From Our Blog

Can Montreal Become an Open Source Startup Hub?


“First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.” –Blake, Glengarry Glen Ross

Seth Godin, in his great book The Dip, points out that the only place that’s worth being, in business, is first place. When power laws and network effects are involved, the first place in line is the only place to be. You need to be “best in the world” at something, or you need to quit and start doing something else.

Technology ecosystems – most business markets, actually — have network effects. And that means that the only rank to have, as an ecosystem, is first place. Best in the world.

Who’s best in the world in Web startups? The San Francisco Bay Area. Who’s second? Probably New York City. Who’s third? Who cares? Third prize is you’re fired.

If we care about growing our local ecosystem, maybe we need to collectively quit our race for 14th or 29th place in the Web startup world and think about building something else. Something that we’re good at, and that nobody else is really working on. Something we can be best in the world at – not 14th in the world, and dropping.

Montreal has the opportunity to be the best ecosystem in the world for Open Source software startups. We’ve got a good cadre of entrepreneurs here who’ve had experience with building Open Source companies. We have investors who’ve been through the process of investing in and nurturing Open Source companies. And we have the all-important talent pool of people who’ve been part of the process.

More importantly, there’s not another leading Open Source city on the globe. San Francisco and Boston have a few companies, but they’re definitely not hubs. The commercial Open Source landscape is spread much further across the globe – from London to Utah to Germany to Austin.

Most of all, Open Source commercialization is hard. Ask anyone involved in an Open Source company. It’s difficult to make the model work. There aren’t easy answers. Startup techniques for other kinds of businesses — investment and release strategies — don’t seem to apply as well. That means there’s a barrier to entry for other ecosystems – one we can exploit.

Right now, I know of at least five Open Source startups in the city.

  • StatusNet – I started this company here in 2008. We’ve raised $2.3M in Montreal and New York. We do about 5000 downloads per month, and we have 45,000 sites running on our SaaS service. We have a staff of 9 in Montreal and San Francisco.
  • Vanilla Forums – World’s best forum software. It powers hundreds of thousands of sites worldwide, including a high-performance SaaS service.
  • Bookoven – This social publishing platform has pivoted to an Open Source software model. Led by Hugh McGuire, creator of Librivox, the immensely popular Open Content audio book project.
  • Stella – This great performance metrics company makes their software available as Open Source.
  • Subgraph – Startup security company whose vulnerability assessment software, Vega, is Open Source.

On the investor front, two of the leading funds in the city (iNovia Capital and Real Ventures) have experience with Open Source startups. Real Ventures (or rather, its predecessor fund, MSU) is an investor in three local Open Source companies.

As for talented potential employees… that’s tougher. There are a lot of talented technical people in the city, and out-of-town Open Source companies like Canonical have local tech teams that can feed into the startup talent pool. But talented business staff with Open Source experience? They’re thin on the ground everywhere. Fortunately, the people who’ve been working in the above companies are a good core for that pool, too.

Top Skills For Video Game Designers To Learn

Video Game

A video games designer must have a strong skill set which includes the likes of programming, video graphics and hardware essentials. Video games are essentially a sophisticated software which runs on a routine which also accepts commands from all the data controllers. The software contains basic language which can bring life to the game. If you want to venture into this field, you will have to learn a lot about computer programming and writing software.

Computer animation and graphics play a huge role when it comes to designing and learning new skills in these areas. These graphics are what the player actually see on the screen, which can bring the items within the game to the right backgrounds. Many players tend to judge the quality of a video game which is based on realism and creative application of graphics and animation. The software is the brains of the game, and the animation is the body.

Video games designers also need to have thorough knowledge about the workings of various game consoles which looks like Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox. These brands operate in its own way, which can use its software which is comparable to the consoles. This means that the game designer must have some familiarity with the operating systems, which can help determine the ways the console operates.

Playing Video Game

Many colleges and schools try to include a class which allow people to have an advanced degree in such areas. There are computer programming, computer engineering, software development. This allows one to acquire accredited training in the areas which show prospectives in any chose to field. There are many soft skills which is required for video game designers which include strong interpersonal and written communication abilities, organisation, teamwork and analytical mind which can allow one to have up to date knowledge about the history and the trends which can be beneficial in the business and markets.

