Joining the Family

November 23, 2015 at 3:24 pm

 A few weeks ago, I was in my hometown, Nice, France for 3 weeks. I took some time to see good friends and family. This moment was a great time to take a step back from all the stuff I’d been doing earlier. To think.

When I came back to Montreal early October, I was looking for the next opportunity to jump on. I was focused on finding a job in Los Angeles with my girlfriend who was moving there permanently. I believed it was an interesting next move: to go live near what some people call the ‘Silicon Beach’. And well, it’s California – I was already sold. But then, Alex from Real Ventures, told me we should grab a beer to chat about something. I found out it was about Emma, the current Program Manager at FounderFuel. She was moving to a new adventure in 2016 and Sylvain was looking for someone to take over this crazy role.

When I learned this, I immediately thought it was an amazing opening, and I was very curious to learn more. Last summer I had been running the McGill X-1 Accelerator so I had the chance to work with some people from Real Ventures. And it was awesome. They were straightforward, and always spot on, it was tough love. Before that, I had worked on 2 startups and participated in the Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator at MIT, so I had been involved in startups from the get go. Full disclosure: I had applied to a FounderFuel cohort with a previous startup and did not get in. Even though we didn’t make it, we learned a ton in the process of applying to the program and the partners gave us great insights to move forward. These experiences taught me two important things: determination makes a real difference and that if you don’t ask, you just don’t get.

And today I’m very happy and honoured to join the team at Real Ventures, working as FounderFuel’s new Program Manager. I’m so thrilled to be part of such a vibrant community in Montreal, working from the Notman House. I’m definitely the rookie here, but you know what, that makes it such a great opportunity to learn from the best, and keep on making FounderFuel bigger and better! Surfing in Los Angeles can wait for now. I just started a few days ago and the people here made me feel at home straight away. I’m excited about what’s coming next for the program in 2016. And for now I’ll switch back to my other tabs to work with the rest of the team on the Mega Demo Day coming up soon! Hope to see you there!

Please say hi, and if you want to chat, I’d love to meet you. Tweet me @thibaudmarechal or send me an email.

– Thibaud

Edit creds: Thanks to Ella, Emma, Sylvain and Valentine for reading draft versions of this post.


Journée démo conjointe: FounderFuel et InnoCité

October 14, 2015 at 3:29 pm

On monte le volume à 11 pour notre journée démo du 2 décembre cette année! Deux accélérateurs, deux cohortes: FounderFuel et InnoCitéMTL. Sur scène, quelques-unes des meilleurs de la scène des startups de Montréal avec encore plus de capacité d’accueil en salle, le plus gros évènement du genre au Canada.

Si vous avez déjà participé à une de nos éditions par le passé, vous avez sûrement constaté que nous étions de plus en plus serrés au Rialto. Nous allons donc migrer vers le théâtre Olympia, ce qui va nous permettre de recevoir jusqu’à 1400 membres de la communauté à l’évènement.


Nous avons 7 compagnies à vous présenter pour FounderFuel, de la réalité virtuelle à l’éducation, en passant les APIs en l’intelligence artificielle. Cette journée sera aussi la dernière production de notre extraordinaire directrice de programme, Emma Williams. Vous pouvez en lire un peu plus sur son départ ici, et postuler pour prendre sa relève (tout un défi)!

Joignez-vous à l’équipe de FounderFuel et d’InnoCitéMTL, aux startups, aux investisseurs de la Silicon Valley, de New York, Boston, Toronto et Montréal, ainsi qu’à plusieurs élus municipaux et bien entendu, toute la communauté startup du Québec (et plus). Venez rencontrer les équipes et célébrer leur progression et leurs succès avec nous! C’est un évènement à ne pas manquer. Les billets sont maintenant disponibles, voir les informations ci-bas. Il y a trois types de billets, soit pour la partie InnoCitéMTL, pour FounderFuel ou pour les deux parties, assurez-vous de choisir la bonne option.

Horaire détaillé
13:30 – Ouverture des portes pour InnoCitéMTL
14:00 – Présentations Innocité, cohorte automne 2015
15:00 – Ouverture des portes pour FounderFuel
15:45 – FounderFuel Demo Day, cohorte automne 2015
17:30 – Coktail, 5 à 7
20:00 – Fermeture de la salle
22:00 – Party officiel (lieu à confirmer sous peu)

Si l’interface de sélection de billets ne fonctionne pas pour vous, lien direct est

Si vous nous visitez de l’extérieur de Montréal, nous allons offrir encore cette année plusieurs options avec notre partenaire Partage le Bus, détails très bientôt.

Que la flamme soit avec vous!
– L’équipe de FounderFuel.

