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Montreal... needs... brains........

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Updated below

Seems Google is hiring for offices in Montreal, and looking to employ 200-300 people. I’m not an engineer, so it’s not like I want to go there, but I’m still really excited, and it has something to do with Hugh and Boris, interestingly.

Basically, the idea is as follows: in other cities, nerds interact and develop communities. In Boston, the podcasters know each other, and in San Francisco, the offices for Obvious (i.e.: the Twitter company) and Podshow are a block away from each other, I hear. What does this mean? People in other places, they talk. In Montreal, we don’t– like, ever. Somehow, the geek culture, where people talk about their ideas and help develop them, it doesn’t happen as much here. It’s weird.

Boris was the first person to mention this, to Hugh, and then to me, at which point I started seriously bitching about how right he was. Hugh is the founder of Librivox, which is huge. Casey and Rudy probably do the biggest videoblog in Canada (that I know of, anyway), and we have loads of other people here who work on great stuff (Austin, Boris, and others comes to mind). I’m not doing too bad either, I’d like to add! So why don’t they ever talk to each other? Why don’t we band together and create… I don’t know, anything???

The answer? Honestly, I don’t have a clue. If there are secret things happening that are under NDA, I obviously don’t know them. If there’s a hell of a lot of that, great– but part of me doesn’t really think so. So why do I care that Google is coming? It’s because Montreal needs not only brain power, but brain power that communicates and is excited about stuff. I have a feeling, a hint, that Google will finally get people excited.

Update: Three possible meetings have been proposed as fulcrums around which to discuss these things: Hugh proposes an evening (Thursday at Zeke’s), Ben proposes a weekly early morning coffee. Philippe also reminds us that Yulbiz is tomorrow, and we’ll be certain to discuss the issue.

* Filed by Julien at 12:10 pm under random


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

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59 Responses to “Montreal... needs... brains........”

  1. Christopher Penn, Financial Aid Podcast Says:

    Isn’t that what PodCamp Montreal would be?

  2. Julien Says:

    I’d like it to be. I wonder if people would even show up though! I feel like it’s that bad sometimes.

  3. Sebastien Provencher Says:

    Julien,

    I totally agree with you. There is a slowly emerging Montreal tech community but the arrival of a Google might do what the arrival of Ubisoft did for videogames in 1997. We now have a solid videogame industry.

    I invite you to check out the following events if you want to meet other people in Montreal that are excited about emerging technologies and blogging:
    YulBiz: http://upcoming.org/event/73905/
    YulBlog: http://www.yulblog.org/
    Montreal Barcamp: http://barcamp.org/BarCampMontreal2
    Montreal Democamp: http://barcamp.org/DemoCampMontreal1

  4. Mat Says:

    I’m on my way back to Montreal in about a month or so to start work on my own (humble) web project. I’ve been told that there’s a group of web-mined people that get together at Laika occasionally to work/exchange. What’s that like?

    The Google news/rumours are definitely exciting. Just what Montreal needs!

  5. Matthew Says:

    We have enough tech talent, large tech companies (ubi soft, discreet, soft image…), small start ups (too many to name), and otherwise tech savy folk for something to gestate. It’s hard to say why it doesn’t…

  6. spunky Says:

    what Montreal needs is Coffee Morning!! or create likemind.mon.

    Julien, if you don’t do this I’ll be pissed.

  7. Patrick Says:

    I disagree. I think you’re doing the classic “we’re not as good over here” that Quebecers do all the time.

    How do the podcasters in Boston talk together and know each other more than bloggers from Yulblog?

    Where did you hear about Librivox, and what Boris does and Casey and Austin if not from them directly or from me or from Brett (you met Casey and Rudy at movl no?)? How about Yulbizz or Barcamp? Speaking of which “I feel like it’s that bad sometimes.”, where were you for BarCamp? Obviously in SF there are parties every week with more networking than Yulbliz and their Barcamp is 10-20 times bigger so do we have as much discussion going as SF? No way. Do we talk less per capita? I don’t think so. We’ve got almost an order of magnitude less geeks around here than they have over there, that’s the difference, not some kind of difference in attitude.

    Unless by “talk” you mean in an organised manner, as in conferences and such. They you’re probably right.

    Google? They’ll have to get bigger and move the heck out of the downtown tower they’re going in if they’re going to help us grow this community. Btw, Yahoo is also hiring slowly in Montréal and for much more content and community oriented stuff thant the engineers Google is finding.

