A Startup’s guide to Startupfest

Maximize your festival experience this year with a little planning. We’ve made it easy.


Having a plan, whether for your startup or in your life, is always a good idea. It’s what keeps you focused and maximizes efficiency with your precious time. With so much happening this year at Startupfest, it can be a little overwhelming attempting to plan how to take it all in. Relax, we’re here to help.

Our plan with this guide is to help you get the most out of your Startupfest 2017 experience. Think of it as a roadmap for the festival, helping you decide which events, speakers or prize opportunities are a must to include on your checklist.

As much as we all love a good plan, there are times when you have to let go of them. Those really exciting and sometimes fruitful experiences in life (like that random encounter that changes everything) often occur by chance. Or, channelling this year’s theme, by luck.

So, in your festival plan be sure to leave some room for serendipity to enter, because you never know what plans it might have for you.


$100k Investment Prize

Is your startup looking for some serious funding? Of course it is! Well, this is the big prize that you’ll want to take back to the office (or garage) to help propel your business forward.

Besides the six figures, what also makes the 100k Prize so special is that it’s open to any startup at the event. That means no pre-registration required.

Just track down one of the designated investors/judges wearing a blue lanyard or find them in the $100k Tent (hint: you can also see the list of investors here). You have until end of day Thursday to pitch to them. Each investor will shortlist one startup. Make the cut, and you’ll be contacted that evening and invited to a private breakfast Friday morning where you’ll pitch to the entire group of investors.

Even if you don’t walk away with the $100k, you could win the Star Up Weekend prize in the Turks & Caicos.


Grandmothers’ Choice Award (Backed by EY)

You might want to file this event under can’t miss. Open to any startup, it’s one of the festival’s most popular, and beloved, events. On Thursday and Friday afternoon from 12 to 5pm, you’ll find these startup savvy seniors in the Grandmother Judges Tent in the Tent Village. Simply put your name on the list and line up to pitch to the grannies. Be warned, their sweetness masks a BS radar finely honed from decades of experience.

This may be a non-cash prize, but winning it comes with serious bragging rights, not to mention a prize package from FounderFuel and inclusion on their next cohort shortlist.


CBC Media Pitch

This pitch event that’s open to all can result in some potentially priceless media exposure for your startup. Spaces to pitch to the CBC fill up fast, so look for the iconic CBC logo in the Media Tent in the Tent Village and book your time slot quickly, starting Wednesday evening at the kickoff party (you have until Thursday afternoon to sign up). The top pitch chosen will be featured on CBC Montreal.


Accelerator Zone

This is the place to learn about and connect with accelerator programs, such as Techstars and LSpark. Next36 – Canada’s premiere program for developing young entrepreneurs – will also be there. On Thursday, any senior post-secondary student or recent grad can pitch (in two minutes or less) to their alumni and mentor judges for the chance to win an exclusive founder spot in their 2018 Cohort.


CIO Tent

Newly added this year is the CIO Lounge. It’s where you’ll find Chief Innovation Officers from some of Canada’s top companies, including Banque Nationale, Scotia Enterprise Innovation, Woodbridge group, General Motors, Jean Coutu, and Videotron, waiting to connect and learn about your startup.

To tap into this source of major brainpower, simply check the schedule online, note who you’d like to approach, and then drop by (first come, first served) on Thursday and Friday to meet.



Networking opportunities are a big part of the Startupfest experience, and where the magic often happens. But connecting with the right people is something that’s often left to chance, and randomly going up to someone for the introduction isn’t for everyone. Braindates changes that.

This year, we’ve harnessed the power of Montreal’s e180 and their Braindate platform to make hooking up one-on-one with the people you need to, easier than ever.

With your Startupfest registration, you automatically receive your Braindate invite within 48 hours. Create your profile by telling us a bit about yourself. You can then create offers to share knowledge with others, and book braindates with fellow participants based on interests or topics most pertinent to you. Braindating is fun, you’ll learn a ton, and walk away with new and potentially invaluable connections.



Think your startup has a story that needs to be told? This year be on the lookout for journalists from TechCrunch, BetaKit, CBC, Fortune, Entrepreneur Mag, Venture Beat, AlleyWatch, VICE, and more.



So many world-class speakers, so little time. Check the schedule for talks here, and map out who you want to see.

Here are some you might not want to miss:
– How to go Viral with Karen Cheng (5 minute lightning Thursday morning, then a workshop “How To” session).
– Sarah Lacy, Founder, Pando Daily
– Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls CODE
– Ryan Hoover, Founder, Product Hunt.
– Media AMA Panel
– Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development



The tents are filled with opportunities, so spend some time sifting through all of them. You’ll find products that could help your own business, lots of demos and programs available for startups.



Not all the action happens on-site. A range of organizations run their own, “Off-Events” (these are not organized by Startupfest and we aren’t responsible for their content or format). Off-site parties, product launches and demos, are a great way to experience other startup-related events and they lend a true “festival” air to the week.

Thursday evening is party filled, and a great way to get a taste of some of the nightlife Montreal is famous (or infamous) for. You can see some of what’s happening here.