… Bridging the Gap Between Tech and Manufacturing
“When finishing my Masters in Management, I was faced with the classic ‘what-do-I-do-now?’ dilemma. Applying for a job didn’t feel right to me, so I followed the wise advice of my teacher, who reminded me that I didn’t necessarily need to have experience before going into business: ‘If that’s what you want to do, go for it, Amira!’”
Amira Boutouchent, Co-founder and CEO of Bridgr
Bridgr supports manufacturing SMEs in their digital transformation, offering a virtual hub where companies can identify and collaborate with the key tech experts and providers necessary to make the change happen.
This Quebec startup matches technologies and specialists with clients, according to their needs, both in terms of expertise and corporate culture. Client companies make a selection from three to six profiles and use a platform specifically designed by Bridgr for the management of manufacturing projects, including everything from the documents related to these suppliers to payment of their services.
Discovering the industrial world
Celebrating its two-year anniversary this month, Bridgr now has six members, including co-founders Amira Boutouchent and Mehdi Drissi, who is also Product Manager. “You could say that I’m the front end and he’s the back end,” laughs Bridgr’s CEO. Long-time collaborators, the creators of Bridgr had previously identified their common aspirations while working jointly on various projects. During a visit to Algeria, while thinking of starting her own business, Amira, a computer engineer and very involved in promoting entrepreneurship, asked Mehdi for advice. “When it all happened, we couldn’t imagine not doing it together,” she recounts.
Just after graduating, Amira conducted a study with primarily industrial companies for a research chair at HEC Montréal. The experience led her to writing strategic and operational reports in North Africa and Quebec, to deepen her knowledge on the operation of high value-added companies, as well as the challenges they faced with regard to their production chains. Through this, she discovered how complex the evolution of digital transformation can be for manufacturers, due to the laborious task of finding appropriate consultants and technologies. Bridgr was therefore born out of a desire to offer effective tools to companies to help them collaborate with experts and succeed in their digital transition.
The startup has benefited from the support of CEIM, the Founder Institute and the HEC Montréal accelerator for the development of both their product and new markets. The day I met Amira, Bridgr announced a partnership with Quebec’s largest industrial economic development organization, Développement économique Saint-Laurent, which brings together 630 manufacturers and over 100,000 employees.
This collaboration stems from nine months of work, customizing the Bridgr technology to meet the organization’s specific needs. It will allow manufacturers to consult experts in a completely neutral way, while permitting development advisors to monitor projects and obtain analytical data, such as the number of jobs created or eliminated, the provincial and federal funds injected, or the types of expertise required.
At the heart of digital transformation
“It was important that we adapt the methodology to make it easier for manufacturers, who are not necessarily used to AI and machine learning,” explains Amira. “This also involves a lot of design work and optimization of the matching process. Because we offer a match not only of expertise but of company culture, we need to consider the cognitive and even psychological aspects of our tools.”
In this era of Industry 4.0, there still remains some incomprehension. In response, Bridgr offers Insights, their content platform for innovative manufacturers. “Just two years ago, there was not much talk about the manufacturing sector in Quebec, whereas now we know that digital transformation is becoming increasingly important because there is obviously an economic stake,” Amira points out. “Rather than taking jobs away from us, this shift helps fill the expertise gap in Quebec and fosters business growth, ultimately protecting certain jobs.”
As an entrepreneur, Amira has often been asked why she chose to work in the manufacturing sector. “I’m not asked that much today, and I realize that we started at the right time, because the evolution is just beginning…”
Translated by Jenn Mierau