  8. Patrick Says:

    Should be: We’ve got almost an order of magnitude fewer geeks.

  9. Casey McKinnon Says:

    You’re completely right… Reasons why I think we are so closed off from each other:

    - Shitty weather
    - Language barrier
    - (Personally) I live on top of a big hill and don’t walk much (usually drive).

    I doubt I’ll change much, though… unless I move somewhere with a milder climate, English and more flat. Until then I’ll just stay inside in my Hermit world…

    :(

    See you next week!
    Casey

  10. hugh Says:

    I agree with Patrick. The point, I think, is that Montrealers don’t tend to stick in your face what they are doing. They kinda just do it, and eventually you find out, and say, oh cool, you’re doing that. I had no idea.

    As far as community, it seems to me there is a busy bumpin one, and I run into and talk to tons of these people all the time. I can think of and name 10 people doing neat stuff, all independent projects, just off the top of my head.

  11. hugh Says:

    by the way, will they be selling google montreal hats?

  12. Christopher Penn, Financial Aid Podcast Says:

    I’d show up to a PodCamp Montreal. It’s a hell of a lot closer than Toronto. I could swing by Quebec city and see that again.

  13. IM2 | OQP » Montreal, action ! Says:

    [...] Julien gets the ball rolling in his latest post about Google moving to Montreal (mentionned here) and looking to hire 200-300 new geeks. A bunch of comments (Hugh, Patrick) are hitting the nail right on the head. I was already talking about topic 2.5 years ago with ideas for Montreal and free software. How have things changed? … and that’s saying nothing about our “deux solitudes”. Lots of us are bilingual, but that’s not a cure all. Evan Prodromou had a great paper about the cities two languages and web sites and groups. I think the recent barcamp trend is going to help a bit too. Also, there is a global calendar for Quebec that I’ve been maintaining for about 4 years and where anyone is encouraged to post. [...]

  14. Robin Says:

    I replied on my blog, not sure if trackbacks work so here’s a direct link to my post: http://rym.waglo.com/wordpress/2007/01/27/montreal-action/

  15. Zeke Says:

    Howdy!

    Apologies for being late to the party, but to elaborate on Patrick’s point. It appears to me you’re sufferng from ‘the grass is always going to be greener on the other side.’

    What happens is that someplace else gets headline that sounds and looks relly sexy. You see it, I see it, everyone sees it. We all think ‘hey! why not here?!?’

    Here, because we’re in it 24/7, doesn’t get the same sexy headlines.

    To flip it over to the art side, someone recently told me that Berlin was a great town because there were 300 art galleries there. (The Sexy Headline)

    I calmly explained to them that I could name 320 art galleries here in Montreal (who has time to go to more than 300 galleries anyhow?).

    Needless to say they did not believe me. They could not comprehend Montreal as having ‘sexier headlines’ than someplace else where they ‘knew’ the art was better.

    Sorry for going on so long, but who exactly have you not met that you want to meet? Maybe I can help introduce you.

  16. Pascal Charest Says:

    I really don’t see “the lack of action”. In the last year: we saw a lot of cool projects in Montreal (HAL being the least of them all), barcamp, democamp, the CUSEC… we have a good wireless community (ilesansfil), one of the highest engineering student density… and we have a lot of montrealers gave speaches all around the world…

    And honestly, there are a lot of thing under NDA. A lot.

  17. Julien Says:

    Wow, kinda crazy with the comments. I’ll hit upon all these points later, but a few things I wanted to mention–

    1. this isn’t just a Montreal tech thing. it’s Montreal as it is looked upon in every domain. we’ve had a lot of stuff going on for years, but nobody cared about us internationally until Arcade Fire or whenever. on the geek side there hasn’t been a HUGE idea to come out of here in a while, i think.

    2. yes, people just do things on their own, true. but the brain power is indeed so large that it shocks me people don’t work on stuff more together. i see all these ideas coming out and then, people being incapable of getting the talent to develop further.

    3. it’s kind of weird. i’m actually shocked everyone seems to disagree with me. i thought for sure people would agree with the statements i’d made. weird. but cool, it gets people talking.

    more later, it’s late!

  18. Robin Says:

    The next RecentChangesCamp (wikis, everyone) is going to be hosted in Montreal, called RoCoCo. Same month, we get the Inkscape, Blender, Gimp, etc. developpers to gather in our lovely town.

    I’m first to say there’s lots of room for improvement, not enough dialog going on on a large scale, but maybe that’s just the way things are.

