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Silicon Valley VC firm partners with Waterloo engineering

Move to involve new $2-million entrepreneurship program


The University of Waterloo is partnering with a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm to provide a new entrepreneurship program for students that includes access to a $2-million venture capital fund and expertise from the world’s leading startup ecosystem.

Lyon Wong describes the Spectrum 28 Student Venture Fund.

Lyon Wong describes the Spectrum 28 Student Venture Fund.

Starting this June the Waterloo Engineering Spectrum 28 Student Venture Program  will provide senior students with early-stage venture support through pop-up classes and expert mentorship in addition to the opportunity to compete for funding.

Program fills a gap in the entrepreneurship ecosystem

“This new program fills a gap in the entrepreneurship ecosystem at University of Waterloo by giving student teams direct access to Silicon Valley industry expertise and faculty mentorship, as well as the chance to compete for part of the $2 million seed funding from Spectrum 28,” says Pearl Sullivan, dean of engineering. “This partnership will support our students at the earliest stages of entrepreneurship, which will make for stronger, more successful startups here in Canada.”

The year-long program includes a series of pop-up classes with Waterloo faculty and Silicon Valley experts, a Fast Feedback Day where the successful teams go on to refine their ideas or products, and a Demo Day. At Demo Day, Spectrum 28, together with faculty members will offer equity funding to those teams which meet the program’s rigorous criteria.

Entrepreneurial student teams at Waterloo will benefit

The idea for collaboration came from Lyon Wong, who graduated from the University of Waterloo’s Systems Design Engineering program in 2003 and went on to found Spectrum 28. Wong believes that entrepreneurial student teams at Waterloo will benefit from the twin advantages of having a closer connection with engineering faculty members as well as having graduate students or faculty members as co-founders.

“It’s not enough to just have bright, hard-working students who dream of entrepreneurial ventures. They need to understand that having a diverse team of co-founders that includes graduate students or faculty with deep technical knowledge is a distinct advantage when creating a startup – with any hope of long-term success,” says Wong.  “Too many teams struggle because they are strictly undergraduate focused and aren’t accessing the mentorship from the experts in Waterloo Engineering or Silicon Valley.”

Mentorship and seed funding opportunity

To assist in selecting teams who will vie for the mentorship and seed funding opportunity, one pop-up class focuses on how to select ideas that have the right market fit, while a second class will help selected students identify personal leadership traits, including choosing other co-founders to form diverse and long-lasting teams.

“The core value in this program is in the mentorship and the access, but the fund has enough capital in order to make a difference at the starting stages for any company,” adds Wong, who is interested in companies that are solving the truly difficult problems in the world. “It would be exciting to know that we exposed a problem no one has solved and have Waterloo students solved it.”