Marlena Books

Catching up with Velocity Fund $25K winner, Marlena Books

This past March, Velocity hosted the Winter 2017 Velocity Fund Finals (VFF), a pitch competition that awards $125,000 each term to startups to help them build their business. We caught up with one of the $25K winners, Rachel Thompson, Founder of  Marlena Books, for a post-VFF update. You can watch their pitch from VFF online.

Marlena Books creates therapeutic recreation products for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

1. How has your company developed since winning VFF?

We have grown our team, gained more strategic partners, connected with local members of Parliament, and finalized our app development schedule.

2. What is your company currently working on?

We are currently developing the beta version of our app, and continue to sell our hardcopy books. We are also excited to announce an initiative called Painting a Picture of Dignity which explores the theme of dignity through paint on canvas. The artwork in this exhibit is created by people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and honours the stories they have to tell – bringing wisdom and beauty to our communities.

3. How have you moved forward with the funding you received?

The Velocity funding has helped Marlena Books move our tech forward. We also accessed the funding prize donated by PCK Intellectual Property and will be using it to pursue a trademark search and application.

4. Reflecting on the time since your win, what was your team’s most exciting moment? And the most frustrating moment?

Our most exciting moment has been developing a strategic partnerships with the Department of Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Our most frustrating moment has been dealing with team changes.

5. What do you enjoy most about building a startup?

I love finding practical solutions to real problems affecting the demographic we serve. At Marlena Books, it’s all about improving the quality of life for individuals with dementia, and building a startup allows us to accomplish this.

6. What did you like most about competing at VFF?

The Velocity Fund Finals was an experience which was completely out of my comfort zone. Throughout the competition, the support all teams received was amazing, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie that developed between the teams. Personally, going through VFF gave me a lot of confidence which I am now applying to my work.

7. Are there any tips you can give to startups that are pitching?

Practice in front of a variety of people, not just family and friends and play around with pauses, and your voice inflection. The minor details can make a big difference! Discovering your personal pitch style will help make the pitch authentic and on brand. Everyone pitches differently; instead of trying to mimic another winning pitch, find your style and own it. 

This Thursday, July 20, another 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 live stream participants will also have a chance to win 1 of 5 VR headsets!


The Spring 2017 Velocity Fund Finals is sponsored by Thomson Reuters and Sequoia

Thomson Reuters provides professionals with the intelligence, technology and human expertise they need to find trusted answers in the financial and risk, legal, tax and accounting, and media markets. The new Thomson Reuters Toronto Technology Centre will create 1,500 high-quality technology jobs in Canada and accelerate research for cognitive computing, visualization, UX, and cloud development.

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