The story of an ecosystem

The story of an ecosystem

Review of fifteen years of innovation

Over the past 15 years, the Montréal startup ecosystem has gone through several major milestones, which have propelled the city into the highest ranks of startup ecosystems in the world.

We have decided to look back only 15 years, but we could have begun the history of our ecosystem with Montréal’s earliest innovations: the goalie mask in 1959, the Wonderbra in 1955, or even Archie, the first search engine in 1990. Today’s startup ecosystem is built on the efforts of inventors and pioneers, such as Centech which, in 1996, started its operations as the first incubator in Montréal.

Fifteen years is barely the age of maturity. Let’s revisit this history.


2006-2009 – (Re)birth of today’s ecosystem

The technology sector bubble burst in the early 2000s which chilled investment and entrepreneurial activity in Montréal. Despite a slow return, it was around 2006 that Montréal saw a real recovery in the technology sector. Experienced entrepreneurs launched new private venture capital funds. Finally, institutional investors began to define their roles better to maximize their performance and their impact, in the midst of the global financial crisis.

Here are some highlights from this period:

  • Investment firms emerge that are still active today: Inovia, Real Ventures and Teralys Capital
  • First major event for startups: StartupCamp Montréal
  • Launch of major technological companies: Stingray, Beyond the Rack, Modasuite/Frank & Oak, SSense
  • Montreal NewTech is born as the first organization dedicated to the development of a startup community


2010-2013 – Takeoff

The beginning of the decade marked the evolution of the Montréal technology ecosystem. The first actions initiated in the early 2000s to provide better support to startup growth took off. More actors in support and funding arrived in the Montréal startup ecosystem. Coaching and mentoring became components that contributed significantly to support the entrepreneurial community.

Here are some highlights from this period:

  • Start of major actions to support the ecosystem: opening of a first startup hub, Notman House, and beginning of Startupfest
  • Angel investors become better organized. Anges Québec launches its second investment fund. Several new funds are created: XPND Capital, Emerillon and Iris Capital
  • LightSpeed Retail, Beyond the Rack, LumenPulse, Accedian and Busbud become world recognized brands
  • The first pre-accelerators and accelerators created by venture capital investors open their doors: Founder Institute Montréal and FounderFuel
  • Major competitions are held, such as Hacking Health


2014-2017 – Propulsion

During this period, Montréal beat records in the international rankings, reaching the Startup Genome Top 20. This recognition came from record-setting venture capital financing. In addition, the acceleration offering for startups continued to multiply, extending into a wider variety of sectors. The supporting players deployed offers to reach more varied targets, particularly women and ethnocultural minorities.

Here are some highlights from this period:

  • Even more players: District 3, La Piscine, Centech, MT Lab, Esplanade Québec, Groupe 3737, etc.
  • Even more private and public funding: BCF Ventures, Startup Québec
  • Even more major startups: CDPQ invests in Lightspeed; Element AI is launched; AppDirect holds a big fundraising campaign
  • Creation of PME Montréal by the City of Montréal, reorganizing the metropolitan economic development model
  • Major new competitions are added, including Coopérathon
  • International visibility of talent in artificial intelligence, particularly thanks to Mila


2018 to today – Consolidation

Montréal support and funding actors consolidated their offering to startups by improving services to the least represented founders. The different levels of government gave more recognition to the economic potential of startups. Finally, despite the economic uncertainty related to the pandemic, Montréal set records in venture capital funding.

Here are some highlights from this period:

  • Consolidation of the actors: Innocité merges with Centech; Femmessor becomes Evol
  • The two biggest technology players in Québec go public: Lightspeed and Nuvei
  • BDC launches its venture capital fund for women across Canada
  • iNovia launches its growth fund
  • Launch of Startup Montréal as an innovation hub for Montréal
  • Creation of Startup Montréal, following the merger of Startup Montréal and Montréal inc.