When finishing my Masters in Management, I was faced with the classic ‘what-do-I-do-now?’ dilemma. Applying for a job didn’t feel right to me, so I followed the wise advice of my teacher, who reminded me that I didn’t necessarily need to have experience before going into business: ‘If that’s what you want to do, go for it, Amira!
– Amira Boutouchent, Co-founder and CEO of Bridgr

Bridgr supports manufacturing SMEs in their digital transformation, offering a virtual hub where companies can identify and collaborate with the key tech experts and providers necessary to make the change happen.

This Quebec startup matches technologies and specialists with clients, according to their needs, both in terms of expertise and corporate culture. Client companies make a selection from three to six profiles and use a platform specifically designed by Bridgr for the management of manufacturing projects, including everything from the documents related to these suppliers to payment of their services.

Discovering the industrial world

Celebrating its two-year anniversary this month, Bridgr now has six members, including co-founders Amira Boutouchent and Mehdi Drissi, who is also Product Manager. “You could say that I’m the front end and he’s the back end,” laughs Bridgr’s CEO. Long-time collaborators, the creators of Bridgr had previously identified their common aspirations while working jointly on various projects. During a visit to Algeria, while thinking of starting her own business, Amira, a computer engineer and very involved in promoting entrepreneurship, asked Mehdi for advice. “When it all happened, we couldn’t imagine not doing it together,” she recounts.

Just after graduating, Amira conducted a study with primarily industrial companies for a research chair at HEC Montréal. The experience led her to writing strategic and operational reports in North Africa and Quebec, to deepen her knowledge on the operation of high value-added companies, as well as the challenges they faced with regard to their production chains. Through this, she discovered how complex the evolution of digital transformation can be for manufacturers, due to the laborious task of finding appropriate consultants and technologies. Bridgr was therefore born out of a desire to offer effective tools to companies to help them collaborate with experts and succeed in their digital transition.

The startup has benefited from the support of CEIM, the Founder Institute and the HEC Montréal accelerator for the development of both their product and new markets. The day I met Amira, Bridgr announced a partnership with Quebec’s largest industrial economic development organization, Développement économique Saint-Laurent, which brings together 630 manufacturers and over 100,000 employees.

This collaboration stems from nine months of work, customizing the Bridgr technology to meet the organization’s specific needs. It will allow manufacturers to consult experts in a completely neutral way, while permitting development advisors to monitor projects and obtain analytical data, such as the number of jobs created or eliminated, the provincial and federal funds injected, or the types of expertise required.

At the heart of digital transformation

“It was important that we adapt the methodology to make it easier for manufacturers, who are not necessarily used to AI and machine learning,” explains Amira. “This also involves a lot of design work and optimization of the matching process. Because we offer a match not only of expertise but of company culture, we need to consider the cognitive and even psychological aspects of our tools.”

In this era of Industry 4.0, there still remains some incomprehension. In response, Bridgr offers Insights, their content platform for innovative manufacturers. “Just two years ago, there was not much talk about the manufacturing sector in Quebec, whereas now we know that digital transformation is becoming increasingly important because there is obviously an economic stake,” Amira points out. “Rather than taking jobs away from us, this shift helps fill the expertise gap in Quebec and fosters business growth, ultimately protecting certain jobs.”

As an entrepreneur, Amira has often been asked why she chose to work in the manufacturing sector. “I’m not asked that much today, and I realize that we started at the right time, because the evolution is just beginning…”

Source: Mélanie Pilon, Writer for the Star Tech Vitrine


23May 2018

When we changed our business model, which was a really major shift towards a new adventure, I didn’t know of any other company in Quebec City that had adopted this SaaS model. There were so few players we could consult to find out how best to go about it, that we decided to design and test a prototype ourselves.
– Johanne Devin, CEO and Co-founder of WebSelf

WebSelf provides website creation tools that are simple, powerful and affordable, or free, to more than 3 million users in over 165 countries. Offering maximum functionality to people who want to develop their own website without having strong technological skills, the platform makes it easy for them, whether setting up a showcase site or an online store. “Even though it’s a standardized environment, we offer great flexibility and many features that can satisfy at least 99% of our customers’ needs,” indicates Johanne.

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09May 2018

Our clients, such as festivals like Francofolies de Montréal or Igloo Fest, appreciate not only that our solution saves them time and money, but also that they know exactly where their festivalgoers come from. Are they only in town for the two days of the event or are they extending their stay to discover the city? How many nights? Alone or accompanied, and by whom? In short, it’s all this data that represents a compelling advantage for our partners.
– Andrew Lockhead, CEO and Co-founder of Stay22

Stay22, an aggregator that lists nearly 6.5 million properties in 200 countries, helps travellers find the best accommodation options near the upcoming events they plan to attend. “We’ve targeted the niche of event management platforms, business conferences, festivals and more, which sets us apart in the huge online travel solutions market,” says Andrew.

Through agreements with partners such as Airbnb, but also with systems like Travelport and HotelsCombined, Stay22 offers visitors a hub that bringsall search resources together in one place, greatly simplifying the planning experience. Everything is adjusted on an interactive map that integrates directly with the event organizer’s website, ticket office or other online destination where users find themselves.

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02May 2018

Up until 2010, we often wondered if we wanted to invest in product development. Like many companies at the time, we were focussing on services in order to finance potential products. In the end, we decided to let go of the idea of designing products, because our service offering was really solid. After that, our growth curve was impressive, turning our 23-person team into the 150-person organization we are today.
– Stéphane Rouleau, President and Co-founder of Spiria

When I ask Stéphane to describe Spiria and their value proposition, he explains that the management team is actually trying to update their definition: “After 15 years of existence, it’s important to revisit it… simply said, we’re a digital solutions firm. Our clients call upon us to solve the digital components of their problems, due to lack of knowledge, resources or time on their part. In co-creation with them, we develop the best technology to optimize their activities.”

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