    But if you know how, please show us we’re wrong :)

  19. Casey McKinnon Says:

    Pascal- When the hell was there a BarCamp in Montreal??? Wow… we ARE sheltered here!

    I get pissed when something happens in Montreal and there’s no one around to tell us about it… Digimart, for example, was especially annoying because it was a conference about EXACTLY what we do and yet we weren’t invited or informed of it’s existence until it was too late. Ridiculous.

    We believe part of the problem lies in that the people who are interested in covering us are news agencies from the US. It’s always felt odd that we were in Rolling Stone magazine and BBC News before we were in the Montreal Gazette or on Global TV.

  20. hugh Says:

    actually, I’m interested in what you’d like to see Julien? A couple of examples of ongoing things were floated: barcamp, yulblog, robin’s work at facil are three examples. yulblog is storied and successful. barcamp was new, shiny, and great fun. facil is busy in a certain domain. movl was an attempt to do stuff on vids, it was well attended for its short life. isf gets tons of volunteers at their events. could there be more? sure. what tho? when? where?

    in short, if there is a problem (i don’t think there is) what, exactly are you proposing?

  21. Fred Says:

    Julien,

    I quite agree with you. It’s also been my experience that geeks here just don’t communicate as much as in other cities… But I believe things are finally changing!

    My own interest is in connecting startup-minded entrepreneurs by blogging about my own startup experience, and I am actively trying to help the Montreal geek community in my own small way by organizing BarCampMontreal and DemoCampMontreal.

    After all, if you are not part of the solution… you are part of the precipitate! ;-)

  22. Matt Says:

    I agree with Casey on how the language barrier divides our tech community. It’s not intentional, it’s just a by-product. And I agree with Julien that it unfortunately divides all the other spheres of our lives too.

    I also share his frustrations re: Digimart, etc. I work at the NFB part time and we co-sponsored the thing, but somehow I didn’t find out about it until the last day.

    There needs to be more communication about what’s happening in this city.

    How technical are these BarCamp things? I like technical discussions, I can get into low-level tech discussions but if it’s all like O’Reilly discussions about object-oriented programming, it might not be for me : /

  23. Chris Car Says:

    Because Berlin was mentioned as being labelled in the media as a “hip city”. I was living close to Berlin for 4 years and I left it… for – guess what? – Montréal! :-) And I love the city! (just take me as a living example of…)

    (…and I don’t care about sexy headlines; if media is heavily talking about a city, then it is already boring there ;-) )

  24. Yan Morin Says:

    The idea that geeks don’t talk enough or often in Montréal is ridiculous for me. I had to slow down my “computer” meetings because I was never at home, and because there is other things that computer in life. There is “blog” meeting, Operating System meeting, Free software meeting, PBX meeting, programmation langage meeting, Web Meeting, Wifi Meeting, etc… Seems like when I meet a geek in Montréal, they always know at least one computer group that I know.

  25. hugh Says:

    for those that don;t know, barcamp is a free event where anyone who wants to can present about their stuff, whatever it is (somehow related to computers). the first mtl barcamp had presentaions on (from memory, among other things): tumbleblogs, open sourcing error correction in the press, art and game design, face recognition & photo “improvement”, location-based art servers, shared workspaces, job search 2.0, various web-services, etc etc. ie, a very wide range of topics from geekout to barely related to computers at all. (and hey: where were you Julien?)

    I believe there is a new barcamp mtl coming up? not sure the date.

  26. Pascal Charest Says:

    @Matt : The last barcamp wasn’t really that technical. Nice presentations. People are good enough to present their project and leave the technical track open for more specific questions…

    @Chris : This isn’t shameless promotion since i’ve got nothing to do with it ;-) : http://barcamp.org/BarCampMontreal – feb 27th @ SAT.. too bad I might be in Toronto for work…

    @Everyone: Montreal does have a lot of interesting activities. The true problem being that IleSansFil/wifidog (a great wireless community project.. ok i’m partial here) doesn’t speak that much to MLUG (montreal linux usergroup), which doesn’t really interact with FACIL (new version of linux-quebec, without being quite the same org.) which doesn’t really interact with YULBlog which in turn doesn’t really interact with… (and so on). We got freaking good geek in mtl, we only need to work on linking everybody together.

  27. Pascal Charest Says:

    hooo. Btw, let’s overthrow Julien, he doesn’t need this blog. He’s well known enough. Lets gather here and create that community Montreal need so much ;-)

  28. Julien Says:

    During the last Barcamp, it ended up I had to go to Banff, I think. I was out of town, which is why I wasn’t there.

