Looking back @ paying it forward

On November 22, Notman House hosted the first annual Montreal Startup Community Awards Gala honouring all the inspirational volunteers and unsung heroes nominated for their remarkable contributions to Montreal’s startup ecosystem.

This was an important and timely initiative organized by the non-profit OSMO Foundation, established to fund grassroots initiatives that support community building, and Montreal NewTech, Montreal’s largest startup community dedicated to the success of its local entrepreneurs.

A festive mood pervaded the jam-packed halls with over 250 guests chatting appreciatively about the efforts of the nominees and how significantly things have evolved. As each category winner took the stage, the smiles and applause of young and old alike were confirmation that it takes a village to build a sustainable ecosystem. Many prize winners paid tribute to the Notman House for its early and instrumental role in the city’s startup ecosystem and also for its impact on their personal journeys.

The Notman Project began as the flagship endeavour of the OSMO Foundation, founded eight years ago, and the brainchild of John Stokes. From inception, OSMO’s name embodied its vision of community building (Operating System for MOntreal), the power of collaborative networking (Open Source MOntreal) and the value of peer-to-peer knowledge transfer (OSMOsis).

In 2010, creating the Home of the Web, seemed like the vital step to effectively support the growth and development of Montreal’s next generation tech entrepreneurs, and it was quickly embraced by many startup community advocates who believed passionately in the emblematic potential for this Notman renaissance.

However, like many pioneering undertakings, its realization took years of bootstrapped perseverance and the devotion of countless motivated volunteers. As a community-led initiative, the Project represented a classic cocktail of bold vision and limited resources, mixed with intrepid naivety and entrepreneurial stubbornness. Most of the many unforeseen challenges were eventually overcome thanks to the collaborative and creative spirit of everyone involved. Equally important was the deep-rooted resolve to foster entrepreneurship as the major driver to attract and retain talent, promote innovation and accelerate economic growth.

This purpose driven and tenacious resolve broadened as the Notman community grew and the early proof of concept showed impressive results, touching even more people, places and sectors than expected. The diverse and grassroots nature of the project also brought an inherent resilience and self-generating momentum. By late 2012, this bottom up, by-the-community for-the-community, bootstrapped Notman Project, had mobilized the collaboration and financial support of the three levels of government (Municipal, Provincial and Federal) together with a good number of forward thinking Montreal-HQ’d corporations and entrepreneurs, as well as 513 individual crowdfund backers.

The hard-won renaissance of the historic Notman House at Montreal’s innovation crossroads has more than validated the hypothesis that startup communities need a home. Physical space matters and Notman is where serendipitous collisions occur, inspirational ideas become experiments, multi-disciplinary teams coalesce, projects get wings, companies form, and successful founders and mentors give back.

Over the last five years, thanks to these determined community efforts, OSMO via Notman has helped democratize entrepreneurship in the city (70,000+ visitors), evangelized open collaboration (1,000+ entrepreneur learning events and hackathons) and accelerated the launch of over 185 startups, generating $400 million of VC funding, 1,200 jobs and $1.1 billion of company value. It has also been the inspiration for many other community-building initiatives including Startupfest, FounderFuel, Innocité MTL, Hacking Health Accelerator (HHA), La Gare, Salon 1861, Startup Open House, and TechAide for Centraide.

And so, to reaffirm what @notman stated in launching the Montreal Startup Community Awards, “We could not let 2017 pass without highlighting the amazing contribution of countless dedicated women and men without whom our ecosystem would not be where it is today…”