Video game designers need experience and landing an internship in a video game company can add to the level of existing games, allowing you to work on your own skills. There are many video game companies out there who are offering internships which can qualify them to have direct contact with its key markets and allow for you to learn and the companies to access cheap labour. The internship and apprenticeships is widely advertised to have a good proactive in search in them, which will help them work better.

You can also opt for working by being hired by the freelance designer who can invent new aspects of the game. You can also design your own game which can have a wide array of readily available software for the task. Developing your own game is like building a portfolio which can help one evaluate their potential in the future.

Wajam Places Brings Friends’ Location Info into Search Engines

Search Engines

Wajam has been very busy of late adding new functionality. In June they announced Wajam Everywhere, which brought the social search product onto a variety of new sites beyond search engines. Last week, they announced Wajam Places, which brings location data from your friends into the search experience.

Here’s a screenshot of Google. The Wajam Places data shows up in the right sidebar.

Wajam Places shows you location-related results from your friends whenever you search online. You’ll find:

  • friends who LIVE in the city you search for
  • places that your friends have LIKED in this city
  • places your friends have CHECKED-IN to
  • PHOTOS taken by your friends at this location

Here’s a video explanation of the feature:

This sort of searching could be useful in cases when you’re looking for local recommendations: restaurants, hotels, etc. As much as there are specific sites and mobile apps designed for individual use cases (like restaurants), a ton of people still go to Google (or other search engines) and check there first. Wajam Places adds a layer of personalization to generic results.

Wajam is Social Search Directly in Your Search Engine

Social Search

Wajam is a startup entering into the crowded and messy social search space (most industries are crowded and messy!) The company was instigated by the folks at Bolidea, a startup accelerator that we’ve covered before. Bolidea has been involved in a few launches and startup announcements of late, including Artfox, Serviceville and Planbox.

Wajam started in March 2009, and they’re now getting ready to open the doors. They’ll be presenting at Startup Camp Montreal 7 as well.

NOTE: If you want an invite to Wajam, I may be able to help. Get in touch.

A lot of startups are playing in the social search space – Greplin, Blekko, Sentimnt (which has pivoted to the enterprise), Introspectr, Nsyght (which is already dead), Heystaks, and more. Even with a number of these early startups there have been pivots and outright failures. Although a lot of people are complaining about Google’s efficacy, search is a tough nut to crack.

Wajam’s approach is to embed its social results directly into your search engine of choice. This is one of its key differentiators. Users don’t have to change their behavior and can continue to use their search engine, with the added Wajam results displayed. Another very interesting point is that Wajam is attempting to monetize very quickly by displaying ads and providing Pro accounts to power users. We chatted with Martin-Luc Archambault, founder of Bolidea to learn more.

NextMontreal: What is Wajam?

Martin-Luc: Wajam is a browser extension that makes searching the web more personal by adding social results to your search engine. It works in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari, on either PC or Mac.

Wajam automatically saves the content you and your friends are posting on Twitter, Facebook, and Delicious and makes that content available when you search from Google, Bing, or Yahoo. So what’s great about Wajam is that it doesn’t require users to change the way they do things because it seamlessly ties into what they already do online.

Getting started simply involves downloading the Wajam browser application and telling it which sources to aggregate from (Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Bookmarks). This process not only takes less than a minute, but is absolutely safe and private. Wajam is certified by TRUSTe and Verisign, users have total control of which content it saves for them. Users’ content and personal information is kept secure on Rackspace cloud servers and is never shared with anybody.

You can watch a quick 30-second demo of the product here:

NextMontreal: When you started in March 2009 what was the focus?

Martin-Luc: In 3 months we had built a mini prototype with 3 features:

  1. Firefox add-on to “tag” any page on the web
  2. Adding a layer in Google to display results that were “tagged” by you and your network
  3. Adding friends to your network

That prototype alone gave us a lot of value because it allowed us to stop wasting time searching for stuff that others in the office had already found. I don’t know if it’s clear to an outsider, but here’s the original idea on the back of a napkin:

NextMontreal: What’s the core value proposition of Wajam? What opportunity did you see in the market that made you say, “We have to build this!”?

