Bright Ideas

Waterloo’s Velocity

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Ten with Ken goes onsite at the University of Waterloo, home to the world’s largest free business incubator, Velocity. The program’s facilities include a campus Residence, Science facility, Start lounge, and the downtown Garage.

In this extended episode, director Jay Shah gives us a tour of the Velocity Garage, explains the 3-stage model of business incubation, and introduces us to some exciting new companies:

Maluuba, an artificial intelligence company recently acquired by Microsoft.
Innovative Protein Technologies, which makes FrostArmour spray foam to protect crops from frost damage.
Alchemy, which is creating nanotechnology films to protect windshields from impact damage.
Vitameter, whose desktop device provides realtime analysis of the vitamins in your blood.
Qidni Labs, which is developing an implantable artificial kidney, which could make dialysis obsolete.

We learn about the tight connection between Velocity and Waterloo’s longstanding co-op program, and the critical importance of mentorship and peer community as supports for startups. We hear about the funding model for Velocity, which charges companies no rent and takes no equity. (The Start-Up Pledge encourages companies to give back when they make it big.) Jay tells us what brought him back to Velocity after he sold BufferBox to Google: the exciting promise of major breakthroughs based on hard science.

We also got the chance to interview 4 dynamic young entrepreneurs, and thought we would share their complete interviews too:

Daniel MacKenzie, CTO of HealthIM, which has produced software to help police officers record details of mental health crises and share them with community partners.

Ian Tao, Founder and CEO of Sesame, which provides competency-based assessment software to primary, secondary, and tertiary education.

Rachel Thompson, Founder of Marlena Books, which publishes titles specifically designed for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Steven ten Holder, CEO of Acorn Cryotech, which preserves your young cells so you can use them for life-changing medical procedures in the future.

3 of these CEOs never even contemplated entrepreneurship until they were immersed in the innovation culture at the University of Waterloo. They were surrounded by entrepreneurial role models, had the opportunity to work in startups as co-op students, and gained the confidence to launch their own ventures.

Next week, Ken sits down with President & Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur, to discuss the broader innovation ecosystem at the University of Waterloo, and to explore just what other institutions might have to do to nurture entrepreneurialism on their own campuses.

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