Montreal as a smart city: a talk featuring Béatrice Couture, InnoCité MTL’s General Manager
Photo: Le Wagon
Last Wednesday night, we stopped by the coworking space La Gare for a talk featuring Béatrice Couture, InnoCité MTL’s General Manager. InnoCité MTL is an organization that brings together the top entrepreneurs and companies in Montreal passionate about developing a smart city. Presented by Le Wagon, Mrs. Couture’s talk was centered on entrepreneurship, innovation in tech and Montreal as a digital city.
To kick things off, Mrs. Couture discussed her journey in life so far as well as her impressive resume. After starting her professional career as a lawyer, she realized that what she liked the most was the business side of things. She reoriented her career and ended up going to work for Bixi as a program director as part of the business development team. After helping Bixi reach new heights, she joined a tech company that presented itself as a Netflix for video games. She didn’t know much about the technology the company had developed, but was eager to learn. Moreover, she was interested in figuring out how to get people to adopt new habits, a problem that most tech companies encounter. For example, with Bixi, one challenge was simply to introduce people to the idea of a bike-sharing service and encourage them to try it.
Today, Mrs. Couture is at the helm of InnoCité Montréal and works closely with companies of different sizes, giving them the resources they need to succeed. Mrs. Couture mentioned that her background in law is still incredibly helpful for her today, as it gives her a solid framework that guides her thoughts about business.
InnoCité : An innovation incubator
Photo: Le Wagon
InnoCité has assembled a complete ecosystem of experts, mentors, entrepreneurs and financial partners to help local companies develop projects that seek to help cities provide better services. The organization is currently looking for urban innovations in fields such as public Wi-Fi, smart mobility, digital public services, participatory democracy, smart buildings and much more.
To accomplish its objectives, InnoCité brings in two cohorts per year. The goal is to make the companies selected and their products ready to enter the market by helping them better define their value propositions, provide valuable feedback and putting them in touch with potential clients, such as other cities.
InnoCité is currently working with 7 local companies, including PATTERNS, which uses AI to help businesses choose a specific location and grow, Sharebee.ca, a resource-sharing platform that offers affordable storage space and safe parking, and Surveyor, which makes energy optimisation for buildings available to all.
These independent companies are facing many challenges. Speaking from her own experience, Mrs. Couture gave the entrepreneurs in the audience 3 important tips:
Tip # 1:
Welcome feedback. Hearing negative comments is rarely fun, but they can also help you move forward faster. Moreover, there’s almost always someone around you who has faced similar problems as the ones you’re facing now. By learning from their mistakes, you won’t repeat them. Be a sponge!
Tip # 2
It’s all about the people. You can have the best product in the world, if your team can’t execute, you won’t be able to move forward. Make sure that everyone working on the project is fully dedicated to your mission.
Tip # 3:
Be focused. Determine your priorities, then focus on the metrics that will allow you to achieve your goals. When you work as part of a small team or company, things can move fast and change very quickly. Don’t seek perfection, just focus on results.
Montreal as a smart city
Photo: Le Wagon
According to Mrs. Couture, Montreal wants to be a worldwide leader and an innovator as a smart city. The city wants to offer better digital services to its citizens and continues to make important investments in order to improve the quality of life in Montreal. Since people can work from pretty much anywhere today, cities are increasingly competing with one another in order to attract the best talent.
Luckily, Montreal is already on the right track. For example, the policies that the city has adopted for Open Data are excellent. Montreal allows citizens and companies to access its data by default. If a city department doesn’t want to share a particular data set, it has to obtain a special permission. While this transparency is a great step forward, it’s also only the beginning for Open Data. The real challenge will be to interpret and make sense of all this data and to adopt global formatting standards so that data collected from different cities can be compared and analyzed more easily.
Another problem at the moment that can stifle innovation is government norms and requirements. Cities are generally very open to the idea of working with independent companies and startups that offer innovative solutions, but they sometimes have their hands tied because of governmental norms that require them to work with certain types of companies. To facilitate innovation, these norms will have to be reviewed to make it easier for cities to work in collaboration with the companies that are offering the best technology and solutions.
Are you currently working on a promising smart city project? As a citizen, what do you want out of a “smart city”? Let us know in the comments! Also, thank you to Le Wagon for organizing this awesome talk.