Most Profitable Small Business Opportunities In Canada

Small Business

In the year 2017, Canada has seen tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs who are looking to start a small business. Having the right vision and wok ethic can allow you to create a profitable business which fits your unique skill set. Here are some industries which are worth thinking about when starting a new venture.

Transportation and storage

The transportation and storage industry comprises of passenger transportation which can allow one to have the right warehouse and storing products. The industries can have a small start which can allow one to purchase a single truck and soliciting a handful of customers which can easily be expanded by hiring more driver and putting them on the road which has helped the customer base to grow.

Waste management and remediation

Waste management

With a growing economy, it is unavoidable that there is going to be an accumulation of waste which can be expanded with paper and old electric devices and other devices which are tossed in favour of the newer model. It is not fun but is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to keep people from the massive destruction which can help you curb waste production. Waste is never going away, which can mean a lot of opportunities for environmentally conscious entrepreneurs to make the planet a better place.

Professional services

Personal services which involve skills like marketing, accounting, management consulting and also conducting scientific research is thriving, especially when it comes to selling the knowledge and expertise as human capital. They are many businesses which can save on taxes and can streamline their account and payroll processes which can improve the marginal strength. There are many professional services business which can allow one to update their skill set to ensure that they do not depend on the direction of economic funds which can help one have a pike on technology.

Real Estate

Real Estate

With the flourishing economy, people buying and renting houses also increases. As the business grows, one can easily expand their need and fill worked to a certain position. These workers are crucial to ensure that you are putting down roots to help start a new career. There are many real estate professionals who can allow one to buy and sell properties, manage rental and investment real estates and others. Real estate market is proven to be profitable as the average revenue which was made is $181,000 for medium-sized enterprises.

Fitness and recreational sports centres

If you are someone who is passionate about fitness and want to turn your love of exercise into being healthy, boutique fitness centres are giving a big impersonal chain gym which is a serious competition which has allowed one to give the right workout. It is estimated that 70% of fitness and recreational sports centres in the country can have profitable sales but requires a lot of hard work and reaching the limits.


How Wajam Compares to Google’s Search Plus Your World

Google Plus

The controversy over Google’s Search Plus Your World (where they’re now showing Google+ results at the top of the page, irrespective of whether they really belong there or not) won’t go away. The FTC is likely going to get involved over Google’s use of its monopoly in search to promote other products (in this case Google+). It doesn’t surprise me that Google is trying to do this, but it’s causing a ton of uproar and discussion across the Internet.

Blake Ross (from Facebook) and a team of engineers from MySpace and Twitter hacked together a browser extension called focusontheuser that displays better Twitter and FB results in Google. It’s a quick demonstration, but a good example of how Google isn’t treating all results equally.

Yesterday, Wajam put out a quick video demonstrating its social search capabilities versus Google and focusontheuser. You can read their blog post and check out the video below:

Wajam is demonstrating its ability to grab friends’ data from across all social networks and provide that to you in the search results. This is significantly different than what Google is doing, and puts Wajam right in the middle of a growing storm around search and the value of social search. It should be interesting to watch how things transpire with Google and the big boys, and also to see how Wajam can react and benefit from the attention and turmoil in the space.

$15 Million Dollar Incubator Jesta Labs Shuts Down

Jesta Labs

In early October we wrote about Jesta Labs, a new incubator based in New York, with operations in Montreal. The incubator had $15 million from Jesta Digital, its parent company. They had three products they were working on, all internal ideas, but they were also looking at investing in other people’s projects as well. And they were hiring in Montreal.

Then a few weeks ago, I got word that Jesta Labs had been shut down. Now the Jesta Labs website is gone, and I’ve confirmed that Jesta Labs is finished.

From what I understand to-date, Jesta Digital (the parent company) shut down Jesta Labs and let go of all the teams. It was sudden and came without warning. The reason isn’t entirely clear, although we spoke with one person that said Jesta Digital was no longer interested in funding the projects, which included Gush (photo management), Jaunt (travel) and Robot Destroy Club (Facebook gaming.)

I was using Gush and it was a good service. It’s still running (see:, but as of this moment no one is working on it.

Overall this is quite a turnaround from raising $15 million, funding and launching three projects, and hiring a bunch of developers (in Montreal, NY and elsewhere.) I’m continuing to look into the story to see if I can learn more.