2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Frantz Saintellemy, McGill-HEC Montreal

Frantz Saintellemy

McGill-HEC Montreal

Age: 45

“I am a very competitive entrepreneur, mentor, angel investor, and philanthropist who strives to be a good worldly citizen.”

Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Family Members:

Vickie Joseph (my wife, best friend and business partner); Johan Franz (14-year-old son), Norah-Luize (12-year-old daughter) and Viktor Mikael (7-year-old son)

Fun fact about yourself: I am a former competitive soccer player who once dreamt of becoming a professional!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Northeastern University: Certificate in Computer Engineering; HEC-Montreal: Certificate in International Commerce;

MIT-Sloan: Strategy and Innovation Executive Program

Where are you currently working?

Groupe 3737 – Founder and Chairman of the Board: Working on helping young and immigrant entrepreneurs improve their lives through socially diverse, inclusive and equal entrepreneurship.

LeddarTech – President and COO: Working democratizing advanced shared mobility, safe and autonomous driving solutions for the masses using advanced artificial intelligence and computer vision technologies.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

  • University of Montreal: Board member and President of Communications, Technology and IT Committee
  • Quebec Technology Association: Board member
  • National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec: Board member
  • Creative Destruction Lab: Associate and Mentor
  • Aligo Innovation: Investment Board committee member
  • Gala Nouveaux Performants (Quebec’s annual top executive leadership award): Top executive recipient award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During the Sustainability Challenge Module, thanks to Module Director Luciano Barin Cruz and EMBA Program Director Marianne Vandenbosch, I had the opportunity to host my classmates at Groupe 3737, a non-profit organization I co-founded and financed with my wife Vickie Joseph in 2012. My organization helps entrepreneurs from immigrant backgrounds, as well as young and female entrepreneurs, leverage technology to create wealth in one of the second poorest neighborhoods in Canada. I was very proud to demonstrate through this non-profit initiative that it is possible for anyone to make a difference in their environment regardless of one’s financial means. This gave our entrepreneurs an opportunity to meet with executives from various industries and to establish connections that they would not be able to make under their normal circumstances. This visit led to a long-term relationship with the McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA program where an annual visit is now part of the Sustainability Challenge curriculum.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?

There are several achievements that I am very proud of but two, in particular, stand out.

1 – Groupe 3737 – It was founded in 2012 in order to help entrepreneurs of all cultural backgrounds to integrate and succeed in the Canadian business world and to make the Saint-Michel and Montreal-North Region an innovation hub. We first brainstormed the idea in 2011 – and it was a crazy dream – but we managed to pull it off. Today, Groupe 3737 is one of the largest private business and technology innovation hubs in the Province of Quebec that supports a community with over 90 companies launched, 450 entrepreneurs mentored, 300 new jobs created and over $70M in combined revenues. Groupe 3737 is at the heart of the revitalization of a region.

2 – Successfully scaling ZMD AG and selling it to IDT (acquired by Renesas Electronics) in December 2015. ZMD AG was an unknown small German semiconductor company that we successfully pivoted and scaled to a successful MEMS-based environmental sensor leader for consumer and automotive applications. We sold the company for $325M USD.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I gained quite a lot of insights from all the professors throughout the program. I am very grateful for being having had many internationally recognized professors contributing to my development. Two professors have had an immediate impact on my development. The first one is Professor Alain Gosselin, Director of the Collaborative Mindset Module that really gave me practical tools and encouragement to become a more collaborative leader.  Professor Gosselin used practical and relevant tools that anyone can implement immediately in their daily lives.

The second is Luciano Barin Cruz, Director of the Sustainability Challenge module. Luciano’s passion for a sustainable future now was so contagious and inspired me as a leader to continue to find innovative ways to improve society in a green and sustainable way. He also gave us real insights on tools and methods that leaders and their organizations can implement to achieve growth and recognition through environmentally sustainable initiatives.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? The McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA program is one of the very few programs focused exclusively on reflective leadership transformation as well as environmentally and socially responsible leadership. The program’s objective is centered around holistic and practical leadership and that was very attractive to me.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general?

