Local entrepreneurs get $50,000 kick-start from Montreal incubator

Published on OBJ.ca.
March 7, 2011

Click here to view this article on OBJ.ca.

Two Ottawa entrepreneurs are packing their bags for Montreal to work on their homegrown event-planning technology, as part of a $50,000 investment deal with startup incubator Year One Labs.

Montreal-based Year One said Monday that it had made its fifth and final investment in Assemblio, founded by Ottawa natives Jonathan Abrams and Elan Dubrofsky.

The deal will see Assemblio receiving a total of $50,000, four partners and facilities at the Year One offices, in exchange for around a 20-per-cent stake in the local company. It’s a standard arrangement with any investment that Year One makes, Mr. Abrams noted.

“We’re actually leaving our jobs right now to work on Assemblio full-time,” he said in an interview with OBJ.

While the company is not out of stealth mode and details are few and far between – Assemblio’s website is currently not much more than a signup box to get notifications on its beta launch, which is set for this summer – Mr. Abrams said the fledgling firm does have a prototype that he and Mr. Dubrofsky worked on in their spare time, and that they hope to have a basic, viable product within three to six months.

He noted Assemblio’s offering will be focused on making it easy to plan conferences and other events, and that it will be website-based with possible mobile applications.

Mr. Abrams – who grew up in Ottawa and has been friends with Mr. Dubrofsky since Grade 1 – said he and his partner first got Year One’s attention at the Google Hackathon event in Montreal in January.

The two worked on something different at the event and pitched it to the incubator, and while Year One was not quite interested in that earlier product, Mr. Abrams said the relationship was set in place from that point.

“During the Hackathon we could see their enthusiasm and tenacity, but also their thoughtful approach to tackling a manageable and interesting problem in a one-day event,” wrote Year One partner Benjamin Yoskovitz in a blog posting announcing the investment.

“Jon and Elan showed an ability to throw a bunch of ideas around, dig into the interesting ones, stay flexible, dump the stuff that didn’t make sense and stay open-minded, while remaining opportunistic and passionate. That gave us the confidence to make the investment in them and Assemblio.”

Mr. Abrams said Assemblio will benefit from Year One’s mentorship, adding that he was excited to take advantage of Montreal’s reputation as a hub for startup activity, angel and venture capital financing.

“It’s very exciting that we have opportunities like these here in Canada, for young entrepreneurs to get help at the early stages of the business,” he said. “Even though we’re leaving Ottawa and going to Montreal, it’s a lot closer and more accessible than San Francisco, so I see this is as a positive thing for Ottawa’s tech community, since the stronger the startup environment is in Montreal, the stronger it is across Canada and ultimately Ottawa.”

As for whether Assemblio expects to eventually move back to Ottawa, Mr. Abrams said he was hesitant to mention future plans, although he noted his family remains in town.

“I’m also not selling my house here, so take what you will from that,” he laughs.

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