    BTW, I do realize that there is *some* stuff going on. Maybe this relates more to the podcasting and vlogging space– the vlog and podcast people seem to be in agreement with me, while the general geeks are not.

    I’m getting a feeling from this thread that I’m getting a beating at the next blogging meeting. Is that an accurate assumption? :)

  29. Evan Prodromou Says:

    I think you’ve got a crack-addled idea of what interesting and talented people do together. Montreal won’t be a better place if you and Patrick and Boris and Hugh and m-c and Austin and Robin and Seb and everybody else drop what they’re doing and start working on some kind of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” super-project.

    Lots of powerful robots fusing together to form an even better super-robot works well on Voltron, but I don’t think creative people often work that way. The most fruitful cooperation is probably going to have to remain casual and loose.

    I think that there are a lot of great ways for Montreal Web people to get together and swap ideas, most of which have already been well-documented above. Also, Patrick’s awesome idea for a co-working space would help out a lot, and we as a community could probably extract some more value out of SAT. If I were going to pick one thing we don’t have, it’s a Web Montag, but I think that’s easily fixable.

    That all said, I think we’re doing pretty well here. There are a lot of great communities (game dev, Open Source/Content, bloggers, Web dev) working and colliding on this island, and I think the friction has been pretty fruitful. I’m pretty glad to be in this city at this time.

  30. hugh Says:

    nah nah … don’t worry about the beating… but someone somewhere once told me: don’t tell me about problems, tell me about solutions.

  31. Patrick Says:

    @Julien: Right, forgot about Banff, sorry about that.

    @Casey: Barcamp was mentioned in 20-25 local blogs at least, including this one right here, on isf’s blog I believe and on Yulblog a number of times as well as the Montreal blog, I know others missed it but visibility was still pretty high.

    @Pascal: The next Barcamp isn’t Feb 27th, it’s April 28th, the first (for Montreal) Democamp is what’s on Feb 27th.

    @Casey and Matt: I completely agree with the Digimart “problem”, it got exposure on the web side 3 days before it started, considering the number of “webbers” speaking there (Doctorow, Perry Barlow, dude from Rocketboom) it’s surprising that we weren’t marketed to although it was mostly a digital movie industry thing, the overlap between the two is new(ish), maybe they’ll do better next year.

    @Matt: I’ve heard this question before (how techie is Barcamp) and it’s funny to me because if there’s one conference where that question is somewhat moot, it’s Barcamp. YOU decide if you want to come and YOU talk about whatever you want so simply circulating the event in less techy circles and the less techy people coming would have changed the makeup of the conference. Prepare a presentation for the next one, invite a couple of film makers for example and there you are, new mix for the thing.

  32. Christopher Penn, Financial Aid Podcast Says:

    BarCamp is what PodCamp was modeled after. In fact, I think BarCamp is the grand-daddy of UnConferences.

    SO when is PodCamp Montreal?

  33. aj Says:

    I’ve been contacted by some people who want to set up a “Pecha Kucha”:http://pecha-kucha.org series of evenings here at the SAT (basically a time-and-slide-limited show and tell), more coming from, and for, the creative domain than technical, but it’s interlinked with the techies as some of the people are from the games bizz. More as it develops, but this could be one facet of the kind of collaboration we’re seeking. (like montrealers need another excuse to drink, anyway ;)

  34. aj Says:

    that url again (sorry, i thought there was textile formatting!)

    http://www.pecha-kucha.org

  35. Boris Says:

    agh.

    I think Hugh’s first comment goes a long way to explaining the core of the thing: we are mellow. and that is good. Trust me, there is nothing worse than meeting all these people who are doing all these “cool things” “over there” and realising they are almost all hyperactive alpha-personality mega-self-salesmen. yes, *sales*. It’s about money. In Montreal, as Hugh said, we do our own thing and enjoy.

    Perhaps something in between? Hrmm?

    There are a million reasons why Montreal is the way it is, and personally I’d like to keep it that way: it’s why I keep coming home. ;)

    Evan’s comment is right on as well. Notice I am pointing out comments from people who have lived far away from our little town before settling back in.

