“Technology can help us”

A prominent figure in venture capital, Sylvain Carle recently announced that he will be joining Innovobot’s new Montreal fund. Its purpose: to invest in start-ups that have a positive impact on society. Four questions to one who describes himself as “an idealistic and pragmatic nerd”.

Posted at 11:00 am

Karim Benessaieh

Karim Benessaieh
The Press

The Press : Some tech companies do not claim that their innovation will improve the world or society. How to call in English that Tech for Good more convincing?

Sylvain Carl : In fact, it is quite prevalent, this idea. First, there are our intentions, why we do it. As part of our Innovobot fund, we define the five goals of the United Nations ’sustainable development as the ones we put, especially the one that I have in mind for a long time, goal 13 for climate change. A fund like Innovobot will identify opportunities for “enabling” technologies that will allow us to achieve these goals, to advance this goal, in a measurable way.

I come from the digital world, it’s something I like, it’s the intersection of the digital and physical world.

Do you have examples of businesses you want to invest in that have a positive impact on society?

Innovobot just made a reinvestment in CarbiCrete, which takes carbon and puts it in cement blocks. We are replacing a process that previously polluted with a carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative process. That, I find very concrete, between what we say and what we do. We just can’t digitize things: if we really want to intervene for the environment, we have to intervene in the physical world.

We can talk about metaverse and concepts for the future of humanity, there are real current challenges for education, health. Technologies and innovations can clearly help us here. To say that we improve the health of Canadians is a bit hollow, but if we say that we want 20% more people to have access to home care, we can count on that.

Another recent example: a company called Oxia-Initiative. It makes systems to measure, create popular ISO 14002 reports on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What do you think you bring to Innovobot?

What I really liked about Innovobot was that they were human entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs working for entrepreneurs. That fills in my approach. They’re not very well known in Quebec, they’re Montrealers who have worked all over the world, it’s a bit of a diaspora that has recently returned to Montreal. I think I will bring more connections to the francophone ecosystem, to the government, to Investissement Québec.

There’s also my investment expertise, after eight years of investing in seed, pre-seed, working on various accelerator programs, in ecosystems and in networks.

Innovobot is still new, the fund is two years old. In the past, Innovobot has had research and innovation activities that have greatly affected large companies, this component is well developed. An important element for me to make the link between agile start-ups with new solutions and more stable companies with challenges, but also means.

How is the start-up ecosystem in Quebec? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

She’s fine after two years of COVID. After the first three months of adjustment, they are generally favored by the crisis. Investments continue to rise, we are starting to have more and more serial entrepreneurs, people in their second, third, fourth business. We are also starting to have more great programs at all stages.

About exporting and marketing… The challenge, 10 years ago, was ambition. This is no longer one. But do we have ways to match our ambitions? It’s still hard. Exporting technology is like going to people at fairs. We have to go back there, we have been lacking in this kind of event for the last two years.

The last element is more investment, but we can do more. We have a huge shortage compared to other countries, our companies are not valued much. And you need more speed between each round, it takes too long.

For brevity and readability, this lecture has been edited.

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