Spotlight: Martin-Luc Archambault

Prominent Canadian “serial” entrepreneur has specific advice for aspiring innovators

By: Alexandra Connerty, Staff Writer

“try lots of stuff, fail fast, and regroup…look at what you have, and be inspired by it.”

Martin-Luc Archambault begrudgingly refers to himself as a serial entrepreneur. However, his extensive involvement in multiple Canadian start-up companies makes the self description of this 30 year old Angel Investor and founder of Wajam seem true.

His current involvement with two prominent Canadian Accelerators, FounderFuel and GrowLabs, diminishes any negative connotations “serial entrepreneur” may carry, and highlights the demand that exists for such an intuitive and dedicated investor and entrepreneur in Canada.

The idea for Wajam, a social search plug in, began with a need to fix an in-office problem. While his team researched start-up companies at Bolidea, everyone ultimately accumulated the exact same information. It occurred to Archambault: if the team had access to what others members were searching, the research would be completed more efficiently and effectively; enter Wajam!

Wajam allows you to take your friends’ knowledge with you while searching the web, allowing you to find more relevant results when searching. This social search technology makes your friends’ knowledge searchable and accessible by collecting what they tweet, post on Facebook or on their Delicious feed, and displaying this information on top of your search results from Google and the like.

One of the challenges Wajam is currently facing is the transition from an early-adopter audience to mainstream audience. Early adopters try Wajam, love it and tend to stay with the app, resulting in a low turnover rate. Archambault worries how the transition from the early-adopters to the average Facebook user will be achieved. The Wajam team is currently working on ways to make the social search appealing to this powerful audience by highlighting its importance as an emerging technology.

Being at the forefront of new technology is not new to Mr. Archambault. Prior to the establishment of the internet, he created a small, internet-like community called BBS, Bulletin Board System, a computer system that allowed users to log in, search for and share information with one another.

Following the advent of the internet, Archambault hacked into the primary search engines, Yahoo, Altavista, and Webcrawler, and implemented SEO tactics to promote specific websites on top of the search engines.

After obtaining a degree in Business Administration from HEC-Universite de Montreal, he created a browser toolbar that was downloaded 50 million times. In 2005, this technology, along with its parent company, CDT, was acquired by Zango, an online advertising business able to target ads to individuals based on their searches.

[pullquote]Try lots of stuff, fail fast, and regroup…look at what you have, and be inspired by it.[/pullquote]

In 2008, Archambault, along with Oliver Cabanes and Magali Janviers, co-founded Bolidea, one of Canada’s first prominent incubators. It was here that Wajam and other start-ups such as Planbox, Artfox and Acadam, were born. Bolidea also invested in Modasuite, Anomalous Networks, Real Ventures and Montreal Startup.

Archambault also takes pride in being an Angel Investor; for him, however, this concept amounts to more than just investing money in an idea that seemingly has potential. Rather, it is about investing in a team and becoming a mentor that can help that team play the game. Archambault uses the analogy of a board game to better explain the role of an Angel Investor: “If it is your first time playing a board game, you don’t know all of the strategies. If you have a teacher, it helps you,” he explains.

Mr. Archambault believes Canada is very adept at starting new technologies; however, he thinks we are lacking in commercialization. As a result, large companies in the US acquire Canadian start-ups. In Archambault’s opinion, the potential exists for Canadians to take new technologies to market, due to their high degree of innovation; these technologies just need to get to market before the competition does in order to have a fighting chance.

Archambault advises aspiring entrepreneurs in the online industry to “try lots of stuff, fail fast, and regroup…look at what you have, and be inspired by it”. He believes failure is necessary because it results in an important learning and growth experience.  In his view, there is usually a lot of potential even in ideas that have ultimately failed and this potential is worth examining.  Archambault also suggests that start-ups talk to their customers. He explains that investors will always be there, but without customers, there can be no product or service.

Wajam will be attending the Day 1 Round-table talks at the Grow Conference in Vancouver on August 17th, 2011. Archambault believes conferences like the Grow Conference are important for Canada, because they bring investors from Silicon Valley up north and make them pay attention to what is going on here.  For more information, take a look at what the Grow Conference has to offer, by clicking here.

ARB Team
Arbitrage Magazine
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