NextAI Announces Montreal Cohort at Startupfest

A leading AI accelerator is heading to Canada’s hotbed for the cutting-edge technology.

NEXT Canada has announced that NextAI will launch its first Montreal cohort in February 2019. The announcement came at Startupfest, one of Canada’s biggest tech festivals that takes place each year in Montreal. The new program will select roughly 50 founders to form 20 AI startups.

NextAI Montreal will be created in partnership with Executive Education HEC Montreal, a top business school. Both of these organizations are part of SCALE AI, a supply chain supercluster that was unveiled earlier this year.

Applications for the Montreal cohort of NextAI will officially open on September 20. However, one lucky AI startup will have a chance to secure a spot in the inaugural cohort by pitching to a panel of judges at AI Fest, which is a smaller offshoot involved in Startupfest. All ventures involved in NextAI, including the one that is selected at Startupfest, will receive up to $200,000 in funding.

“We are thrilled to kick off our first expansion outside of Ontario at Canada’s largest annual technology and startup festival, here in Montreal,” said Sheldon Levy, CEO of NEXT Canada. “We are forging special relationships with HEC Montréal as well as with Hélène Desmarais and her colleagues at SCALE AI, who have built a consortium of incredible partners. We intend to make NextAI an integral part of Montréal’s robust AI ecosystem.”

Julien Billot will be the program director for NextAI Montreal. He is tasked with building the accelerator’s core team as well as developing a network of faculty, scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs, all within one of Canada’s top AI cities.

“NextAI is different from traditional accelerator models because it provides high potential founders with entrepreneurial training through exposure to leading experts in their field,” says Billot. “Our program will be delivered at HEC Montréal, and will leverage the immense talent at other universities and research labs in Montreal and beyond, building on HEC Montréal Executive Education’s experience running multiple AI programs to date.”

NextAI Montreal will also work with NextAI in Toronto to develop partnership opportunities. In Ontario, NextAI has been receiving a lot of attention, having picked up $15 million from Ontario’s budget this year.

NEXT Canada, which helps run NextAI, is a nonprofit focused on helping establish entrepreneurs in Canada. They also run Next Founders and Next 36.