Tech Center

Tech Center: Montreal On Tech’s Radar

Known for its delicious poutine, beer and scenic views, Montreal is more than just a place for New Englanders to go for a weekend escape.

With an underground network of shopping malls and restaurants, totaling approximately 20 walking miles, Montreal’s retail scene has been thriving for years, and there are no signs of it slowing down. This could also be due to the fact that Montreal tends to have heavy snow throughout its winters, and underground may be the only way for Canadians to survive in the harsh climate.

For the last decade, Montreal has been working its way onto the tech scene.

One of the latest pieces of tech news stemming from Montreal’s growing tech scene is artificial intelligence company Element AI. The company, which helps other entities move forward in the AI space, announced its $135 million Series A round of funding led by Data Collective.

Before we jump into the post, here are a few quick facts about Montreal and its tech scene: 

  • Montreal is the most populous municipality in the province of Quebec and the second-most populous in Canada. The city had a population of 1,704,694 in 2016.
  • GDP of Montreal: $168.1 million U.S. (2016).
  • Median Household Income: $76,950 for 2015.
  • There are more than 1,692 startups and tech companies.
  • There have been 212 startups launched since the beginning of 2017.
  • Total funding for the past 12 months is $259,377,654

Reports coming out of the Montreal area show that it received the highest amount of venture capital during Q2 2017. Between April and June, Montreal received approximately 50 percent of all Canadian-focused VC funding, about $189 million, according to PwC Canada and CB Insights. This research also showed that this period of funding was a 145 percent increase from Q1 2017, when Montreal-based companies raised $78 million in VC funding.

Element AI was at the forefront of the VC funding pack in Q2, with $102 million raised.

PwC’s assurance, technology, media and telecom partner, Andrew Popliger, commented on Montreal’s technology growth in AI. “Montreal is really placing itself to have great success in the artificial intelligence field, not just across Canada, but internationally,” Popliger said. “Governments, institutional investors, private investors, VCs — they’re all coming together to ensure that Montreal has an important place in the world in terms of artificial intelligence.”

It may not be too long before we see Montreal become one of the major players when it comes to AI products and services. Earlier this year, Quebec announced news of its plans to invest $50 million in AI, and its government said it would chip in an additional $50 million by the year 2022. The hope here is that the financial incentive will turn the area into a more attractive place for high-paying technology jobs and to help spur the area’s innovation.

As Montreal’s government continues to invest in its tech future, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see the city rise among the technology city ranks.

In additional tech-area news, Wisconsin-based firm Three Square Market has announced plans to implant microchips into its employees. This rice-sized radio frequency identification (RFID) microchip will be inserted into the space between the thumb and forefinger of 50 employees who have volunteered for this service. Through this chip, employees will be able to pay for making break room purchases and opening company doors.

This may solve the issue of employees forgetting ID badges at home but may also raise privacy concerns.

On-demand delivery service Lyft has shared its plans to move forward with building out a self-driving car in a Palo Alto-based facility. What makes Lyft’s self-driving car development a bit different is that its platform will be open to all auto manufacturers. With this caveat, it’s likely that we’ll see Lyft significantly move the ball for the auto industry in terms of the self-driving car avenue.

With the amount of funding going into cities like Montreal, the race to become the next Silicon Valley is on, and that may result in a changing corporate landscape. Rather than being forced to move to one specific area of the United States, people can live in whichever large city they desire without the fear of their industry disappearing.

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