in artistic domains.
Binette is the man behind Montreal’s edition of Creative Mornings, an international monthly speaker series and networking event with local chapters in more than 100 cities meant to unite creatives of every stripe.
“In this world, in this economy, it’s more important than ever for a big bank or an insurance company to be creative. Everyone knows that. So how do we make that happen in Montreal?” he wonders.
That’s the question he asked at Je vois Montréal in the fall, and now it’s the one he gets to answer with his economic summit on creative communities.
Binette, who also runs business consulting firm f&co, has undertaken the organization of a Creative Mornings-inspired Montreal business summit that will see company higher-ups come together to address creativity in business.
Marketing agency Cossette, the main sponsor behind the Creative Mornings chapters in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver, has agreed to foot the bill of the summit, too.
He hopes the meeting will inspire participating company execs to go forth and hire by reaching into Montreal’s artistic and innovative communities.
Entrepreneurs with creative sensibilities stand a greater chance of hiring people who can help make their businesses more competitive and modern, according to Binette.
“There’s a real need to attract talent, and you don’t attract talent in a big glass tower downtown,” Binette says.
In preparation for this fall’s summit — a project he committed to with Je fais Montréal — Binette and his team are gathering research on Montreal’s creators and the spaces they operate in. He wants to know who and where they are, what they make, what kind of events they hold, whether they have sponsors.
He recognizes the limitations of such a task, and doesn’t know whether it’s even possible to capture everything that’s being done on a creative level. Rather, Binette says he merely wants to take the pulse of the community as a first step to figuring out how to move it forward.
“What’s the health of our creative underground?” Binette asks. “What makes this city creative? Who are the people who make this city creative? I don’t think it’s big names like Cirque du Soleil or Ubisoft that make it creative.”
Binette knows through Creative Mornings’ blockbuster success in Montreal — he often has to turn away hundreds of people — that there’s an appetite for a stronger link between the city’s business and creative sectors.
But Creative Mornings and Binette’s fall summit are just two pieces of the puzzle.
“There needs to be more opportunities for exchange and inspiration in the city,” Binette says.