    Julien, Patrick, all of you: how often have we gotten together and chatted? And nothing’s really come of it. I cna count a handful of reasons: too busy keeping bread on one’s own table, too focused on a single technoogy, almost zero lateral thinking, rampant cynicism, no hacking (this is core: take something, take it apart, make something new. If I hear any of you say one more time “oh why would I do that? or “oh, no, gimme $10,000 and I’ll find someone to do it”, I will wretch.)

    aj: who’s talkign to you about Pecha Kucha? Oddly my friend James mentioned to me last night he’s hoping to start it out in Montreal, and I’ll be at the Tokyo one tomorrow night. I talked to the Klein Dytham folks about it 3 years ago myself. As I told James, I’d be into helping on that. My SAT connections are pretty good now.

    btw: as aj said, Pecha Kucha is not like BarCamp. It’s not in any way a “web 2.0 geeks” thing. It’s designers architects artists hackers, people *on the edge dammit* showing off what they are doing (20 slides, 20 seconds each, talk). It isn’t a room full of web weenies drinking purple Kool Aid, jerking off to AJAX and PodCasting… ;p

    *cough*

    That was a terribly rambling rant. I hate these tiny comment boxes. My non-existent short term memory causes me to go all over the map in these… ;)

    p.s.: getting hired by Google is like getting hired by Microsoft 5 years ago. About as cool as joining the army. Uncle Sergei wants you! to fight the evil Ballmer. Developpers! Developpers! Developpers!

  36. Julien Says:

    I’ve always thought a co-working space would be a good solution. But I would find it weird to start linking to people that are across the room from me– oh wait, I do that at Laika already. :)

    @Boris: Personally, I’m over podcasting as a concept. I do podcasts but I’m no longer freaking out about how great it is or how it’s going to kill radio or whatever. This doesn’t prevent it from being a good means of expressing oneself and communicating.

    @Evan: I like your Voltron reference. I do realize creatives don’t always work super well together, but I do think it’s weird that I’m working on a Toronto conference with at least one other Montrealer. That we chose to do that has got to say something.

  37. Stephanie Says:

    Wow- crazy comments. Just wanted to add that it’s not just the techs that don’t communicate… the arts communities are totally divided French/English, which is so ridiculous. It’s hard to capture what’s really unique about Montreal without taking both languages and cultures into account. Perhaps I need to cross St Laurent to help solve this problem…

  38. dose :: where are all the back-end coders? :: January :: 2007 Says:

    [...] Julien has unleashed a storm of comments about montreal’s web community. Evan, Patrick, Sylvain, and Robin have weighed in, as have I. Julien followed-up. [...]

  39. Robin Says:

    Co-working? Contact me or my fellows at la Bande-Passante, we’re happy to share our space, projector, blackboards, internets, two floors, insights and experience. Koumbit shares the place too.

    It’s 30 seconds from métro Crémazie, on St-Denis.

    BTW, Julien, whatever we might be saying in this thread, it’s obvious you hit an important topic. Much like our little chat and ensuing video dialogs. At the very least, we learn a bit more about each other.

  40. Matt Fogel Says:

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Julien. I can see that there’s a good tech community, with the Linux user groups, etc. But those kinds of events are probably too technical for me. I have a background in programming, but I am no developer.

    Could it be that we lack the kinds of events where people can get together and simply discuss things on a more abstract level? (i.e. ideas vs. technical execution) Is that what the BarCamps and DemoCamps have been like?

  41. N'ayez pas peur !! Says:

    Premier Yulbiz de 2007 demain…

    C’est demain que se tiendra notre première rencontre de l’année, la dernière remontant à novembre.Je pense que nous aurons une belle variété de sujets à discuter entre autre avec l’arrivée de G…

  42. Entrepreneurs Unite! Let’s Do Breakfast in Montreal : Instigator Blog Says:

    [...] Julien feels there’s not enough community-driven things going on in Montreal. He unleashed a hailstorm of comments from people with opinions across the board. Many people disagreed, saying that the community is strong, vibrant and active. [...]

  43. mir Says:

    Two questions:

    #1/ Why does tech Montreal need a tech community? I always thought communities responded to a need.

    #2/ Does a (perhaps semi-fictional)community that is engaged with tech have to ascribe to a ‘camps’ model of social development. I have been booting around the tech scene in this city for years, and as Zeke points out and as one can glean from the fact that the next Barcamp is at the SAT, Mtls emergent-tech scene owes a lot to the cities creative culture as much it’s existence as a digital hub in Canada.

    Montreal is an unique city with different priorities and different histories than most, so its culture is also going to look very weird and possibly not as easy to classify as a silicon valley type locale.

