“Montreal is a Dying City” for Tech, Medium article reports

Well known Founder and CEO of Island , Greg Isenberg, wrote an opinion piece why Montreal and the whole province of Quebec was not for him, and why he left and took his business with him to San Francisco, California. Greg also builds marketing and social media campaigns for brands like FedEX, NASCAR, TechCrunch and WordPress.

His story got a lot of heat from Montreal / Quebec users who disagreed with him , and that is potentially why he decided to retract it and delete it from the site, Medium.com. We have sent a request asking him why he decided to delete it and waiting for feedback. 

Basically in his article Greg summarized why Montreal is not a good place for a tech company, his main point was that Montreal can not retain talent to stay in Montreal, most people leave it for other places. He discussed 3 points he thinks would make Montreal more attractive.

  1. His first point was to make Montreal an officially bilingual city, no more French language enforcement police scaring off English startups / students; provide English documents to companies willing to do business in Montreal;
  2.  his second point was that Montreal is seen in North America as Sex / Porn capital and this view should be squashed and that the City of Montreal / Province of Quebec should promote city as a good place to do business;
  3. Most McGill grads (McGill is a top tier school in North America) leave within few years of finishing school, only a small percentage stay – how to make it better for them to stay – what to do? what programs to launch?

The story first appeared on Medium (https://medium.com/@gregisenberg/dear-montreal-please-dont-give-up-fa03726537b6) but has since been deleted but still exists in Google Cache (https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:MWiBTFErOxYJ:https://medium.com/%40gregisenberg/dear-montreal-please-dont-give-up-fa03726537b6+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca) and is included below:

Dear Montreal, Please Don’t Give Up

Parce que j’ai confiance en toi

I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. It’s one I’ve got a lot of feels for. This isn’t an attack on Montreal. This is critical feedback for the city I love. We do performance reviews for employees, so why not do it for cities from time to time? This is purely an economic performance review.

Caveat: I’m not going to write a fluff piece. We all know how Montreal’s quality of life is off the freakin’ charts, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss.

Here’s the truth: Montreal is a dying city.

Where other cities like Portland, Berlin and Oakland are on the up, Montreal stands still.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of people I meet in the US and abroad who only think of it as a bachelor party city, who have no idea what Montreal life is like or who haven’t even heard of the city. Breaks my heart.

The problem: Some of the smartest and most entrepreneurial leave Montreal in search for “opportunity”. Montreal has failed them. How do we fix that?

Here’s my top 3:

  1. Montrealers and Montreal needs to be a bilingual city. English in Quebec is only introduced in the 4th grade. For a city that is a mere 60 miles from the US border, that’s absolutely absurd. The more languages we know, the better. That is a global competitive advantage not a loss of our Quebecois identity. One language is not better than the other. One culture is not better than the other. We are brothers and sisters. I believe laws should be in place to protect our Quebecois and French language culture. However, some laws are completely onerous and it puts Quebec in the right hand lane when other cities are zooming by in the left lane. Get this — if you move to Montreal from outside Quebec, your children cannot go to an english public school unless you parents were educated in Quebec in english. How can a Montreal company attract top talent (usually from the US) when there are laws that make it downright uninviting and difficult to raise a family there? Why would a NYC entrepreneur start a company in Montreal when their french skills are limited and government paperwork is only in french? We are failing these folks. They will bring jobs, spend money, pay taxes and create change.
  2. Montreal has the opportunity to be the Berlin of North America; Berlin is similar to Montreal. Both suffered economic decline, both have excellent foodie and party scene, both are super cool, both are university towns, both are artistic towns and both are in the economic shadow of their bigger brother (Berlin has Frankfurt and Montreal has Toronto). Yet ask any hipster in this world, and Berlin is thriving. Companies like Soundcloud were founded and grown there. Thrillist calls Montreal “The Porn Capital”. I think Montreal could be known for a lot more than a city involved in the underbelly of the internet and promote companies that affect global change (Breather is a good example)
  3. Montreal needs to retain McGill graduates. It’s Montreal’s top school, one of the best in Canada and renown across the world yet McGill grads don’t stay in Montreal to start companies etc. How do we make it easy for them? What kind of programs can we put in place?

My question is do Montrealers want the city to become an influencer city? Or are you comfortable with the status quo?

I think Montreal has 2 options; either continue on this path to be the most relevant city in Quebec (which it is) or change course and become a more world-class city.

There is something really special about Montrealers and with the right push, more incredible art, companies and technology will come out of the city.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the people and the city deserve more.


Greg Isenberg

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