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Catching up with Velocity Fund $25K Winner, UpGrain

This past July, Velocity hosted the Spring 2016 Velocity Fund Finals (VFF), a pitch competition that awards $125,000 in grants each term, to help early stage startups build their business. We caught up with one of the $25K winners, UpGrain Inc., for a post-VFF update. Look for upcoming blog posts from other recent $25K winners: Salient Energy, Knote, and Sytrix Lab.

UpGrain Inc. won a $25,000 prize for their product, which uses electro-magnetic field stimulation of seeds to increase overall yield of various crops by 20 percent. Their use of advanced mathematical algorithms calculates the most suitable time to maximize treatment effects on seeds.

1. How has your company developed since winning VFF?
It has been a very busy time for us setting up the company, and performing trials in a lab environment. The lab experiments have shown promising results regarding the increase of both germination rate, and biomass as a consequence of the treatment.

2. What is your company currently working on?
Currently, we are developing our network of farmers and greenhouse growers. We want to focus on pilot projects with farmers for the upcoming spring 2017 season. Also, we are working on our prototype validation and chemical tests of treated vs. non-treated seeds.

3. What do you enjoy most about building a startup?
The most unusual and exciting thing about building a startup is that you can make a positive impact on other people’s lives. Working on an early stage startup allows us to try different roles, and creates opportunities to improve ourselves on a daily basis.

4. What did you like most about competing at VFF?
First of all, it’s the opportunity to learn about pitching. It is a crucial skill that entrepreneurs have to master today. Also, you have a chance to compete with other bright and unique startups. And finally, it is an amazing experience open for everyone, every term.

5. Are there any tips you can give startups pitching?
Keep it simple. Focus your pitch on the most important things: the problem your company solves, and how you resolve this issue. Make sure to quantify your market and value proposition for judges who may not be familiar with your industry. Try to avoid flashy/animated slides, and demo your product if you have one already. Try to be precise and short – remember, you only have 3 minutes, and you have a lot to tell. Finally, practice, practice, and practice.

On December 1, twenty startups will compete at the Velocity Fund Finals in the SLC at the University of Waterloo to pitch for their share of $125,000. Don’t miss this event by registering to attend! Come join us for a great event with awesome pitches and free boxed lunches for the first 200 attendees. Audience members and Livestream participants will have a chance to win 1 of 5 pairs of Beats headphones!


The Fall 2016 Velocity Fund Finals is sponsored by Thomson Reuters