Get ready for the biggest Demo Day yet!

October 14, 2015 at 10:44 am

This time around, Demo Day is bigger and better than ever before! On December 2nd, you’ll get not one but two Demo Days. FounderFuel and InnoCitéMTL are joining forces to showcase the best of the best in front of the biggest crowd we’ve ever gathered.

If you’ve attended our Demo Day’s in the past, you’ve probably felt them becoming increasingly cramped. So we’re moving on from the hallowed halls of the historic Rialto, to Olympia Theatre, which can accommodate 1400 community members.


This cohort, we have seven startups working in a wide range of fields, from VR to education. This demo day also happens to be the last for our superwoman program manager Emma Williams. You can read more about her leaving (and the position opening!) here

Join the FounderFuel and InnoCitéMTL Founders as well as investors from Silicon Valley, New York, Montreal & Toronto, various Canadian city officials and the startup community. Come out, meet the teams and celebrate their success with us! This is an event not to be missed. Tickets have officially opened – you can grab yours below. Keep in mind that there are 3 different tickets types  (InnoCitéMTL Demo Day, FounderFuel Demo Day, InnoCitéMTL + FounderFuel Demo Day) so make sure you select the one that fits you best. 

Here is the detailed schedule:
1:30PM – Doors Open for InnoCitéMTL Demo Day | Grab A Seat
2PM – Innocité Demo Day | Fall 2015 Pitches
3PM – Doors Open for FounderFuel Demo Day | Grab A Seat
3:45PM – FounderFuel Demo Day | Fall 2015 Pitches
5:30PM – “5 à 7” Drinks
10PM – Official After-Party TBD

Widget not working? You can grab your tickets here.

Coming from out of town? Stay tuned – Founders On A Bus is back and more will be announced soon! Stay tuned for more exciting news leading up to the big day.

The FounderFuel Crew 

“It’s Not Goodbye” – a see you later blog from our Program Manager Emma Williams

October 13, 2015 at 12:27 pm

I entered the startup world completely by accident. I’d never heard the word startup before, all I knew was that I was applying to a  job located about 100m from my front door (very convenient, I know). A few weeks later I found myself as one of the early employees at OOHLALA Mobile working as their Community Manager. It was there that I fell in love with this amazing, vibrant and diverse startup community that is developing in Montreal. Although I loved my job at OOHLALA and believed in what they were doing (and I still really do!), I wanted more, I wanted to be at the heart of this community. I wanted to help build it out, to help it thrive, to meet everyone I could and learn everything I could. I knew my ideal job would be at Real Ventures / FounderFuel, where I would get to interact with dozens of different companies and people daily. But of course they weren’t hiring so  I bided my time and then one day, there it was. FounderFuel was hiring a new Program Manager, this was my chance. I jumped at the opportunity.

And here I am, 4 Cohorts later and what a ride it’s been! I wish I could properly put this experience into words but if I tried, this post would be 10 pages long (and I don’t want to bore you). What I will say is that the people I’ve met, the things I’ve learnt, the experiences I’ve had, the companies I’ve had the pleasure of working with, everything has been over and above what I ever could have expected. I’ve worked with 30 companies over the last 4 Cohorts and it’s been incredibly satisfying and exhilarating. But as most startup founders, employees and mentors know, the startup bug isn’t a fictional thing, it’s real and it’s strong and it’s pulling me back in. I’m ready to dive back into playing a key role in the growth of a startup from an operational standpoint. Which company is still to be determined, all I can say is that I’m very excited about what the future holds and am looking forward to this next chapter. This decision has not come easy, or quickly, but it’s official. The Fall 2015 Cohort will be my last as Program Manager at FounderFuel.

And with that, Sylvain and I are on the hunt for someone who’s ready to step up to the challenge of becoming FounderFuel’s new Program Manager. We’re on the hunt for someone who’s crazy passionate about startups, innovation, entrepreneurship and wants to play a pivotal role in the Canadian ecosystem. Think you’re the perfect fit? Send me an e-mail (, I’d love to chat!

A few years ago I was just about to head home after a trip to visit family in Toronto. I gave my 3 year old cousin a hug and said goodbye. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “what do you mean goodbye? Am I never going to see you again?”. To avoid a tantrum, I quickly corrected myself and said, “no of course not! It’s not goodbye, I meant to say, I’ll see you later”. Her tears quickly disappeared and it got me thinking. She couldn’t have been more right, the word goodbye has so much finality to it, and I don’t plan on leaving this amazing startup community anytime soon. So, FounderFuel, this isn’t goodbye. This is see you later.

– Emma


Check out the job posting!

FounderFuel + Guru

August 31, 2015 at 11:48 am

There’s a dark side to entrepreneurship that’s often overlooked: a lack of emphasis placed on health.

