For our first ever technology-themed edition, Diary Vol. 6, out now, we shone the spotlight on some of the city’s most accomplished techpreneurs … who also happen to be making quite the impression on the cultural front, like the invincible ALEXANDRE TAILLEFER, an out-of-the-box thinker currently bringing fresh perspective to the world of transportation, while tapping into cool new ways to share cultural savoir-faire:
Most futurist entrepreneurs would have looked at the Montreal taxi maze and decided it was a lost cause. Alexandre Taillefer isn’t one of them. He didn’t just make taxis his business; he built his taxi business in response to the industry’s current flaws.
“When certain industries fall prey to public indifference, I get interested,” he said. “Traditional taxies don’t have a lot of competition, but their potential for growth is spectacular. They’re part of the ‘transportation cocktail’ every city needs.”
Launched in April 2016, Téo Taxi is what Taillefer brings to the mix. You start your Téo journey by downloading the smartphone app. From there, you book your trip. The charge for your ride is made to your credit card, with a 15 per cent tip automatically added to the total. And you’ll want to tip the drivers, because they’re notoriously friendly, which happens when you pay them a decent wage and don’t force them to work 14-hour shifts to make ends meet.
Every green-and-white Téo vehicle is electric, and each comes with free wi-fi, a customizable radio, and a touchscreen in the back seat showing the journey’s progress.
Sure, Taillefer and the start-up behind it, Taxelco, totally modernized the taxi experience. But more surprising still is that they insisted on playing by the book, and operating by the same rules as every other conventional cab in Montreal.
What’s more, with its groundbreaking technological approach, Téo Taxi propelled the provincial government to refuse to give in to the ride-sharing service. The effort wasn’t wasted: Uber eventually had to comply with Quebec’s laws.
“When we started fighting Uber,” Taillefer recalled, “nobody thought the government would be that strict. Without Téo Taxi, Uber may have gotten some leeway.”
This isn’t the first time Taillefer, managing partner at XPND Capital, worked towards a more interesting – and at times sustainable – destiny for Montreal and, all told, Quebec. He founded companies like Stingray Digital, Galaxie, Nurun, and The Karaoke Channel. He’s also sat on many boards, including those of Montreal-based LED-luminaire manufacturer Lumenpulse, design firm gsmprjct°, and independent game developer Behaviour Interactive. He’s also chairman of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
But what truly caught my attention is his role as co-founder of Mishmash, which will export Quebec cultural savoir-faire hailing from La Tribu, Piknik Électronik, and Productions Opéra Concept MP.
“Culture feeds the soul,” he mused. “Without it, our lives have no purpose. It’s our lot in life to try to understand why we’re here and to look for answers. Sometimes, that comes from getting involved in society, whether it’s political or otherwise. Not everyone wants to get involved in culture, but I’ve been doing it for close to 20 years. For me, culture is vital to any city.”
While it’s difficult to put a dollar value on culture, it isn’t hard to evaluate Taillefer’s contributions to it. For the past nine years, he and wife, Debbie Zakaib, have hosted the annual MAC Ball (covered in this edition), a benefit event that’s raises important monies for the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal Foundation, which helps the museum boost its collection, produce compelling exhibits, and promote arts education.
Taillefer humbly gives all the credit to his wife for the fruitful (and popular) happening, without forgetting to credit the committee behind it. Mostly, he’s just as amazed as attendees when he sees what they pull off.
“It’s the only fundraiser I know of that’s sold out nine months before it even takes place,” he beamed. “But those who attend give the MAC Ball team the drive to outdo themselves year after year.”
So what’s next for Taillefer? More of everything.
“Téo is bigger than taxis,” he said. “It’s deliveries, buses, trucks; multi-facetted, multi-service.”
As an investor, he won’t limit himself to transportation.
“There are so many spectacular tech companies in Quebec,” he said. “We’ll continue to shepherd them towards international growth.”
He’ll be needing more fingers for all those pies, but one of these tech companies he plans to support will surely have an app for that.
Alexandre Taillefer in a RAD HOURANI UNISEX NAVY TRENCHCOAT AND BLUE SHIRT (radhourani.com, 231 St. Paul St. W, Montreal).
Grooming ALEXANDRE DESLAURIERS (Folio artists).
Assistants CATHERINE GAGNON, SARAH KOOF.