Entrepreneurs: how do you accomplish in a few days what would usually take a year?

Nima Jalalvandi took on the challenge of assembling the lifeblood of Quebec entrepreneurship when he founded the Expo Entrepreneurs event in January 2018. It was a great success, and the event has now become an indispensable meeting place for entrepreneurs looking for solutions. With the 2019 edition just a few days away, the Chamber spoke with the Expo’s president to get the latest news.

Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) – How many attendees and exhibitors are you expecting for this edition?

Nima Jalalvandi (N.J.) – Around 8,000 entrepreneurs. At the moment, 5,300 have signed up, which is already 1,600 more than last year at this time! There will also be 240 partners, exhibitors and support organizations to meet the needs of the attendees. This side of things is also increasing, because we’ve gone from 60 private partners to over a hundred, and from 91 non-profit organizations to over 150.

CCMM – What is the winning formula of Expo Entrepreneurs 2019 (EE19)?

N.J. – Last year, we talked about the decompartmentalization effect. We wanted to help entrepreneurs expand their horizons. This year, we are making the same promise: one encounter can change everything. We’re also bringing in the idea of acceleration: in two days, attendees accomplish the equivalent of one year of networking, training and research. For example, this year, support organizations will be working together to offer presentations and workshops. For attendees, these are opportunities to meet seven organizations at once! The Expo represents a significant gain in time and energy for entrepreneurs.

The goal behind this formula is to help each project reach its next step. In order for it to work, entrepreneurs attending EE19 need to have a desire to change the status quo. The event exists to encourage development by giving entrepreneurs solutions, regardless of whether they own a company with a $10 million turnover or they haven’t yet founded their company. EE19 assembles professionals of all kinds.

CCMM – Does that mean that your event is geared not only towards startup founders but also towards heads of SMEs?

N.J. Exactly. This year, we would like to welcome more growing companies and SMEs. Why the latter, you may ask? The management style for this type of company is largely based on an entrepreneurial model, requiring a creative, flexible approach. Furthermore, the head of the company is usually the same person who founded it. At this stage, we often find that heads of SMEs don’t always have the time to look for new solutions. EE19’s mission is to simplify things for them with a one-stop shop, putting them in contact with support networks and exhibitors from different regions that they might not have encountered otherwise! We want to encourage SMEs to drive their growth forward by expanding their horizons.

Overview of the events for SMEs:
- Understanding major technological trends and their impact on SMEs
Presented by Videotron Business, Wednesday, January 23, and Thursday, January 24, at 10:30 a.m.
- Demystifying corporate-academic research partnerships
Presented by Mitacs, Wednesday, January 23, at 11:25 a.m.
- Financing that is adapted to the needs of entrepreneurs
Presented by PME MTL, Wednesday, January 23, at 11:30 a.m.
- 5 steps for establishing your SME’s online presence
Presented by District M, Wednesday, January 23, at 2 p.m.

CCMM – Will you still have your famous “connectors”?

N.J. Yes, absolutely! They are the heart of the concept of Expo Entrepreneurs. We are able to offer a personalized experience because of the passion and commitment of these people. It’s not just about hosting Quebec entrepreneurs, but also guiding them to meetings that can help them along their journey and give them the momentum that will make all the difference.
The Connectors are a big part of our three main goals: inspiration, connection and solutions. It is important to remember that throughout the event, humans are at the heart of all relationships.

CCMM – You offer around 200 activities. What is the common thread that ties them together?

N.J. It’s about the concrete benefits for entrepreneurs. Whether it’s finding financial backers, managing resources more effectively, insuring their business or learning about intellectual property, participants have access to specialized content through our conferences, workshops and clinics. Finally, sharing experiences with people who have faced the same challenges is at the heart of our concept. Not everyone starts a project with the aim of becoming the next Microsoft. The entrepreneurs need to hear experiences they can relate to.

CCMM – And all of these activities are free, as is entry to the event?

N.J. Everything is free, thanks to the support of the Government of Quebec and the Ville de Montréal.

CCMM – Finally, do you have any advice for attendees who want to make the most of this event?

N.J. Entrepreneurs must first define the goal they hope to achieve, then tailor their experience by adding not-to-be-missed activities to their schedule (which will then be inscribed on their badge). They will also receive suggestions according to their preferences so that they don’t miss out on any business opportunities.

In terms of documentation, it’s best to keep it minimal. Expo Entrepreneurs isn’t the place to present a business plan or an information brochure. The idea is to get people’s contact information in order to send them documents. Business cards are always welcome, but don’t forget an up-to-date LinkedIn profile or company page. My advice is to come with a laptop and a cell phone.

I’ll end with a bit of personal advice: be yourself, keep an open mind, and share your passion and your experiences. One encounter can change everything!

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