In our latest blog post It’s time for a Fresh Start, we explained why we don’t want a new normal—instead, we’re after a fresh start. As we gather in person once again, we can’t just return to the old world. We have to turn what we’ve learned from this crisis into something new, finding novel ways to share knowledge, form meaningful relationships, and build better businesses faster.
Startupfest has always put the startup ecosystem first, from our early days as a grassroots meetup to the iconic annual festival that transformed Montreal’s greatest venues into packed celebrations of founders and entrepreneurship. For over a decade, we’ve found ways to deliver meaningful interactions in unexpected ways that challenge the status quo—something that’s more necessary now than ever.
Since the past should always inform the future, we delved into our 12-year history. This, then, is a reflection on how Startupfest has been creating fresh starts since its inception:
A tough path to reincarnation
Yves Boudreau, Chief Executive Officer at CareerBeacon & Alongside, recently shared his story and the impact of a simple interaction with the world on LinkedIn.
After just coming out of personal bankruptcy (related to his first startup) and spending the previous seven years rebuilding his credit, he had a serendipitous encounter with legendary entrepreneur Paul Ford at Startupfest 2013. They bonded over the inalienable qualities that it takes to be a successful entrepreneur: Grit, perseverance, drive, and more.
“So I love this photo,” he says “because that’s the day – July 13, 2013 – that I knew I was ready to take the leap again and I haven’t looked back since.”
Matchmaking at Startupfest
Startupfest has welcomed not only tens of thousands of founders, but also thousands of speakers, and noted investors—many of whom were founders themselves. Sometimes the things they find are more than just funding, wisdom, or collaborators. Evan Patronik, Head of Global Venture Selection (who took the stage back in 2018) even met his soulmate and now wife, Olga, at Startupfest!
By now, he’s family. He sends us annual updates on his life—which we absolutely love! He and Olga now have a child and they shared that “the little one just turned 1 a few weeks ago and is an adorable (at least we think so) little monster!” Fun fact: Ruby Lou Patronik shares her first name with Startupfest founder Phil Telio’s daughter.
Starts and stops: The train!
One of the things that defines Startupfest is our love of the unusual. We know that getting people safely out of their comfort zone makes them open to new experiences. When you’re sharing an unexpected experience—whether that’s a boat ride, grandmother judges, or pitching in a freight elevator—you have something in common.
Longtime Startupfest superfan Brydon Gilliss took this to the next level when he founded the Startup Train in 2012. Ever since, Brydon has packed a first-class Via Rail train car from Toronto with founders and investors, and rolled the steel wheels to Montreal. By the time they arrive, the party is usually well underway.
This out-of-the-box thinking gives new attendees a head start on the networking and learning that happens at Startupfest. Passengers meet new friends, discover partners, pitch investors, hear often company-changing wisdom from those who’ve been there. The pre-events, online shared space, and the Startup Tent have always been geared towards helping attendees leverage the real opportunity that Startupfest presents.
The train was so successful, and enabled so many other fresh starts, that the team at Highline Beta has taken it under its wing for the past few years. Hussam Ayyad, former Senior Director, Programs & Partnerships at DMZ and speaker at Startupfest, is now Chief Accelerator Officer at Highline Beta. Brydon has already reached out and together we’re still figuring out if the train will roll in 2022, but we already look forward to its next edition—and to seeing familiar, and fresh, Ontario faces, however they make it to Montreal.
Do you have fresh starts to share? Get in touch and we’ll highlight them!