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National Bank donates $2M to help scale Quebec’s innovative startups supported by Concordia and partners

Donation to the Campaign for Concordia Next-Gen. Now to bolster MentorConnect program powered by the District 3 Innovation Hub
June 18, 2021
“Innovation in business is a key economic driver. Nurturing startups through effective business mentoring will accelerate their growth in a sustainable way,” says Louis Vachon, LLD 19, President and Chief Executive Officer of National Bank.

Quebec tech startups advanced by Concordia University and its partners are getting a major boost from National Bank.

The financial institution is supporting innovative startups through a $2 million donation to the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen. Now to bolster the MentorConnect program.

Licensed from MIT Venture Mentoring Service in Boston and officially launched at Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Hub (District 3) in 2020, MentorConnect drives startups and their co-founders to successfully transition companies into established firms that fuel the economy.

Under the MentorConnect framework, mentors work in groups of three to volunteer their time and expertise to startup founders. Mentors create a safe, collaborative space in which mentees can thrive.

“Our university is grateful to National Bank for its support of emerging tech entrepreneurs who bring innovative ideas to market and help fuel our economy,” says Concordia President Graham Carr. “As one of Quebec’s university leaders in startup incubation, District 3 aims to connect entrepreneurs with seasoned coaches and funding opportunities. MentorConnect fills a gap in the journey by matching growing startups and their founders with experienced mentors who come from diverse backgrounds and industries. Their guidance will help startups scale, creating jobs and making a bigger impact for our country.”

Louis Vachon, President and Chief Executive Officer of National Bank, LLD 19, says the financial institution is pleased to support startups on their journey to established small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). “Innovation in business is a key economic driver. Nurturing startups through effective business mentoring will accelerate their growth in a sustainable way,” says Vachon. “At National Bank, we aim to have a positive impact on the next generation of entrepreneurs. We are proud to support MentorConnect with this initiative.”

Xavier-Henri Hervé, executive director and co-founder of District 3, BEng 87, LLD 11, adds: “When we launched District 3 at Concordia in 2014, we sought to create a hub for technology pioneers — people with the knowledge and expertise to turn ideas into realities. While District 3 programs and coaching have been instrumental in accelerating the entrepreneurial journey of over 600 startups, we realized that a gap exists in helping founders advance from startup to SME and beyond.”

“Tomorrow’s innovators need the support and advice of today’s business veterans,” adds Hervé. “National Bank’s donation allows for the expansion of MentorConnect to serve Quebec’s promising and innovative startups.”

“Our university is grateful to National Bank for its support of emerging tech entrepreneurs,” says President Graham Carr, pictured with Louis Vachon (right).

Edna Chosack, a senior District 3 coach, searched the globe to find the best mentorship service. She found that MIT’s VMS program, adopted as MentorConnect by Concordia and its partners, was the most effective in helping startups successfully navigate the growth stage to become established businesses. 

The methodology behind MentorConnect creates a tight-knit, highly involved group of mentors that collaborates to support startup co-founders. Many startups have already benefited from the program.

For Concordia graduate Erika Braithwaite, BA 07, and Kathryn Morrison, co-founders of biotech company Precision Analytics, mentorship was a game-changer. 

“We started off as two people who had a good idea. We had traction, we had clients, but it was only with mentoring that we could say we began to evolve as a real business. It was a transformational experience,” says Braithwaite.

Mentors are glad to engage with like-minded peers to help startups scale: “MentorConnect is a wonderful way to give back to the community and stay closely connected to the startup ecosystem,” says Chantal Laberge, corporate director and mentor.

Paul Chesser, vice-president of University Advancement, BA 94, GrDip 97, is grateful that this donation to the Campaign for Concordia will fuel innovation. “We thank National Bank for recognizing Concordia’s role in helping the next generation of startups flourish for the benefit of Montreal, Quebec and Canada.”

Combined with support previously announced in 2014, National Bank’s total donation to the Campaign for Concordia to support entrepreneurship totals $3 million.

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