On June 7, 2023, the 25th edition of the OSEntreprendre Challenge Gala was held in Québec City. The event marks 10 consecutive years of partnership for Videotron Business. Engaging and forging trusting relationships with partners has always been an integral part of our DNA. We take a look back at this evening, which was no doubt an exciting one for three young and promising Québec businesses.
OSEntreprendre aims to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship to contribute to building a proud, innovative, engaged, and prosperous Québec. The OSEntreprendre Challenge is a major Québec movement that highlights the entrepreneurial initiatives of thousands of people annually. Follow us behind the scenes to discover three of the winning businesses of the 25th OSEntreprendre Challenge Gala … and their recipe for success!
The Internet of Things in healthcare
1st prize: Technological and Technical Innovation
Steve Girard is President of Virtuose Technologies. This business, founded in 2021, develops tools for improving healthcare. Girard, who played a key role at a major organization up until just recently, doesn’t beat around the bush when explaining the positive impact taking part in the OSEntreprendre Challenge has had. “I left my job last June 14 to completely dedicate myself to Virtuose Technologies. OSEntreprendre is more than just a contest; it’s an invitation to move forward,” he says.
The digital solutions offered by the company—Virtuose Dialogues, Virtuose Console, and Virtuose Assistant virtuel—are centered around the user and support the nursing staff and the patients’ caregivers. They help increase available clinical services, foster the deployment of self-care, provide a sense of security, and improve response time, to the great benefit of users.
These benefits are made possible thanks to the quality of information collected, without any additional resources needed. The Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence are two technologies involved in these different processes. All the data collected by connected objects are aggregated in a dashboard (Virtuose Console) that can be configured based on the establishment’s needs.
Dany Chassé - Virtuose Technologies, Gabriel Delisle - Virtuose Technologies and AnaÎs Favron
“Data collected on a continual basis allow us to identify the specific moment when a given user’s health issue arose. This data also allows us to better allocate necessary resources. For example, if a nurse plans to see her patient again in two weeks and the information collected via connected objects and the vocal assistant shows that the medical condition has since stabilized, the visit could be postponed to prioritize a patient who needs immediate care,” he explains.
This business model is right on the money. In Québec and worldwide, healthcare costs have exploded and hospital capacity no longer meets demand. Nevertheless, Steve Girard and his team are facing a major challenge: getting funding that is at the height of the organization’s needs. “We are currently establishing an organizational structure for three subsidiaries (Canada, France, and the US) to attract business partners,” he says.
One thing is certain, optimizing the performance of the healthcare sector via emerging technologies used at home or in healthcare facilities is definitely a game plan worthy of the top prize!
A promising young shoot
2nd prize: Technological and Technical Innovation
A course on creating innovative products, taken by four engineering students at Université de Sherbrooke, was the catalyst behind the company InnovaPlant. The goal was to find a solution to a problem in the field. The team’s research quickly turned to the lack of automation in the agricultural industry. And it quickly became obvious that strawberry growing in particular was in dire need of change!
“In strawberry growing, there are two types of roots. The first is the root ball, which is contained in mounds of soil of standardized shapes and sizes. The second type of root, the type preferred by producers given their significantly lower cost, is the bare root. This root, however, is much more delicate and difficult to plant. There are also two ways to grow strawberries: the traditional method, on matted rows, and the second method, on plastic mulch—a mat that covers the rows. The latter doubles the yield in the field while reducing the use of water and herbicides,” explains William Leclerc, President and Co-founder of InnovaPlant.
And for growing strawberries using the bare-root method on plastic mulch, there was no automated technology like the one now offered by InnovaPlant. “We’re developing the first semi-automated machine for planting bare-root strawberries on plastic mulch,” summarizes Leclerc, who has a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, coop program with a concentration in technological entrepreneurship.
The prototype project was completed at the same time as the end of the course in question. A few months later, however, the end-of-studies project, which typically spans over 18 months, began. “I wasn’t interested in any other project. My peers and I decided to kill two birds with one stone: continue the work we had previously started to complete our academic requirements and turn the project into a business.” The result? InnovaPlant is now a joint-stock company making a splash across Québec.
