Adapt to survive, innovate to thrive
23 February 2021
S'adapter pour survivre, innover pour prospérer
February 23, 2021


Startups at the Creative Destruction Lab – Montreal (CDL-Montreal) are finding ways to adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 crisis.

The latter has had a significant impact on the startup community: fewer venture capital funds available, business-to-business buyers delaying purchases, teams having to adapt their operations to remote work, etc. Thus, it is with the objective of sharing experiences and advice to overcome the crisis that the CDL-Montreal startups , from the 4 corners of the world, came together before ending the year 2020.

Through the various conversations, the 2020-2021 CDL-Montreal cohorts have shown that they are up to the challenge and ready to seize the opportunity to adapt and thrive. In this article, you will find highlights of these conversations and possible solutions to the issues facing CDL-Montreal's 2020-2021 startups .

Teleworking talent management

The most frequently raised issue during this round table was surely that of talent management. CDL-Montreal startups are part of industries where talent is a company's greatest asset. Thus, supporting them (especially in times of health crisis) is one of their priorities.

As one of the founders expressed during the roundtable: "You can have solid talent, but if you don't have a company culture to support its growth or engagement, you risk diminishing the value of his contribution. »

Indeed, according to several human resources experts, companies that have a strong corporate culture are those that best adapt to the uncertainty linked to COVID-19.

“For us, passion is very important among our employees,” adds another member of the cohort. This is why, during our job interviews, we ask: “How much time did you put into preparing for this interview?” This is a question that allows us to properly assess an employee's commitment. »

By being part of the CDL-Montreal program, entrepreneurs not only have access to a network of mentors, some of whom are authorities in human resources management, but also to a large pool of highly qualified talent and 19,500 workers with skills in artificial intelligence (AI) in Montreal.

They also have the opportunity to meet scientists who are part of Mila's 500 researchers and master's, doctoral and postdoctoral students.

Adapting your product to the reality of COVID-19

The startups that survive the health crisis will be those that adapt to the new market reality and rethink the fit of their product to the market. This is why this topic was frequently raised during conversations between CDL-Montreal's 2020-2021 startups .

“Product-market fit is a process, it’s iterative,” said one of the entrepreneurs. It's long and tedious, but it's the key to success: finding out who would pay for your technology and at what price. »

Indeed, product-market fit is the crux of the war for many startups, but it's all a question of balance: "In addition to having to refine your technology according to market needs, you have to maintain a strong team and motivated, do business development, update your financial statements, etc., as explained by an entrepreneur in the program. It's this whirlwind of decisions to make that can lead you to lose sight of your main goal. »

That's why CDL-Montreal uses a goals-based mentoring process to free startups from distractions and allow them to focus on what's most important.

Selling in times of crisis

In times of pandemic, several startup managers have expressed that their commercial prospecting has radically changed their sales funnel: “Before the pandemic, we were negotiating a major contract with an influential company,” says one of the CDL-Montreal entrepreneurs. When COVID-19 disrupted the way we live and work, the company almost took a step back. » This experience is frequently experienced among startups .

Thus, to survive this crisis, many of them had to pivot and reinvent their business model, as this same entrepreneur explains: “We had to use the pandemic as an opportunity and adapt our product to the crisis. We kind of had to pivot and add new features. »

In times of health and economic crisis, the CDL-Montreal program is all the more relevant because, more than ever, businesses need support, mentoring and new ideas. It is among other things with this objective that CDL Recovery was developed, a program focused on all solutions to accelerate the global recovery after the COVID-19 crisis.

This pioneering model has allowed CDL-Montreal to develop expertise in order to adequately support entrepreneurs in times of crisis and propel them to new heights.

Management of time

In addition to managing daily tasks (already important), entrepreneurs have had to transition to remote work. “In addition to having to accommodate our customers and adapt the technology to their new needs, we had to support our employees in this transition, without tarnishing the corporate culture,” said one entrepreneur.

For others, the new way of working during the pandemic was beneficial and allowed them to have more time to develop their project. “We were able to build a very good corporate culture, even better than before,” explains an entrepreneur. We took the time to educate ourselves and learn new tips for remote work, like GitLab's OKR system. »

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Startup entrepreneurs usually have the opportunity to meet in person, which is why these round tables were established, to create these learning-rich meetings. These discussions allowed entrepreneurs to see that they are not alone in experiencing certain issues, especially in times of the COVID-19 crisis. They even discover a whole new network of entrepreneurs who can help them find solutions to some of their challenges.

These exchanges and the sharing of expertise are the real wealth of a program like that of CDL-Montreal .