“We firmly believe that accelerating innovation and nurturing talent is fundamental to our society’s long-term prosperity,” said Concordia graduate André Desmarais, BComm 78, LLD 07, deputy chairman, president and co-chief executive officer of Power Corporation of Canada.
District 3 receives $1M startup gift, christens new collaborative space
Budding entrepreneurs with big ideas will get an additional boost towards success, thanks to a generous gift from leading Montreal businesspeople and philanthropists.
At a ribbon cutting for the District 3 Innovation Centre’s modern, collaborative new space on the sixth floor of Concordia’s Faubourg Building, officials announced that André Desmarais and France Chrétien Desmarais have given $1 million to propel startups.
Longtime supporters of Concordia, André Desmarais and France Chrétien Desmarais are the first major benefactors to support District 3. The André and France Desmarais District 3 Fund will advance entrepreneurial projects with proven market viability — and help further transform entrepreneurial ventures from concept to startup. The investment is timely, since 1,500 aspiring entrepreneurs have sought District 3 expertise and requests for support are growing.
“Our donation to Concordia’s District 3 is a concrete way for us to support innovation and further bridge the gap between higher education and private enterprise.”
France Chrétien Desmarais, president of the Society for the Celebration of Montreal’s 375th Anniversary, said: “In our 21st-century knowledge economy, incubators increase innovation for Montreal, Quebec and Canada. The most effective conduits for these startups are universities.”
The André and France Desmarais District 3 Fund will support three major initiatives:
- Seed funding to help District 3 entrepreneurs — makers — focus on prototyping.
- Makerspace expansion through investment in District 3 product development tools such as sensors, laser cutters and 3D printers.
- Ramped-up operations through the hiring of new District 3 staff, such as expert consultants and coaches, to provide diversified and specialized skills to a broader range of startup teams.
“We are grateful for the Desmarais’s investment in Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Centre,” said Concordia President Alan Shepard. “This gift gives our most talented students the tools they need to fuel their creativity and seize opportunities to innovate.”
The André and France Desmarais District 3 Fund will help young entrepreneurs bring products and services to market faster by attracting investment. Startups generated through District 3 may qualify for the Business Innovation Access Program, a $20 million funding program that partners businesses with universities and research institutes.
A gateway for new commerce
District 3 is an entrepreneurial community within Concordia in the heart of downtown Montreal launched in 2013. The incubator brings together people who collaborate, create and innovate. District 3 provides coaching, access to cutting-edge technologies and apprenticeship-style learning.
“District 3 is a growing success story thanks to our generous donors, formidable volunteers, mentors, coaches and entrepreneurial students,” said Xavier-Henri Hervé, BEng 87, DSc 11, and District 3 founding director. “Thanks to the opening of our cool, collaborative and modern new space, the future of District 3 startups is even brighter.”
Growing demand for District 3
Since its 2013 inception, requests for District 3 coaching and mentoring have grown annually. District 3 coaches and mentors have helped more than 1,500 individuals including: 760 students and alumni in 2015; 500 students and alumni in 2014; 230 students and alumni in 2013.
The majority of its startup clients — called makers — are recent university graduates who possess the necessary time, experience and financial support required to launch a new business. District 3 is allowing Concordia to deepen its community outreach. Of its clientele:
- 40 per cent are Concordia University alumni
- 25.9 per cent are alumni of L'École de technologie supérieure (ETS), Université de Sherbrooke and the general public
- 19.4 per cent are HEC Montréal alumni
- 11 per cent are McGill University alumni
- 2.5 per cent are Université de Montréal alumni
- 1.2 per cent are Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) alumni
The majority of District 3 volunteers are students, faculty, staff and alumni. District 3 volunteers have included 500 Concordia students, 45 external contributors who represent organizations, 36 external contributors and seven coaches.
To date, District 3 startups have all reinvested profits back into their companies to hire more staff. About 15 startups begun through District 3 have created 100 new jobs. All positions have been paying, full-time jobs additional to positions assumed by startup founders. About 85 per cent of District 3 startup jobs went to recent Concordia graduates and a few final-year students.