  44. A Frog in the Valley » Blog Archive » Startup Meetup in Montreal (and my story) Says:

    [...] I always find it fascinating when I have an idea and that boiling on the backburner and then serendipity does it’s magic. I started to discuss with a few local entrepreneurs and startup related folks about doing some cocktails or breakfast just to get things going. Thru some blogosphere echo, I stumbled on Ben Yoskovitz’ post “Entrepreneurs Unite! Let’s Do Breakfast in Montreal“… [...]

  45. The Praized Blog » Blog Archive » Yahoo Also Hiring Technical Resources in Montreal Says:

    [...] Following my post on Google opening an office in Montreal which generated a lot of buzz in the local blogosphere (thanks to Sylvain picking up the news), I was intrigued by one comment posted by Patrick Tanguay on Julien’s blog. Pat mentioned “Btw, Yahoo is also hiring slowly in Montréal and for much more content and community oriented stuff than the engineers Google is finding.” [...]

  46. Nathalie Says:

    Good afternoon!
    Could you please give me any contact information; I’m interested in job opportunities in Google’s Montreal office.

    Thank you
    Nathalie

  47. Sanjay Says:

    Google and Yahoo! coming to town, eh? I just hope those Californians can cope with poutine, strip clubs on every corner and smoking outside when it’s -30. Actually, they probably don’t smoke.
    I can’t see any downside to having the big boys coming to play with us over here. If anything, it’ll get us on the web marketing map and serve to make Mtl something other than a playground for Aerospace and Video Games.
    If it gets the Mlt tech community talking amongst themselves, fantastic. I’ve never felt a barrier in discussing topics with other web marketers, though I can imagine how others might believe one exists.
    Truly though, the benefit is going to be to elevate Mtl’s status in the online marketing world. If we need Google’s help for that, so be it!

  48. SearchAnyway PPC - Online Search Marketing Guide for Webmasters Says:

    Google and Yahoo have come to Montreal

    According to an article in La Presse (which, unless you can read French, don’t even bother clicking), Google has braved the great Canadian frontier and established a small R&D branch in Montreal.

  49. Canada’s Mojo Rising - It takes a Canadian to build a Community » Billions With Zero Knowledge Says:

    [...] When my friend Julien complained about the need for Montreal to show our brains, lamenting not having a hot startup scene, the community responded loudly (check out all the comments, and the follow up post). [...]

  50. Albert S. Bitton Says:

    Very interesting and enthusiastic comments about this subject. I have been in the shadows reading and observing. This subject and the passion behind all your comments has motivated me to share some further thoughts on the topic: The comment is long..I had a few minutes to spare.

    1. Montreal does indeed have a vibrant software sector/community. There are close to 3000 tech firms located in the region, employing about 110,000 people in the industry. Not all of these firms are headquartered in Montreal however. Montreal has very talented people, technically, artistically and creatively. The city’s joie de vivre and culture creates an environment for creativity. The region excels in digital technology, microelectronics, advanced materials, mathematics and modeling, computer and networking applications, computer services, multimedia, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

    2. Also, based on numerous studies by KPMG and other consulting firms, Montreal boasts the absolute lowest operating costs than most major cities in North America; giving it a great edge for companies starting or a moving a business here.

    3. With its 11 university-level establishments, of which four are major universities, numerous colleges, private and public schools and first-rate research centers, Greater Montréal has over 160,000 students, 10% of which are registered in ICT-related programs. Montreal also ranks second in North America for the number of university students per capita….behind only the Boston area. In edition these universities also graduate plenty of business minded folks from their business programs, many of which end up working in the tech sector. Bottom line is that the talent pool is available.

    4. Montreal had more university research investment than any other Canadian city. It is well known that the intellectual and research capacity in Montreal universities is second only to that of Boston in North America.

    5. There has been great talent and success from entrepreneurs in Montreal. The city is that

    So with all of these advantages, where is Montreal’s software sector? What are the challenges? And what can be done?

    A.Students graduating from Montreal schools received great educations, but went away to find jobs or postgraduate positions elsewhere. Either to Ontario but especially in the US where it seemed there were better networks, better connections, more jobs and certainly a stronger entrepreneurial system.

    B. The majority of Montreal’s tech graduates and employees are NOT entrepreneurs, they do not get involved in StartUps and most don’t exactly end of working for Montreal based software companies either. Most are employees in tech firms ranging from IBM, CGI, BCE, Emergis, Matrox, Ubisoft, CAE, Nortel, Ericson research, Softimage, EA, DMR, Telus, Videotron, etc. Most of these employees are not entrepreneurs or don’t work for startups not because it is their choice not to do so, rather, and this is my opinion, the Montreal software environment does not provide as many opportunities as it should.