We want to address this issue head on, so we’ll be working with a nutritionist during the Fall 2015 cohort (8 days away!) to ensure that our teams are taking care of their health as much as their startup. We’re also very excited to announce a new partnership with the team at Guru, who believe that energy should not come at the expense of health. Their energy drink is crafted with natural and organic ingredients. 


Four beneficial Guru ingredients and their health properties: 

Also known as purple coneflower, it is a popular herb present in western herbal medicine. Echinacea is an immune system stimulant often used during the first signs of a cold or flu. Thank you purple friend.

Ginseng is a popular herb that has been used throughout history as an energy and libido boost, however additional benefits of taking ginseng include memory improvement and weight loss.

Guarana is a creeping shrub native to the Amazon.
It contains twice as much caffeine as coffee and stimulates the heart and central nervous system. It’s also purported to increase mental alertness, long-term memory and stamina.

Green Tea Leaves
It’s known as a powerful anti-oxidant and has a beneficial effect against age-related degenerative diseases. We explained earlier on this blog how  natural occurring caffeine is extracted for a good 100 mg of energy.

See you soon! 
– The FounderFuel Crew 

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Founders On A Bus

April 20, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Interested in coming to Demo Day on May 7th but you’re based in Waterloo, Toronto and Ottawa and it seems like a bit of a trek? We’ve got the perfect option for you! Hop on a bus with some of your fellow Founders. 

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 1.27.30 PM

On May 7th, FounderFuel is inviting Founders on an epic bus ride to party, pitch judges and network with fellow Founders. The final destination is our Demo Day in Montreal! You’ll get to watch the companies from the Spring 2015 Cohort pitch and then network the evening away at our massive cocktail party (close to 1000 VC’s, Entrepreneurs, Community Members and Press attend).

This isn’t your Grade 3 field trip to the zoo. During the ride there will be lightning pitches with judges, Founder talks and a whole lot of geeking out. The top lightning pitch gets a guaranteed interview with FounderFuel for their Fall 2015 Cohort.

Hurry, seats are limited so RSVP quickly.

Register here.


Vanhawks, Creators of the Bike of the Future

March 16, 2015 at 3:51 pm

[This is the second part in a series of profiles on Canadian co-founders making waves in the States. Here’s part one.] 

Vanhawks is a rare beast: at just one year of age, it’s been accelerated by FounderFuel, is in the current Y Combinator batch, and has recently raised 1.6 million dollars.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 3.36.41 PM

The startup’s evolution began with a carbon fibre hockey stick. Sohaib Zahid, co-founder and Chief Designer at Vanhawks, was in sports medicine when he designed the tech that mimics the human bone: virtually weightless yet difficult to break. It was after having developed the hockey stick that they asked themselves what could be done next. They decided to disrupt the biking industry, which they felt had been sitting in the past. From there they created the software layer to build the world’s first connected carbon fibre bicycle.

Their first bike, to be shipped this Spring, is called Valour. Valour is a connected bike for the urban commuter. It’s long list of features include app-connectedness, turn by turn navigation, blind spot navigation and ride tracking (recording metrics such as speed, distance, calories and time). Perhaps most noteworthy is the interconnected commuter network. In cases of theft, the Valour community is notified to look out for your bike. Furthermore, the more often you ride, the better informed others will be of road conditions in your area. It’s been speculated that the commuter information – rather than the hardware – will end up being the real product. While the team does see the powerful nature of this info, whether or not this is the real value of Vanhawks is, in their opinion, yet to be determined.

After building up a team of fifteen, setting up shop in downtown Toronto, and raising 8x their goal through a Kickstarter campaign (the most successful in Canada), the startup applied to Y-Combinator. Ali Zahid, co-founder and COO of Vanhawks, describes Y-Combinator and FounderFuel as representative of two entirely different niches. Ali credits a lot of Vanhawks’ success to FounderFuel, saying that they “would be nothing and nowhere without FF.” The team had moved from Ontario into the same apartment in Montreal to eat, sleep and breathe Vanhawks. FF, for Ali, was a family. While it teaches the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, YC has more of a hand’s off focus on constant growth. Further, YC’s vast network has been invaluable to Vanhawks. Ultimately, Ali describes Vanhawks in Montreal as feeling like a big fish in a small pond. In San Francisco, on the other hand, they’re just getting started in a huge body of water. 

When asked about the difference in living and working in San Francisco versus downtown Toronto, Ali describes two very distinct lifestyles. Tech employees in the valley work 16-18 hours per day; they exercise, eat every meal and do their laundry at work. On the other hand, Torontonians in tech find more of a work/life balance. Ali maintains that Toronto has a “secret sauce that these guys just don’t have.” While they wish to maintain very close ties in SF, they don’t plan on leaving TO any time soon.

