U of Waterloo expands startup program on campus with new lab
The University of Waterloo is expanding its internationally respected Velocity incubator with the opening of a new lab on campus and the addition of Velocity Start, a new space where any aspiring student entrepreneurs can develop their ideas.
Velocity Science is tripling the size of its on-campus lab to more than 2,600 square feet, which will house the program until it moves into a new 7,000-square- foot home in the Science Complex, the Faculty of Science’s upcoming state-of-the-art building. Velocity Science is a partnership between Velocity and the Faculty of Science that provides startups with the mentorship, lab space, and support needed to develop their science-based companies.
“This expansion of Velocity Science is indicative of the tremendous success and growth it has experienced in the three years since its inception,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo. “The University of Waterloo is the academic engine of a remarkable innovation cluster and an anchor in Canada’s emerging innovation corridor that stretches from Waterloo to Toronto. Expanding programs like Velocity will help us unlock the talent at Waterloo to further enhance the innovation process and generate additional economic impact across Ontario.”
More than 20 startups have emerged from Velocity Science’s first lab, and many science companies have received international recognition for their talent and innovation. Harry Gandhi, co-founder of Medella Health won the prestigious $100,000 Thiel Fellowship, established by Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and venture capitalist. In autumn 2015, Vitameter received investment from pharmaceutical company, Bayer, and travelled to Germany to participate in Bayer’s new Grants4Apps incubator.
Velocity Start, a new 6,000-square-foot space on the Waterloo campus, will open for people who want to learn about entrepreneurship and develop the skills, networks, and mentors to grow a business. This facility includes a 650-square-foot maker space with 3D printers and hand tools, startup coaching, weekly workshops, and panel discussions.
“Velocity Start is the entry point for any students who want to explore entrepreneurship,” says Mike Kirkup, director of Velocity. “We want to equip prospective entrepreneurs with the mentorship, tools, and collaborative environment needed to develop their ideas, in order to inspire and support the next wave of world-class startups out of Waterloo.”
Today’s news follows a number of announcements regarding Velocity’s rapid growth. In November, the University announced that it will expand its Velocity Garage startup incubator in downtown Kitchener by more than 29,000 square feet to provide space for up to 120 startups to work and collaborate. This expansion will include a wet lab for science startups to commercialize research, a dedicated workshop for assembling hardware prototypes, and expanded facilities for startup mentorship.
Velocity is the largest free startup incubator in North America. More than 160 companies have emerged from the program since its inception in 2008, raising in excess of $250 million in venture capital, and creating more than 800 jobs. Velocity programming includes a residence for entrepreneurs on Waterloo’s main campus, and a pitch competition that awards $375,000 in non-equity grants a year.
Waterloo is the top school in Canada for venture capital-backed entrepreneurs according to Pitchbook and Waterloo alumni created at least five unicorns – privately-held companies with a valuation of $1 billion or higher. They include Didi Kuadi, a Chinese version of Über, Instacart, Kik, Wish, and D2L.