Yacine Amrani is the man behind the Griffin Camp project: a business accelerator nestled in the heart of Montreal’s Quartier de l'Innovation. Meet a passionate and enthusiastic man who took the time to share his vision and dynamic ideas with us.
How does one set up a business accelerator? You need to be a born entrepreneur, right? Brilliant and humble, Yacine surprises us by calmly answering with a “no”. He doesn’t consider himself an entrepreneur. To that, he calmly adds:
"I'm not an entrepreneur because to me, an entrepreneur is someone who wants to do nothing else. Here is the example I often give: if you ask an entrepreneur "What will you do if your project fails?" His answer will be "I’ll start another one”. If you ask me that question, I’ll say, “I'm looking for a job”."
In 1995, Yacine Amrani arrived in Montreal without knowing a soul. He forged his own path by "going along with the adventures that came his way," he says. From acquiring a travel agency to holding down various positions in companies of all sizes across the city, Yacine had been gaining experience until 2005, when he started dedicating his time to small start-ups or struggling companies. "I built a network from scratch," he confides.
Support for entrepreneurs
Since 2014, Yacine has been dedicated to Griffin Camp - a business accelerator unique in Montreal that he founded, at the time, with Paul Blanchard. Behind Griffin Camp lies a mission rooted in gratitude: to help others as they were helped.
"We created the accelerator for that very reason. A place where you can feel comfortable and where entrepreneurs are not afraid to discuss their entrepreneurial issues. An entrepreneur often has a lot of concerns and anxieties that he can’t share with his family or friends. An entrepreneur with family commitments can’t go home at night and say "I had a really bad day, I don’t have money in the bank to make payroll next week"; it will demoralize his family. Yet here, we all understand that reality, so he can share with us. "
As a leader of a new generation of entrepreneurs, Yacine has a “macro” vision of the market and his expertise is widely recognized.
Incubators to stimulate the economy
To him, accelerators and incubators are crucial as major points of entry to Montreal’s economy. In fact, he explains that Griffin Camp hosts a lot of foreign entrepreneurs. "It’s a meeting point where people come to discuss the ecosystem and local market; not with organizations that are there to simply sell them Montreal, but with people who are there to tell them the truth." There are always two sides to every coin, Yacine reminds us . "So I shed light on the flip side. "
If Montreal’s entrepreneurs have suffered at the hand of political decisions and budget cuts from governments and municipalities in recent years, he’s proud to say that Montreal start-ups have not let adversity get them down and have developed new ways of finding funding. Despite his sense that entrepreneurs suffer from this lack of political "cash", the pool of creative and innovative businesses – fundamentally Montreal-based businesses who do not want to emigrate – is far from dry! "We’re even seeing US funds settle here on the lookout for Montreal-based projects. "
Circulating ideas on a larger scale
What’s next? Yacine would like to see the emergence of "a centralized location where yesterday’s businesses, the mature ones, and today's businesses could meet to create everything that will be there tomorrow." This group would become a global reference in applied research and development.
"In my wildest dreams, we would have a space large enough to host conference rooms, an auditorium or an amphitheater, and even apartments for foreign entrepreneurs so they could spend a few weeks or months on-site. There would also be workshops on modeling, prototyping and research for established businesses, start-ups, budding companies, etc. A complete ecosystem with this permanent exchange of ideas: daily entertainment, regular presentations so that everyone knows each-other’s challenges and has the opportunity to put his or her own brick in the wall."
This dream may become QI reality in the near future, as Yacine already seems to be taking the lead on this project.