The various opportunities for learning-by-doing, networking with industry’s bests and learning through others. The combination of theoretical concepts with practical implementation throughout the course of every module combined with a thesis at the end of the program, while challenging, brought the best of out of me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The most profound lesson that I was able to apply almost from the start of the program is to listen more and ask open-ended questions. This is so basic but so impactful. As a business leader, you always believe you must have answers for everything and at times forget to listen and ask questions. This simple, easy to implement approach had a profound impact on me as leader and my teams. It also helped me to become a more reflective and collaborative leader.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? From the time that I enrolled in the EMBA program, I successfully raised $185M to support the growth and scaling of my company. This was not only a challenge but also a good learning experience about my ability to juggle many challenging and conflicting demands simultaneously. The countless management presentations and countless back-and-forth trips, the interminable business and technical due diligence meetings combined with program reading materials, team assignments, family and extracurricular commitments, and the feeling that I was never able to satisfy anyone as I was stretched thin on so many fronts…Doing this made me realize how resilient and adaptable my family is and that as a leader, I am able to deliver even under significant duress.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? To be successful and to thrive in any executive MBA program, you must have a solid foundation and that foundation is your family and colleagues. This is essential in order to fully enjoy the many benefits of an executive MBA program and to be able to bask in the experiences one will live throughout the two years of the program.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Going back to school after 15-20 years can be a daunting ask for many. This is especially true for already-successful executives with thriving careers who are afraid it might be too late for them to learn. No one stops learning even if you’ve been out of school for decades…it is like learning to ride a bike…you never lose the ability to learn unless you don’t want to learn…

What was your biggest regret in business school? Going back to school meant that I would have to compromise a lot on the personal and family front. Although I was successful at reorganizing my organizational structures at work to delegate more responsibility to others, one cannot delegate being a parent or husband. Not being able to participate actively in family activities and to miss so many promises to my wife and children is my biggest regret. I can never regain these missed father and husband moments and opportunities.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire all of my classmates and consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have bonded with all of them during the program. I picked up learnings and gained mentorship from each of them at various moments of the program. This is one of the major benefits of the McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA program, all participants get a chance to really spend quality time with each other and to gain insights from their experiences and learnings.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…After ZMD AG was sold, I wanted to take the time to do something for me and to invest in personal development. Throughout my life, learning had a check the box purpose. This was the first opportunity for me to invest in my personal development without a purpose other than my own personal satisfaction.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I believe that success comes with a burden of responsibility. It is our duty as successful entrepreneurs and business leaders to help others achieve their potential and continue to support others through our professional achievements. My 2030 vision is that through my businesses and the Groupe 3737 efforts, I will have been able to help more than one thousand different entrepreneurs achieve their goal of launching and scaling their business ideas while leading LeddarTech to becoming a $1B+ global automotive technology powerhouse.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Frantz Saintellemy is someone who open-minded, collaborative, and who strives to make a difference in the world.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

1 – Launching $100M Elevator Fund to support Groupe 3737 investing in entrepreneurs and their projects that typical VCs and investment funds pass on because they are atypical;

2 – Meet Barack Obama and Bill Gates (together)!

What made Frantz such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“Frantz is a very successful businessman, who’s run and sold more than one high tech business. For the last 3 years, he’s been President and COO of Leddartech, a Quebec company that’s developing important technology for autonomous driving. But Frantz has never forgotten his roots. He’s deeply grateful to the engaged schoolteacher who saw his potential when he was trying to find his way as a new Haitian immigrant to Canada. He’s never forgotten how valuable a helping hand can be, and he’s extended that helping hand to many, especially through the incubator he launched in one of Montreal’s most disadvantaged areas. What a wonderful combination of thoughtfulness, big-picture thinking, problem-solving, and practicality to have in class. We could always count on Frantz to get the class to look beyond the business world, to society as a whole. He champions issues of diversity, inclusion, sustainability and more, all in an understated way, but with such conviction that he makes a real impact.  Frantz is an optimist, in the best sense of the word. For example, if he finds himself as the only person of colour on a committee or board of directors, he sees the positive, ‘see, it’s possible, let’s do more’. He challenges conventional thinking because conventional isn’t good enough: he wants to improve society.  He lives his values. Frantz is incredibly generous – it’s that helping hand he can’t stop extending.  Connecting the class to his incubator was an enriching experience for all. Frantz fully embodies our goals for the program:  to develop courageous leaders who have an impact, not just in their organizations, but in society.”

Marianne Vandenbosch
Program Director, EMBA McGill-HEC Montréal


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.