Naysawn Naderi is the sole founder of Art Sumo. Art Sumo is one of three Montreal startups joining the Start-Up Chile incubator in Santiago, Chile for 6 months. They receive $40,000 equity-free as an investment. Art Sumo is a daily deals site for handmade art from the developing world.
With the recent announcement of Art Sumo’s departure from Montreal for Start-Up Chile, I asked him to write his thoughts and share them with the NextMontreal community — and he’s done so. Thank you Naysawn, and best of luck in Chile!
A Summer in Montreal and a Winter in Santiago
Below are some thoughts on what I learned from my summer bootstrapping a company in Montreal and why I’m ultimately headed to Chile for the next 6 months to continue working on Art Sumo. My experience in Montreal has taught me that Canada is a fantastic place to bootstrap a company and really more foreigners should consider Canada as a place to start a business. I’ll be sure to come back after my stint in Chile.
Montreal – A Bootstrapper’s Friend
I came to Montreal with eyes wide open. I had been a student here and had left Montreal with the understanding that the city was a student hub and a fantastic place to enjoy life, but not the best place to run a company. Boy was I wrong.
Community: A startup community clearly exists in Montreal – rich with approximately 200 startups in town, a strong community, numerous networking events, plenty of co-working spaces, several annual conferences, multiple incubators and many investors. Coming from Seattle (where I worked at Microsoft) this was all a surprise, but I was particularly impressed by the willingness of the founders to help each other out. In my brief stint in town, I met numerous founders eager to try out Art Sumo, provide suggestions, write blog posts telling others about it, and invite me to present at their events. I found the founders to each have interesting stories with most being immigrants who speak 2-3 languages.
Investors: I attended Startup Festival Montreal in July. Hats off to Phil Telio + the other organizers for putting on quite the show and attracting top speakers to the event. I was really surprised to meet the sheer quantity of attendees with investment firm or incubator badges. Through it, I learned that there are several incubators in town, including Year One Labs and Founder Fuel, with others in Ontario and one even dedicated to Waterloo students.
Government Support: I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the amount of government support available to technology companies in Canada. In addition to offering some of the lowest business taxes in the world, the Canadian, Quebec and Montreal governments have numerous grants available to innovative Canadian companies. The grants typically cover about $10k of expenses, require a business plan to apply for, and make you jump through some bureaucratic hoops. I spoke to one entrepreneur who had managed to stack four such grants together to fund his startup, with one of the grants amounting to a $50k equity-free investment.
Further, Canada offers an amazing SR&ED credit program that can cover a significant percentage of your startup’s development costs. These credits are not limited to small companies but rather many large companies leverage the program as well. Getting the cash isn’t as simple as the process could be for a startup. While the process can be a pain it can be incredibly valuable – so much so that one startup I spoke with claimed that because of SR&ED, doing development in Canada is less expensive than outsourcing development to India.
City: Montreal itself is a fantastic city which always seems to be full of life. During the summer, the city overflows with things to do and just walking from one part of the city to another you can find a concert, a free ballet performance or meet a few friends along the way. In addition, Montrealers are a pretty friendly bunch and seem to always be eager to meet new people. This was a welcome change to the Seattle freeze to which I had become accustomed.
Foreigner Friendly: I would be remiss if I didn’t mentions the number of foreign entrepreneurs who I met who came to Canada to start companies. They each reported that Canadian immigration was much more welcoming than the American counterpart and they generally received their permanent residency within a year of applying for it.
For more information about technology companies in Canada. Click here.