    C. Although the software industry in Canada is vibrant, it is also not that large: I don’t think people realize that there aren’t many large software companies in Canada…that are Canadian based companies. People don’t seem to thin there are alot of software firms in Montreal…well thery are right. There is only 1 software company that has a billion dollars in revenue or more in Canada and that is Cognos, the next one has close to 800 million and that is OpenText, the next one dips close to 200 million and that is Constellation Software, then around 3-4 companies around the 100 million mark and all the rest are below 100 million,…well below. In fact, the largest software company in Montreal is only in the 70-80$ million range. Not very impressive for a city our size. Montreal only has about 17 or so software companies that are larger than 10 million in revenues. Toronto by comparison has much, much more and far bigger firms. In that sense, Toronto’s software sector is far more vibrant than Montreal in terms of number of software firms, employees, VCs, investment community, VARS, resellers, etc. Nevertheless, there seems to be a surge in software development across Canada and in Montreal over the past couple of years. More startups, more internet companies.

    D. Montreal is really two cities in one. French only firms and startups and English/Bilingual firms and startups. There are services, organizations and associations more geared towards the French focused firms and separate services, organizations and associations geared to the English/bilingual firms. Although there are a handful that cater to both communities. Unfortunately this fact makes Montreal operate as if it were a smaller city because resources are divided between these two language communities. The fact is that Montreal, despite it being Canada’s 2nd largest city has less business resources and programs for the entrepreneur than other smaller cities across the country. Take Ottawa or Vancouver for instance: There are more, or rather more visible resources, organizations, associations, communities etc than in Montreal, or so it seems that they are better organized to the casual observer. What seems to be a lack of services or tech organizations in MOntreal goes directly towards
    reducing the effectiveness of the city’s software sector.

    E.The Investment community in Canada and in Montreal:
    Simply put, the investment community in Canada and in Montreal is too conservative and too uninvolved. There are too many government based investment houses making wrong or biased investments. Not enough deals are done in Canada let alone in Montreal focused on seeding, nurturing and growing a community of healthy software or tech firms. There is no comparison to how business is done in Canada versus how it is done in Silicon Valley. The entrepreneurial effort and infrastructure there, as well as the Boston area is absolutely intoxicating. The investment community has really molded and developed an infrastructure that enables software and tech firms to startup and flourish. It is their environment that allows entrepreneurs there to take the risk, to startup, to get funding, to grow and create wealth. More Montreal startups need to be presented and introduced to the investment community, including other tech companies that can fund them. The more these technologies are seen, the more opportunities there will be for investment and business development discussion. Bottom line, the investment community in Canada and in Montreal absolutely needs to be part of any startup effort or community being grown here. Without them to share the financial risk and to share their network, there will not be as much financial gain as there could be. The investment community includes VCs, investment bankers, private equity, and government subsidies (not government owned VCs), among others.

    F. Media, PR and Marketing:
    Montreal media, newspapers, magazines, and onlinemedia simply do not provide as much buzz and PR for Montreal based firms as Toronto does for their firms and especially not as much as the US does for US based firms. There are many reasons for this, too many to list here. However we only have 1 major newspaper in English in Montreal and the french press obviously cannot get picked up in other markets in Canada or the US. As well the country’s top national paper, the Globe & Mail does not really favour Montreal based content all that often. Media creates buzz, buzz increases web site views, stock prices, investments, corporate and product mentions, etc. MEdia is key and we need to engage more of them in Montreal and throught the country.

    What is to be done?

    The Montreal sector is split into many areas: Firms making enterprise software, consumer software, Multimedia software, telecommunications and video companies which are getting into the software business because of IP technologies, and then there are the web 2.0 firms and other software startups. All these sectors require organized efforts in terms of communities, associations, investment opportunities, networking, etc, etc. This is what is happening across the country as well as in Montreal especially around the next generation of internet and software startups. Mesh conferences, democamps, networking events and get togethers. There are a handful of people across the country and within Montreal specifically that are leading the charge, that are organizing, that are creating conversations, that are taking the initiative to organize something. I encourage all of us to continue, to take initiative ourselves; Always seek out ways to network those around us, to help connect a startup, an engineer, an entrepreneur with those that can help him/her; I encourage those that have the means to get the investment community, government agencies, tech associations and other larger software companies involved in the process of developing this community, this infrastructure.

