New Montreal shop to showcase products by local startups

Montrealers will be soon able to see — and touch — products coming out of local startups at a store expected to open this fall.

Organization hopes to put Montreal-made products on international stage

The French Neoshop provided a physical store for products made by startups, as well as an online shop. (Jacques Olivier/Neoshop)

Montrealers will be soon able to see — and touch — products coming out of local startups at a store expected to open this fall.

The Neoshop, a Montreal initiative to bring startups closer to customers, is currently looking for submissions to stock its shelves.

Damien Silès, the head of the organization behind Neoshop, hopes the store will encourage startups to stay in Montreal.

"It's easier sometimes to sell a product outside of the province and have success outside of Canada than in our own country," Silès said.

"We want to help companies be proud of what they're making."

Boutique of the future

Silès is the executive director of the Quartier de l'innovation of Montreal, which counts the Neoshop among its economic and cultural projects.

The Neoshop is expected to open in December as a pop-up shop, and will eventually be opened as a boutique by next spring in the Quartier de l'innovation. About 50 products will be on display in the store, Silès said.

Some of the products will have a chance to travel to European Neoshops, which will send a similar number of products to Montreal in exchange.

The Montreal store will be the first of its kind in North America, and the second in the world after the original Neoshop in France. 

The first Neoshop was opened in Laval, France in September 2013. (Jacques Olivier/Neoshop)

Products will be rotated every six months to leave room for new ideas. Store workers will collect feedback from customers to send back to the companies, Silès said.

His goal is to put the city on the innovation map, and bring "made in Montreal" products to an international crowd. 

Belgium and Spain also plan to open Neoshops in the near future, according to Silès.

Montreal as a centre of innovation

The Neoshop is one of about 40 projects in the Quartier de l'innovation of Montreal, an organization that supports up-and-coming businesses and cultural projects.

The quartier is a neighbourhood of creative companies in the Southwest borough between Atwater Avenue and McGill Street, from the Lachine Canal to René-Lévesque Boulevard.

"We want to make Montreal an international address of innovation," Silès said.

Part of the challenge is keeping students and young entrepreneurs in the city.

"If you want to keep the Y generation, the millennials, you need to have a larger view of innovation," Silès said. "I'm fed up of seeing young people who don't have the capacity to sell products in Montreal leave."

The Quartier de l'innovation, launched three years ago, works directly with students and startup centres at McGill, ETS, UQAM and Concordia universities, as well as companies like Videotron and RBC.

Fostering a home for a younger creative class means investing in social and cultural projects as well, according to Silès.

"We are a downtown area, not an industrial area, where it's possible to live, sleep and work," he said.

The Quartier de l'innovation is involved in arts festivals like Nuit Blanche, an overnight festival featuring galleries and events across the city, and the Digital Spring, a series of concerts and installations by digital artists.

The district received a nod by Le Monde earlier this year in its list of urban innovation centres.