What did they take away from their participation in the OSEntreprendre Challenge? “I was impressed by the strong engagement and overall mobilization to support entrepreneurial initiatives in Québec. Several players are eager to support entrepreneurs,” William answers immediately. He was also pleasantly surprised by the diversity of projects presented. “This allowed me to take a step back and see our project from a different angle.”
The least we can say is that things are moving along swiftly for InnovaPlant. “We got five letters of engagement from our first five clients: they are the early adopters, the first users to emerge from our technology. In the fall, we will be presenting them this one. This winter, we will be building the equipment for delivery in spring 2024, to be used for the new planting period. Their participation in this collaborative project is key to getting their feedback. It will allow us to optimize the equipment and begin marketing on a broader scale across Québec throughout 2025,” Leclerc concludes.
ALCYON SEL DE MER
A tasteful Madeleinian family business
People’s Choice Provincial Prize
In operation since July 2022, Alcyon is a family business whose story began in 2016. “We were looking for a project that would take us back home, to Îles-de-la-Madeleine,” says one of the company’s co-founders, Joëlle Arseneau. Her sister Élisabethe, Biotechnological Engineer, had previously noticed that there was no local sea salt marketed in Québec.
Fast-forward a few years later and Alcyon is now one of the first companies in Québec to make this product, offering consumers a gastronomical and sustainable experience. The girls’ father works in operations with Élisabethe, Joëlle oversees business development, and their mother handles the local shop and customer service. The busy family recently received a big show of love: the People’s Choice Provincial Prize at the 25th OSEntreprendre Challenge Gala. “A month and a half later, clients are still talking about it,” she says, visibly proud of this turn of events.
Would you believe that the family did not get to attend the gala in person?! The airplane had to stay grounded for two consecutive days due to poor weather conditions and a mechanical issue. Be that as it may, the OSEntreprendre Challenge provided valuable lessons. “We are now able to develop our project and to challenge our ideas as needed,” she explains. Alcyon had a double challenge to contend with: promote a new business and a new product on the market!
There’s lots to do in the coming months. “The next step in our business plan is to continue growing.” Alcyon salts are already available in several stores across Québec. “And we’re hoping to launch our online boutique sometime this fall,” she adds.
New products will also be added to their current line. “We want to offer a broader selection of flavoured salt; we’re working with chefs to find new flavours. We also plan to launch a new salt-based product to achieve 100% circular economy. That’s right, we even do R&D,” she laughs.
Finally, work is under way to export outside Québec. There’s demand for Alcyon products in the Maritimes and in Western Canada. “It’s crazy what a tiny grain of salt can do to your food!” she says.
Their top tips for success
Steve Girard, President of Virtuose Technologies, firmly believes in having a good business plan. “Carefully assess your market,” he says. In fact, he put his own words into action. “We conducted our market research in 19 countries, over the course of 18 months. We concluded that there was nothing on the market comparable to the possibilities offered by our digital solutions,” he says.
Joëlle Arseneau, Co-founder of Alcyon, says to believe in yourself. “At the beginning of a project, entrepreneurs often have a tendency to doubt themselves. However, your team is in the best position to deploy your business vision,” she explains. The OSEntreprendre Challenge allowed her to challenge her initial ideas. “This questioning doesn’t necessarily mean you need to deviate from your initial game plan,” she says.
William Leclerc, President and Co-founder of InnovaPlant, has similar thoughts. “Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Go out into the field and speak with potential clients. It’s an excellent way to get feedback and improve your product,” he concludes.
OSEntreprendre: you’re up!
Several other businesses obviously stood out at the event. The 2023 winners are clearly pleased with their journey. Perhaps it’s your turn to take the leap and move forward with your entrepreneurial ideas? Look out for registrations for the 26th edition of the OSEntreprendre Challenge coming up this fall!
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