Jean-Philippe Gagnon is a young man who holds the future of his family’s business, Innovitech, close to heart. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration, majoring in entrepreneurship, he has spent the last six years exploring a number of positions within the company, founded by his father in 1989. By working in communications and as analyst, Jean-Philippe has learned the ins and outs of being an innovation strategist — a role perfected by his parents.
Jean-Philippe was always very passionate about sports, he always believed that there is more to sports than simply entertainment. After meeting with entrepreneurs and visiting research facilities from Montreal’s sports industry, Jean-Philippe began to envision new markets and new opportunities to create value for Innovitech. Intrapreneurship turned out to be the perfect solution. It would allow Jean-Philippe to keep his foot firmly in the family business while exploring new avenues for development. This is how Athletc. was born.
Innovitech: Innovation at Every Level
Innovitech has 35 employees and over 25 years of experience as innovation strategists. It sets itself apart through its mature business line and collaborative industrial R&D projects. The company supports three research consortia in aerospace (CRIAQ, GARDN and CARIC) and another in medical technologies (MEDTEQ), which currently boasts 110 members and 30 funded research projects adding up to roughly $15 million. Innovitech’s role is essentially to network — by connecting business researchers and their academic counterparts, and by funding their resulting projects with the help of governments. Innovitech has made a name for itself over the years through its extensive networks and bold economic development mandates. It’s also known for its expertise in strategic support and ability to mobilize professionals from high-tech fields. In recent months, Innovitech has been developing a new business line: Marketing. Among other things, this expansion has led to a joint venture with Starburst Accelerator, a group specializing in connecting start-ups with major aerospace customers. Alongside Jean-Philippe’s project, Starburst Accelerator has also developed within Innovitech.
The Beginnings of the Intrapreneurial Project
For Jean-Philippe, launching his project within the family business was an easy decision. With his parents by his side as mentors, he joined the first cohort of the Intrapreneurial Program. He says that the Program’s detailed roadmap, weekly meetings and impressive experts in the form of coaches and mentors created an environment uniquely conducive to development. Since joining the Intrapreneurial Program, Jean-Philippe’s initial project has changed entirely. After conducting an extensive field survey, holding several dozen meetings, getting feedback from experts mobilized by the Program, and using the tools (Business Model Canvas by Strategyzer, Value Proposition Canvas) available on the Program’s web platform, a much clearer image of his project started to emerge. The Program also allowed Jean-Philippe to address the issue of communication within the family business. With two generations working side by side, he needed to come up with a management model that would meet the expectations of both parent and son. Thanks to the discussions prompted by the Program, the two generations were able to find common ground. Rather than arriving at a compromise, however, Jean-Philippe and his parents created their own unique method for bringing their two visions together. The result? A shared vision that has led to a more powerful and efficient strategy that better promotes successful project development.
Creating Opportunities & Collaboration
So what exactly is Jean-Philippe’s project? Athletc. is a private group of innovators in the field of sports and health whose mission is to generate collaborations that create business opportunities for its members. Jean-Philippe had long been fascinated by the inner workings of sports and — through his parent company — he already had the necessary health network in place to generate strategic connections. Jean-Philippe believes there is more to sports than simply entertainment. He views sports as a laboratory for health and human performance, just as Formula 1 racing is a laboratory for automotive performance. Furthermore, there are many types of athletes out there: elite sports, industrial workers, the general public and the elderly. Technology developed for elite athletes is also relevant to these other market segments. Hence the need for Athletc. Jean-Philippe’s value proposition is to accelerate exchanges among members of the group via personalized connections and exclusive events. Just as Innovitech has been doing for the past 25 years, Athletc. is essentially a scout and connection agent. Since finishing the Program in December 2016, Jean-Philippe has worked non-stop to get his project up and running. His first task was to complete his field survey of potential customers and collaborators to better target the market’s actual needs. He then meticulously studied other organizations with similar missions to further refine his business model. As a final step, he carefully built the intraprise’s method for delivering value and the communications tools needed for its operations. In October 2017, Jean-Philippe ofcially launched Athletc.’s first event. For this intrapreneur, launching the company was never meant to be a sprint, but more of a marathon. Jean-Philippe’s goal was to create a successful business and to do that, he wanted to be sure the right foundations were in place. After an extremely busy summer, Athletc. now has more than a dozen start-ups and three founding members: the Institut National du Sport du Québec (INS), the Concordia University PERFORM Centre and the Montreal Alouettes.
Athletc.’s Next Step
Jean-Philippe wants Quebec to become a global tech hub for both athletes and the general public. Through Athletc., sports and health organizations can come together as one critical mass — a league of innovators — with the ultimate goal of accelerating high-impact solutions for the general public inspired by innovations designed for elite athletes.