Michael Waitzer – Reporting Live from the John Molson MBA International Case Competition in Montreal.
A little background – The John Molson MBA International Case Competition – now in it’s 32nd year; 36 teams from around the world – from as far away as Cape Town, and Dublin and as close as Montreal. The teams are divided into 6 divisions, each with 6 teams, and have round robin competition where they present their solution/ideas for business cases.
Everyone is stoked. The judges are getting into heated debates and discussions; the students are starting to sweat a little, as the competition is almost at the halfway mark. The international flavour to the event is great, for all participants. There also is nothing but a sense of bright future for these students. Why not, they will be the builders of that future.
The schools that our panel judged in competition were;
Lagos Business School – Pan African University – Nigeria
Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business – University of Pittsburgh – USA
Case 3 was a “Live” Case, which was unusual as my understanding is there is generally only 1 live case [which we you hear about tomorrow].
A loose definition of a “Live” Case is where a principal, or member of management, from a currently operating business, presents an overview of the current state of the business and a challenge that faces them. My understanding is that there is a fair amount of detail, including financial assumptions required to be included in the competitors proposed solutions to these cases. Tomorrow is an all day event, so I will report back then.
Case 3 competition started with a brief presentation by a consummate entrepreneur, Jean Sebastian [JS] Cournoyer. He is the proud father of 5, married to his high school sweetheart and grew up in Sorel, a small French town in Quebec.
JS discussed his path to real ventures, and suffice it to say, that not all of his initial ventures were home runs. However, he is a fantastic composition in terms of personality, smarts and charm. His DNA is also hard wired to ensure that making a profit does not preclude him from being a good social citizen as well as good for the environment. A great example for all of us!
The background of the case is as follows: In 2007, a group of partners started Montreal Startup, a $5M seed fund. Its mission was “to invest the first capital in driven entrepreneur seeking to build great technology companies in Montreal, and help them validate their company vision and business model”.
Fast forward to 2010, Montreal Startup became Real Ventures and had a $50M fund value. Real Ventures maintained a similar mission to that of Montreal Startup, with a few improvements:
- Partners were able to draw salaries,
- More start up community based events were able to be supported,
- They were able to support C100, a non-profit organization of Canadian entrepreneurs and tech people living in Silicon Valley – which helps build Canadian companies,
- Allowed them to fund Founderfuel, a startup accelerator consisting of over 100 mentors supporting small startups with a $25k initial investment.
- Real Ventures undertook the driving of Notman House in Montreal. This is a non-profit, mixed use space, in the heart of Montreal, devoted to technology development companies. It has hosted events, houses a cafe, has small office space available [2-4 people startups], as well as offices for VC’s investors and other supporters.
- The size of the fund allows investment in up to 45 new companies,
- The fund has the ability to provide financing of up to $3M to the best companies.
It appears to have been an amazing journey. It has been a great source for connecting and funding opportunities for new entrepreneurs, a great boon to the city and province and profitable as well.
As I mentioned, JS has the hardwired DNA to improve his surroundings while making a profit. To that end the ecosystem they are establishing needs to be maintained and strengthened, they are now setting their sites on expanding elsewhere in Canada with the next fund, which they anticipate will be in the $70-90M range.
The Case Challenge:
With the belief that a sustainable startup ecosystem, like the one realventures are building in Montreal, will have major impact on growth and development and ultimately economic stability for any region.
The goal is twofold;
- Grow their business
- Help other communities build similar stratum ecosystems that are sustainable.
How would you achieve that?