How Loto-Quebec has bet on HookMotion

How Loto-Quebec has bet on HookMotion

by Startup Montréal
17 November 2022
The story of Hookmotion and its collaboration with Loto-Québec is a success story of our startup ecosystem thanks to the enthusiasm of partners such as MT Lab and Centech who accompanied the public institution in moving forward with a startup like HookMotion. Behind this success story, we must understand the decision-making process that the large company went through and the challenges encountered before arriving at a collaboration.


Loto-Québec’s double challenge

Like all companies at that time, Loto-Québec was looking to attract IT talent at a time when labour was already in short supply in this in-demand sector. In addition, the public institution also had a challenge concerning the management of its gaming tables, a need it had been trying to solve for several years.

In the form of a reverse-pitch organized by Centech’s Collision Lab, Loto-Québec presented its challenge regarding the management of its gaming tables during the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course at ÉTS, an elective course offered in engineering programs. The goal was to have a solution analyzing the progress of the game in real time to facilitate the work of the staff.

The presentation of this challenge was intended to form work teams and find an innovative solution. For Loto-Québec, this opportunity allowed it to demonstrate their know-how and their core values and to potentially offer internships by exposing itself to engineering graduates to fill their talent needs.


Centech’s coaching offer

Loto-Québec had developed an in-house product in 2010, but was looking to automate it. The search for IT solution providers to meet this need was not successful. The resumption of the project in 2019 by the innovation team led them to propose an open innovation concept to the Montreal casino team. The reverse-pitch proposal offered by the Collision Lab was therefore a safe approach to try to get a solution.

“Centech played a key role in this open innovation process, supporting Loto-Québec’s internal resources and coaching startups to reduce the risks inherent in innovation. This ecosystem behind the collaboration with the organization reassures public organizations, like Loto-Québec, to carry out the open innovation project” – Dany Sirois, Senior Advisor for Strategy and Innovation – Office of the President and Business Strategy, Loto-Québec

Hookmotion’s solution

Faced with this need for automation, Matthieu Clas and three other colleagues from the course, including an AI specialist, formed a group that they would later name Hookmotion. The diversity of these engineers’ backgrounds and their in-depth knowledge of existing technologies allowed them to consider different solutions to Loto-Québec’s needs. The team behind this project demonstrates the importance of complementarity between innovators and entrepreneurial will.

The advantage of the solution proposed by Hookmotion was that it offered a software solution without adding physical equipment to the gaming tables, since it used the cameras already in place above the gaming tables. The only requirement was adding machine learning elements to help monitor the gaming tables by collecting information on gaming components and activities as well as detecting any potential anomalies. The potential of this technology is not only useful in Quebec casinos and is not limited to blackjack tables, but could be used on other table games in any casino or gaming room in the world with human interaction.

Centech offered Hookmotion a fast track to their Accélération program which offered 12 weeks of business incubation, for this team that best met this need of the public institution.


Several questions and strategic considerations

Two essential elements of the company-startup collaboration are now in place: the need and the proposed solution. However, it was only the beginning on the Loto-Québec side to maintain the relationship with Hookmotion. Fortunately, the internal teams were open to this experimentation and senior management was ready to pursue this approach.

The internal teams played a key role with the corporate innovation team and the casino company team having to answer a lot of questions from Hookmotion about gaming operations accompanied by casino specialists. The team’s ability to deliver a proof of concept addressed many concerns that were legitimate at the beginning of the process. The technology deployed by the startup, on artificial intelligence and its functionality, as well as the rationale for these tech startups involve many innovative elements within the company, such as these questions:

  • Who owns the intellectual property of the solution? Does the company give the startup permission to sell the product internationally? Loto-Quebec has been encouraging entrepreneurship for years, among others with the ACEE du Québec, OseEntreprendre or Expo Entrepreneurs. So there was no question of preventing Hookmotion from selling its solution outside Quebec.
  • What is the procurement process? Loto-Quebec, like many government agencies, did not have a process that allowed for contracting out in an R&D context. The legal and procurement team then proposed an exception to the company’s procurement policy, which was then approved by the board of directors.

Through all these questions and strategic reflections, the important thing is to have people who have an open mind internally, who are looking for solutions to facilitate an innovation process. These people must also find allies, both in operations and in senior management, in order to move forward with a first proof of concept and then allocate budgets to innovate on a larger scale. At Loto-Quebec, the project team moved cautiously to gradually demonstrate that Hookmotion’s proposed solution was a value-added tool for casino operations.

Thanks to the leadership of several innovative people, Loto-Quebec was able to promote local creativity and know-how by encouraging this Montreal-based startup specialized in artificial intelligence to prove itself here by validating their concept before launching into the market.


The next steps of collaboration

Over the years, Hookmotion has officially become a company, has been selected in Centech’s Propulsion program, a 2-year program, and has been subsequently supported at MT Lab. A contractual agreement is under development with Loto-Québec to equip a first casino with their solution.

On the side of Loto-Québec, the process that started in 2019 allowed the public institution to create a link and a certain reputation with the ÉTS and the Centech facilitating the recruitment of several IT interns in a difficult hiring context in addition to increasing its employer brand as an innovative company. Loto-Quebec benefits from significant savings with the AI solution proposed by Hookmotion in addition to contributing to raising awareness of emerging technologies and open innovation among local businesses.



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