This year, SoftLayer partnered with ThreeFortyNine, a co-working space in Guelph, Ontario, to offer founders, funders, and anyone else heading to Montreal’s International Startup Festival an amazing first class ride on the SoftLayer Startup Train.
I sat down with Brydon Gilliss, the founder of ThreeFortyNine, to learn more about the experience.
Now in its fourth year, the Startup Train is quickly becoming an institution for entrepreneurs, funders, and professionals traveling from Toronto to the International Startup Festival. What was the impetus behind creating this experience?
The travel time to conferences is often wasted time. We wanted to try and make better use of it. Also, it can be lonely when you return from an exciting conference but don't have anyone to connect with after who had that shared experience with you. Having a group of people from your city who you travel and share the experience with creates a longer-term alumni effect in your community.
The International Startup Festival in Montreal draws one of the largest audiences of tech entrepreneurs out of any event in Canada. What do you think makes it so popular?
The city, for one. Montreal is one of the best cities to visit in the summer. There is always an attraction; a reason to make the time. The festival venue is completely different ... right on the water in Old Montreal. The festival-atmosphere makes it a unique and an enjoyable experience.
How has the Startup Train experience changed over the past 4 years?
Startup Train alumni know what to expect. There are always new people to meet and learn from, and we don’t complicate the experience with too much programming. There is enough to keep your business-busy if that’s your goal, but it’s also easy to relax, enjoy the service and views while meeting and chatting with people with a cocktail in hand. This year, VIA Rail, is doing us a favor and giving us one of their cool dome cars typically used for the longer-haul cross-Canada trips.
We’re really excited to do some speed mentorship on the observation deck of the train this year. What else can attendees expect to experience on the SoftLayer Startup Train this year?
There are plenty of people to discuss your ideas with. You can take advantage of the networking with like-minded startups, running your ideas past some of the old hats on the train, or getting some quality advice from the mentors on-board.
The train experience attracts people from around Ontario, not just Torontonians. What do you think gels the Ontario tech community, and how does this play out each year at the Festival in Montreal?
I'm not sure I know the answer. Certainly the train, as with other events in our community, is a gel point in itself. In Canada, in general, we're working to find our way quickly in this fast moving startup world. Events like the train and Startup Festival, are important ways for our lonely entrepreneurs to come together and build our energy; share battle stories; etc.
With around 2,000 people attending the International Startup Festival in Montreal it can get pretty hectic at the venue and in the Old Port in general. What are some tips you can give founders traveling, on or off the train, to Montreal for the Festival?
Getting to Montreal is half the battle. Those choosing Startup Train travel can expect to exert minimum effort with the payoff of maximum enjoyment. Train travel is so easy especially when compared to flying. To fly these days (we won’t even get into the 401 or driving in Montreal), travelers need to be hours early in order to be processed and searched. You have to deal with luggage hassles. You end up losing valuable time in an irritating environment. The actual flying experience itself isn’t an event compared to the romance and fun of train travel. From the moment you get to VIA Rail’s first class lounge prior to leisurely boarding, the actual experience itself is so relaxing. In a plane you’re not likely to get a view, but on a train, that’s all you have. It’s easy to meet and make authentic connections with people on the train right away, so that by the time you arrive in Montreal, you’ve already got some necessary work done. Near the Festival site, you’ve got plenty of social options in the city (walking distance and otherwise). It’s easy to sneak off and grab a beer on a cobblestone street in Old Montreal with startup train passengers if you need a break from the Festival.
For anyone interested in riding the SoftLayer Startup Train, please visit http://ibm.co/1HHV2QZ. If you are a member of our Catalyst Startup Program and would like to travel to the Festival on us, please email me ASAP.