    For Investment folks in Canada: Start investing more in Canadian software/internet startups. More and more software will be offered as a service over the internet and there is no reason why Silicon valley should give “birth” to all the successful ones.

    For tech associations & organizations:
    Provide value and services to internet/software startups instead of only focusing on enterprise software and hardware companies.

    For other Canadian tech & software companies:
    Be curious, take the initiative in partnering or investing in internet/software startup firms. These firms have technology and functionality that can add value to your existing product lines and customers. Look within the Canadian scene before going to the US for the exact same and probably overpriced functionality.

    For large multinational software firms in Canada:
    I mean Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, SAP, SAGE, even HP.
    These companies have tremendous influence on the software buying habits across the country. They also have plenty of resources within their partner programs to assist another software/internet firm or startup. Free development software, marketing resources, sales resources, funding for development, and of course they all have huge reselling channels of VARS, resellers and solution providers across the country. Although these companies recruit software firms as partners, what they do not do well here in Canada is organize efforts to recruit and then help startup firms in the country. These large companies can give a startup a very attractive headstart in return for a loyal and productive partner. More should be done to seek out startup partners. Attention startups and software/internet firms…..go seek the partnership of one of these firms….not all will be effective, but certainly one or two will make valuable partners if approached effectively.

    For Media in Montreal and the rest of the country:
    AS mentioned above, buzz and PR is required in order to development further interest ina sector or a company. Not enough attention is placed on software and internet sectors. We need writers who can deliver content and buzz for this sector, not just those that blog about the sector. More content and buzz equals more advertising dollars for your Media firm :)

    Over the next few years certain organizations or networks will ultimately develop in Montreal and Canada to the point where they will be the magnet for the software/internet startup. Every industry has its community “magnets”. The question I have for all who read this is what effort will you put in? Will you be an observer or will you initiate and create a part of the infrastrucure?

    I appreciate the time you gave in reading this.
    My best

  51. Patrick Says:

    Wow. Thanks for the detailed and well thought out comment Albert. May I suggest starting a blog? ;)

  52. YashLabs » Blog Archive » Birth of the Montreal Tech League. Says:

    [...] This Friday, I read Austin Hill’s fantastic post about various Tech Scenes in Canadian cities. This set my mind racing for most of Friday because there was much to read and reflect upon in the links he mentioned, especially Julien Smith’s post and the comments therein. [...]

  53. Josh Says:

    That’s a very informative post, Albert.

    To quote you: “There are a handful of people across the country and within Montreal specifically that are leading the charge, that are organizing, that are creating conversations, that are taking the initiative to organize something. I encourage all of us to continue, to take initiative ourselves; Always seek out ways to network those around us, to help connect a startup, an engineer, an entrepreneur with those that can help him/her; I encourage those that have the means to get the investment community, government agencies, tech associations and other larger software companies involved in the process of developing this community, this infrastructure.”

    Initiative taken:

    We now have the Montreal Tech League to make the local Tech scene more visible. Tech is not just technology though.

    Read more at: http://www.yashlabs.com/montrealtechleague/blog

    We have a forum and a public wiki too.

    I am calling on all of you to join in.

    Best,

    Josh Nursing

  54. aj Says:

    @boris: it’s indeed James that i’m working with! We were introduced by mutual friend (and his coworker) Heather…

  55. steph Says:

    In thinking that we “need a community” because other cities have “communities” is probably the wrong way to go about it.

    A community is centered around a need (not the other way round), and is most effective if you’re interested in collectively pushing for change, making a difference, where the interest extends beyond the existence of the community itself, and beyond the collective ego of the community.

    Montréal already does well in getting people connected with demands vs needs (we’re not really a big city). I’d be more concerned with creating false hype around our presence, than just doing what we love to do, and being good at what we do.

    The Arcade Fire, as The Dears drew attention because they are good (if we average out the quality of the repective albums). If we do good work, we will be noticed.

  56. Are you In Over Your Head? An Interview with Julien Smith » Billions With Zero Knowledge Says:

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  57. New Media in Iraq Says:

    [...] This morning I woke up and decided that since I had not blogged anything significant in arguably one month, that I would finally write something that carried some weight. Perhaps I would add my 2 cents in response to Julien Smith’s Montreal Needs Brains post—a post that has stirred up responses from quite a few Montreal bloggers by now; or maybe I’d point to Fjord’s new blog and comment. [...]

  58. Angel investing in Montreal | Montreal Tech Watch Says:

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  59. Premier Yulbiz de 2007 demain Says:

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