Alexandre Taillefer - A GREENER APPROACH
Alexandre Taillefer is in love with his city. He’s convinced that the metropolis has the wind in its sails and is about to undergo phenomenal growth, led by entrepreneurship on a more social level. And he would like to share this optimism with everyone who has a special place for Montreal in their hearts.
Alexandre Taillefer doesn’t usually get embarrassed. Yet he’s lost for words when presented with the fact that Montréal centre_ville has chosen to award him with the Tribute Award. “I’m very proud of it but also a little embarrassed,” he explains simply, sitting in his Quartier des spectacles office, surrounded by walls covered in contemporary art pieces. “It shows that there is an expectation for business people to get more involved in making a difference,” says the 44-year old entrepreneur. He would have liked to have shared this award with others, those who “work like crazy for their city. I can think of at least 20 people just off the top off my head,” he says, before naming philanthropists Stephen and Claudine Bronfman, entrepreneurs Mitch Garber and LP Maurice, founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Phyllis Lambert (winner of the 2011 Tribute Award), and social entrepreneur Fabrice Vil.
Nevertheless, the award is well deserved as last year Alexandre Taillefer was once again in the spotlight, even after leaving the Dragons’ Den Quebec equivalent, Dans l’oeil du dragon. Téo, his electric taxi service was launched with much buzz and the Sommet Place Ville Marie Observation Deck, of which he is a partner, recently opened its doors . . . and its windows.
Fearless, this businessman wasn’t afraid to take on the taxi industry. During his lobbying campaign—a term that doesn’t frighten him in the slightest—he managed to pass 17 regulatory changes. He talks about a “revolution”, nothing less, to describe what awaits the world of Montreal and Quebec taxis in the next few years. “The era where the market decided is gone,” he explains. “To be open to new types of economy, like the sharing economy, you need to be ready to change the rules.” He may be a lobbyist, but not yet a politician: “It’s not just politics that’ll change the world around us,” he believes. “The agility of business people is very effective and allows things to get moving, maybe even more so than in politics.”
It’s evident that this entrepreneur is far from finished with Téo (an acronym of Transport écologique optimisé —optimized ecological transport). Starting with 65 cars, he hopes to grow his fleet to 1,000 vehicles. After taxis, the company wants to add taxi-bus, hauling, and delivery services, as well as self-service vehicles, to its offerings. And all of this will be done with the aim of exporting the model to other cities and making Montreal shine.
Meditating in a taxi
This businessman has already meditated, countless times, while travelling by taxi. “This morning, I did my meditation in a taxi. It’s important to meditate in these busy times, but it’s much harder to do so when you’re the one driving . . .” he jokes. “In a taxi, you see things differently, you have much more freedom.” As well as Téo, his company Taxelco acquired Taxi Hochelaga and Taxi Diamond, bringing their number of vehicles to 1,720 – that’s 40% of the Montreal market. The entrepreneur is one of the most convinced anti-car lobbyists of the province. For a guy who dreams of a footbridge linking Ile Sainte-Hélène with the Old Port, the car is in fact “the biggest individual and collective impoverishment factor.” He showcases his taxis, of course, but also Bixis and public transport, and he’s convinced that in 10 years there will be a substantial decrease in the number of cars per household in Montreal.
Mindful of the downtown core
From the Sommet Place Ville Marie Observation Deck, Taillefer is able to view the extent of his city’s sprawl. To counter urban sprawl, he wishes to reclaim the downtown core, which shouldn’t be just a “9 to 5 zone.” He will, however, be very attentive to the reorganization of Sainte-Catherine (which is set to begin in the spring of 2017). “It shouldn’t be done to the detriment of small business owners,” he insists. “Montreal isn’t Zara, Winners or H&M. Montreal is small cafes, local restaurants and boutique stores.” But Alexandre Taillefer remains ultra optimistic. “In the next 25 years, there will be phenomenal growth in terms of economic and cultural activity,” he predicts. “And when it comes to happiness. Montreal has been the best-kept secret on the planet for too long. This is no longer the case!”
Texte: Vincent Fortier
Photo: Jocelyn Michel