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Engineering student recognized for innovative software

Co-op student Marc-André Moreau named top Quebec entrepreneur for his open-source software business
March 7, 2012
By Louise Lalonde

This year’s Student Entrepreneur Provincial Champion for Quebec is Marc-André Moreau, a full-time student in Concordia’s Software Engineering Co-op Program.

Moreau has been recognized by Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship (ACE), a national charitable organization dedicated to encouraging young Canadians to build a better future for themselves and their communities, for his development of an open-source computer program called FreeRDP. Moreau provides client services related to the program through his company, Awake Coding Consulting.

Moreau next enters the regional competition within Central Canada on March 11-12 for the chance to compete nationally.
Marc-André Moreau next enters the regional competition within Central Canada on March 11-12 for the chance to compete nationally.

“FreeRDP is a powerful remote desktop solution which is used for remotely accessing Windows applications or desktops from just about anywhere,” he explained in his ACE application. It works on thin clients — workstations that only provide the keyboard, mouse and video-display interaction with a server that does the actual information processing.

This means organizations can avoid purchasing new equipment by simply recycling obsolete computers into thin clients. A central, more powerful server is then used to host a large number of virtual machines which users access on the local network. Thin clients can also be bought for a fraction of the price of a regular desktop computer.

In addition to the savings, this approach can often resolve space-constraint issues common in hospitals and other workplaces

Because FreeRDP is open source, it benefits from the collaboration of the companies who use it and adapt it to make their own products.

Moreau is a strong believer in the open source philosophy. “Of course, there is the notion of software freedom, but in the end I really want to bridge the gap between the interests of companies and the interests of the community.

“The way FreeRDP is distributed makes it fairly easy to use in commercial products, effectively bringing development contributions from its stakeholders This can allow companies to make substantial revenue while the community benefits from an increased number of contributions.”

Running a company as a full-time student isn’t always easy. Enrolled in Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education, Moreau has to maintain a minimum 2.7 GPA per academic term and complete three work terms.

His first two work terms were at a large enterprise that does extensive research and development with the goal of patenting ideas. “This type of mentality is incompatible with open source collaboration, which relies on the ability to share ideas freely,” he says. “Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed working there, and I am thankful for the opportunity.

“When negotiating with clients, I can bring forth arguments that are more likely to appeal to people from a corporate environment and convince them that open-source development makes sense from a business perspective,” he explains. “If I didn’t have this background, I am not sure I would have been able to successfully get large corporations like HP (Hewlett-Packard) to support FreeRDP.”

“I moved out of my parents’ home when I was confident that I could earn enough money to achieve financial independence doing consulting services. At the beginning I was quite stressed out and lost, since I had nobody around to help me figure out how to start a company. The first person to provide me with good advice was my co-op program coordinator, Jean-Michel Paquette, who guided me to the relevant information on the government’s website. I then registered my business and opened a business bank account, and started taking contracts.”

Paquette also recommended Moreau for the ACE competition. The next step for Moreau is the regional competition within Central Canada on March 11-12 for a $1,000 prize and the chance to compete nationally for a $10,000 grand prize.

Regardless of the final outcome, Moreau considers his being named 2012 Student Entrepreneur Provincial Champion for Quebec as a major advantage. “The connections I obtain through the competition will help,” he says.

“It increases my credibility as an entrepreneur,” he adds, explaining that the competition recognizes him for the work he’s done rather than viewing him as a mere enthusiast. “I like doing it, but it makes a difference to have a pat on the back.”

Related links:
•  Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education 
•  Concordia’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science
•  FreeRDP
•  Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship


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