Hello and welcome to Re-imagining the Status Quo with Innovation—an interview series hosted by yours truly here at Wrk. This series seeks to shine a light on young Canadian companies that are providing innovative solutions to perennial problems in the tech space. We recently chatted with Philippe Beaudoin. Philippe is a self-proclaimed comic book nerd, tech enthusiast, and also happens to be the CEO of Waverly—an exciting Montreal-based start-up whose platform has been designed to redefine the algorithmic parameters that shape our internet feeds. Here is the second part of our interview with him. If you missed part one, be sure to check it out!
PB: I’m a big fan of product-led content, so you can imagine that I was very pleased to see that your blog is filled with first-hand experiences of using the Waverly platform to unearth stories that you may otherwise have not been aware of. Is a “show and tell” approach to content strategy important to Waverly’s overall story?
Phil B: Ah! I'm glad you like my Via Waverly series! I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "content strategy," but we're definitely intent on showing, very humbly and transparently, how Waverly works and what it enables people to do. Personally, it has been a very refreshing component of my daily experience.
I spent some time writing waves that really resonate with me. For example, my LEGOs for Adults wave captures my love for creative makers who embark on wild projects and share their progress with the world. My Math Geek wave is a drive down memory lane where I talk about the first theorems I fell in love with and the joy I felt when I visited an exhibit on chaos theory in the Paris science museum. (I know, I'm a total nerd.)
Seeing daily content that connects back to these passions of mine, especially content that I would not have discovered through social media, makes me confident that we can build the algorithm we're dreaming of. Sharing this content with the world is just my way of expressing that joy.
PB: Full disclosure, I read your entire Blog section from start to finish recently and found it really insightful. I was particularly struck by the idea that print newspapers continue to fulfill a need in the modern-day reader because of the contextual clues they offer—clues often neglected on digital media. Why do you think this is, and how will Waverly make it better?
Phil B: You read everything? That's where I would plug my Patreon if I had one!
I think it goes back to the goal of newspapers, which was to be so consistently good that you would get a subscription. By contrast, the goal of digital media is to get you to click on an individual story so that you get to a page that can serve you ads.
Because of this, platforms and content authors present things differently. There is less incentive to create good contextual clues that would improve the overall user experience, given that improving the experience in this way is not how you increase the likelihood of a click.
Waverly has different incentives. We succeed if we create the content discovery experience people describe in their waves. This means we will need to include the contextual clues that people find valuable for the experience they are seeking.
PB: You have described Waverly as “a product that lets people take back control of their algorithms by replacing 'in-your-face technology' with 'by your side technology.'" Why do you think so few of your competitors are adopting this approach to information delivery technology?
Phil B: When I present Waverly to people who work on the current generation of recommendation algorithms, they often tell me that what I'm doing is not a recommendation engine.
In fact, almost everyone in the industry today—engineers, designers, product managers—has internalized the idea that a recommendation algorithm has to track how a user behaves. The idea that it could start from someone's intention is alien to them. This might be best exemplified by a popular saying in big tech companies: "Users are lazy". If that's how you see people, the last thing you'll think about is to give them space to express themselves.
PB: When starting this series, I wanted to shine a light on the innovative advances Canadian companies, and particularly those in the Montreal area, were making in the tech space. Is it important for Waverly to be community-focused within the wider tech ecosphere here in Montreal? And what benefits have you seen from basing your business out of Montreal?
Phil B: When it comes to AI and tech, Montreal has this je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it feel like it's a great place to build Waverly. I would describe it as a perfect mix of business pragmatism, naïveté, and a genuine desire to make society better for everyone. Many traditional tech hubs seem to care first and foremost about unchecked growth and commercial success. I feel most people in Montreal strive to balance economic incentives and positive social impact—without being too kumbaya. Growth is not inherently evil, but the bigger prize is that it allows us to create a better society.
That's the seed I want to plant for Waverly's culture, and I want to see us grow from these strong roots to reach the entire world.
PB: Before we finish, what is one platform or product (preferably from a Canadian-based company) that has caught your eye recently and why?
Phil B: I'll cheat and go with two. I've seen Montreal-based Dialogue grow from an idea to being the dominant player in virtual healthcare in Canada. They built a great platform in record time, and they've done it while fostering exceptional company culture. This is impressive. Alexis Smirnov, Anna Chif, and Cherif Habib have all my admiration.
My second one is not from Montreal but is still extremely innovative. Sama was founded with the belief that "Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not". They've since built a great AI annotation platform and their business model helps permanently lift people out of poverty all around the world. For me, seeing them grow their presence in Montreal is proof that this is a great place to build socially positive ventures.
PB: Thanks for your time, Philippe. It was great learning more about Waverly's story to date and the exciting journey that's yet to come.
Phil B: It was my pleasure!
Much like the exciting trajectory that Wrk has been on for the past two years, Waverly also seems set for some really important milestones in the coming year. We're certainly looking forward to keeping track of those!
That’s all for now but we will have our next episode of the Re-imagining the Status Quo with Innovation series coming to you very soon—keep an eye on our Twitter and LinkedIn pages for updates on that.
Until next time...