15+ shocking reflections to elevate the support ecosystem and services offered to Quebec startups

the contagious success of the first day of startupfest spread toacceleratorfest, back in montreal for its 10th edition. this important discussion forum enabled key people in the sector to have important and sometimes difficult conversations about the challenges facing the support ecosystem in quebec and beyond.

as we often see at mainRunning a accelerator startup is a constant challenge. As the industry evolves, gas pedals are faced with increased expectations in terms of improved results and added value for startups. acceleratorfest was therefore a place of introspection and an opportunity to share best practices.

here's a selection of some of the key points to emerge from the stimulating discussions and debates.



photo credit: ©merrylblavoie

first of all, we were inspired... by the factors that enable gas pedals to evolve over time, keep pace with the changing needs of startups and measure their impact on a startup's success.

"teaching long-term sustainable health habits for founders".. gas pedals need to focus on developing entrepreneurs, giving priority to their soft skills. by helping them create a good organizational culture that takes into account the right conditions for collaboration from the outset, entrepreneurs can better cope with the pressure and challenges of the intensive support programs they join.

"promote good habits versus the culture of overwhelming hustle".. it's often forgotten, but the problems faced by entrepreneurs are mostly mental and emotional, rather than real business considerations. support structures are responsible for "pushing them at the right time and making sure they can succeed with a high level of self-confidence".

"mentors and everyone we bring into our ecosystems as accelerators are a reflection of our program".. offering mentoring is a valuable part of a support structure's service offering. but, like an entrepreneur, are our mentors coachable? knowing that a majority of mentors have not been trained, encouraged or pushed towards the right posture to adopt when interacting with an entrepreneur.e, support structures need to help mentors adapt to entrepreneurs and guide companies through the mentoring process. this means teaching entrepreneurs to ask themselves these questions: is this the right mentor for this aspect of my business? can i use or operationalize this advice? or, is this right for me right now?


photo credit: ©merrylblavoie

then we refocused... looking at the macro environment in which our startup ecosystem operates, reflecting on the effects of current economic trends.

"canada is somewhat lacking the amount of data that we truly need to understand what's going on with the innovation economy and how about so supported".. our ecosystem needs a clear, structured and shared strategy on data collection to better identify the impact of economic trends and the issues involved in supporting startups.

"being an entrepreneur in 2023 is an extreme sport and the environment is tense".. the current global context - war in ukraine, high inflation, bank liquidity problems, growing inequality and climate upheaval - is having an impact on sales, marketing, investments and, ultimately, on startups.

"money is no longer free anymoreas the latest report from bdc capital points out, the return to pre-pandemic levels of venture capital is reflected in the difficulty startups are experiencing in finding capital. the macroeconomic context and investors' lower risk tolerance levels also explain this scarcity of capital. and this difficulty in accessing capital is even greater for women startup founders and visible minorities.

"capital is a coward. due to the current economic environment, many growth-stage companies, especially those that have raised a lot of capital, are revising their growth forecasts due to a lack of clear visibility on end-customer demand and budgets. this slowdown in capital deployment should be an opportunity for entrepreneurs to think harder.

"the era of growth at all cost is over. we have to refocus on profitability".Indeed, entrepreneurs need to focus more on market and customer fit to generate sufficient order book and initial traction before thinking about raising "tons of money".

"integrate esg (environmental, social and governance) factors in your business".. if we look at the cleantech sector, we can see that investment has more than doubled between 2021 and 2022. there is therefore a growing need for sustainable and innovative solutions to meet all the challenges we face as a society. in addition, gas pedals and incubators need to help entrepreneurs ask the right questions when it comes to esg factors in order to mitigate risks for the business and better prepare it for the future.

"startups need to be involved with the canadian policy discussions (on all levels of governments)".. the canadian government favors multinationals over domestic companies. one only has to look at the number of policies moving in this direction, such as incentives that reduce income tax liabilities. with this in mind, how can we encourage startups to benefit more from tax incentives, such as for scientific research and experimental development (sr&ed)? Ecosystem leaders need to engage in exchanges on public policy, laws and regulations in order to take a stand on a number of issues, including access to capital and attracting highly qualified talent for startups, etc.

"help companies go out and expand globally. canada and canadian companies remain a guarantee of security on the international stage. in fact, 50% of venture capital transactions come from outside canada, which clearly shows that canadian startups have strong international potential. however, this ambition must be supported by greater efforts in terms of intellectual property protection strategies, an increase in internationalization support measures and a strengthening of entrepreneurs' competitive posture.


photo credit: ©merrylblavoie

finally, we've risen... by sharing our experiences on three crucial themes within an entrepreneurial ecosystem: taking care of people, taking care of technology and taking care of business (models).

"people just need a safe space (between founders)".. the mental health of entrepreneurs is a very important issue that needs to be studied in greater depth in order to find the right solutions. many entrepreneurs still find it difficult to express themselves freely on the subject, which should lead to the creation of safe spaces to enable them to exchange ideas in a relaxed and reassuring setting. it is also important to resolve the issue of access to professional help by promoting connections between the startup ecosystem and healthcare professionals.

"The role of accelerator is to help entrepreneurs stand out from the crowd and be really precise in their objectives. We need to give them the tools they need to grasp the value creation of their technology and its real impact on the market.

"customer readiness leads directly to investor readiness". this subject was touched on above, but it's important to repeat it, as it was a cross-cutting theme at the event. in the ecosystem, there's a lot of emphasis on investment, on preparing startups for fund-raising. It's important to remember that investment is only part of the equation. If a startup doesn't manage to get customers or contracts, it won't get investment.

"one for all in the room is collaboration".. as a player in startup support, let's remember that we are always at the service of entrepreneurs. everything we do, we must always do in the interest of entrepreneurs. there aren't enough specialists in each region to meet all the needs of entrepreneurs.The ecosystem must therefore put entrepreneurs in touch with the right people who will make the difference in their journey and enable them to achieve things that would not have been possible without the collaborative contribution of the support ecosystem.

"a hub isn't a coworking space, we have to build a community".. the value of a support structure's service offering lies in its personalized approach and access to a panoply of resources that meet the needs of entrepreneurs. to keep this entrepreneurial community active, ecosystem players need to ensure that the number of startups we can create in québec is sufficient if we want to remain competitive. to overcome this challenge, we need to take advantage of our community's outreach by making sure we attract more startups from abroad.

now that acceleratorfest is behind us, the support ecosystem will be meeting at sommet des accélérateurs 2024 in the national capital region, at the manoir du lac delage, to discuss issues common to the ecosystem, to imagine and build the future, and to meet potential partners sharing the same ambition.

- youri dermigny