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Concordia’s District 3 sets the standard for diversity in the workplace

More than 80 per cent of the innovation centre’s entrepreneurs are immigrants, and close to half of its startups have a female co-founder
December 2, 2019
Edna Chosack: "Since its inception, District 3 has always been an environment where ambitious people from all backgrounds can shine.”

“District 3 and Concordia represent a diversity of disciplines, cultures, backgrounds and ideas that foster innovation with a global mindset,” says Edna Chosack, a senior coach at the District 3 Innovation Center.

Diversity, in all its forms, just makes good business sense, she adds.

The startup incubator at Concordia has no formal policy when it comes to gender parity or ethnic diversity, but the value it places on these factors is clear from the numbers.

Eighty-one per cent of D3 startups had at least one immigrant co-founder in 2018. That same year, 40 per cent had one or more female co-founders.

“We encourage as many people as possible to embark in entrepreneurship, since it plays a very important role in the future of the Quebec economy, and thus in all parts of our society,” says Xavier-Henri Hervé, D3 co-founder and executive director.

Striving for global impact

A commitment to diversity is as evident in the startups D3 houses as it is in the team that supports them.

"Since its inception, District 3 has always been an environment where ambitious people from all backgrounds can shine,” says Chosack.

“We're all about nurturing and developing multidisciplinary teams that harness emerging technologies to create businesses with global impact."

It was in part that culture of diversity that attracted Naysan Saran, co-founder and CEO of CANN Forecast, to D3. She was featured in a recent story in La Presse that looked at the landscape of women in startups across Quebec.

Saran’s company, which uses artificial intelligence to optimize water management, now employs majority women among its seven employees. CANN Forecast was among the 10 winners of $50,000 from the 2019 Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED) Fast Forward Challenge.

Emphasis on scientific entrepreneurship

Biohealth and life sciences show incredible potential for the development of emergent technologies. D3 has a mandate to promote scientific entrepreneurship, so it provides a supportive environment for the large number of immigrants studying in these fields.

Margaret Magdesian is founder of Ananda Devices, a startup that offers microfluidic devices made of biocompatible silicone to make drug discovery faster and more cost effective.

She completed her PhD in Brazil before coming to Canada.

“I was lost and struggling with financing, but D3 really saved my life,” Magdesian said during an interview with Concordia in 2016 about leaving academia to create her company.

“I’m a neuroscientist with no previous business training. D3 helped me in all aspects of the business.”

Other projects helmed by immigrants include Vital Tracer, which provides a personalized medical service to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease through continuous monitoring of all vital signs. The startup was a recent recipient of the D3 Seed Fund Initiative

Co-founder and Concordia PhD student Zahra Zangenehmadar said her company had a lack of expertise in certain areas including marketing, sales and legal, and they were eager to benefit from a grant that provides these services.

"This funding will help us achieve our goals!”

Apply to the
District 3 acceleration program for winter 2020. 


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