One ingredient in the Vanhawks secret sauce is company culture. In looking to create something that outlives them, the team wants never to stray from their core values. As they evolve – bringing in more personalities and more ideas – they place importance on always remembering the consumer. The community of people seem to be what makes up Vanhawks, exemplified in the fact that two of the four co-founders are brothers. This is further exemplified in the friendship that runs throughout the four person co-founding team. The remaining two co-founders are Niv Yahel, CTO and Adil Aftab Iqbal, CMO. Niv is the brains behind the tech, working behind the scenes to both produce the best product possible and to create a successful (and growing) tech team. Adil has been running manufacturing since day one, spending most of his time abroad to ensure smooth operation from the first prototype to the shipping of the product. With this in mind, their greatest challenge to date has been finding the right people for their company. They’re constantly looking for passionate, dedicated and intelligent individuals who are flexible and willing to take risks. They only hire the best of the best – those who would follow both their product and their consumer to the end of the world.

Although the team is proud of the intensity of their growth, they want to move faster. With no regrets – because “the everyday mistakes are necessary in order to learn” – they’re looking towards the future. Up next is shipping out Valour, prepping for YC’s Demo Day, and getting back into the Toronto community by hosting events. When starting at YC, Paul Graham told the team that someone has to do what they’re doing – the question is whether that someone will be Vanhawks. They realize the power of what they’re building and “believe in it like crazy.” The Vanhawks team is hustling to create something massive and it’s safe to say that they’re well on their way.  

Stay tuned for next week’s profile on Spoil, a personalized gift concierge service. 


Day 19: 1 year later, Vanhawks is on a roll!

March 5, 2015 at 10:57 am


We’re coming up on the 1 year anniversary of Vanhawks launching their Valour Kickstarter campaign, the most successful one in Canada, during their 3 month stint at FounderFuel. To celebrate this we couldn’t be more excited for the 2 major announcements Vanhawks made yesterday.

They announced through TechCrunch that:

– They have raised $1.6 million from Real VenturesOlympic triathlon gold medallist Simon Whitfield and Brenda Irwin of Relentless Pursuit Partners

– They joined the Winter 2015 Y Combinator class in San Francisco and have been making major strides there.

The future is limitless for Vanhawks. Co-Founder & COO Ali Zahid confirmed this in their TechCrunch article. “The vision is a lot bigger than just making bikes,” Zahid explains. “Think of us as the software layer for the bike industry of the future. Everyone says that software is eating the world, and we see that in the bike industry, too, which has been sitting in the past.”

We can’t wait to see what comes next for Vanhawks! 

7 Startups for our 7th Cohort

February 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm

“Success is focusing the full power of all you are on what you have a burning desire to achieve.” 
– William Peterson

FounderFuel is gearing up to welcome its Spring 2015 cohort on Monday, February 9th. 7 companies will comprise our 7th batch of startups. This time around, we’re trying something new.

After a deep-dive re-evaluating the past 6 cohorts, we’ve altered the structure of the program in order to capitalize on our strengths and improve upon our weaknesses. We want to more accurately reflect our purpose: to offer an in-depth and mentor-driven acceleration of your startup.

This is why this cohort will see a refocusing of the program, oriented even more towards the specific needs of the entrepreneur, and towards providing them with what will satisfy those needs. We want to have a higher impact upon the outcome and success of each startup embarking on this journey with us.

Stay tuned for more changes to come.

To remain up-to-date on the progress of FounderFuel and the 7 companies within its 7th cohort, follow us here:

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Vote for Vanhawks as Accelerator Graduate of the Year!!

January 6, 2015 at 10:21 am

Startup Awards

The finalists for the 2014 Canadian Startup Awards have just been announced and our very own Vanhawks (Spring 2014) has been nominated as Accelerator Graduate of the Year! 

Vanhawks’s mission is to make connected bikes for the urban commuter to encourage bike rides for greener and less congested cities with the best experience possible. The Vanhawks Valour, is the first Bluetooth connected bike built from carbon fibre, giving riders safety,comfort and insight for every ride. 

Vanhawks came into the FounderFuel program with a big idea and were in the early stages of manufacturing their prototype. They then went one to raise the most amount of money in crowdfunding in Canada through Kickstarter which was 820k, have attracted major media attention, made key hires and have a lot more exciting news on the way!  2015 is going to be a big year for Vanhawks! Let’s start it off right by helping them win Accelerator Graduate of the Year! 

Vote here!  

And help us spread the word!

Think your team has what it takes?