Velocity Wall

New leadership structure to support Velocity at University of Waterloo

Velocity is now hiring an Executive Director!

Summary: With increased scope and scale come a variety of new leadership challenges and opportunities. For that reason, we’re expanding the leadership team.

By Jay Shah

What I find beautiful about startups is the laser focus and total team alignment that is a product of a small group of highly-motivated founders/early-employees working towards one thing. That, in essence, is Velocity since 2008.

The University of Waterloo (UWaterloo) supports startups and entrepreneurship in a variety of ways, with Velocity being the most direct form of support. Through Velocity’s history of growth and change, we’ve worked hard to maintain our focus on supporting aspiring entrepreneurs, founders, and startups. 

As with anything that grows, one of the biggest challenges is maintaining the original focus as you scale. In order to maintain the quality of our focus and its impact, we’ve decided to change the structure of our leadership team. It will now be comprised of a three-person Velocity leadership team:

  1. Executive Director (new role!)
  2. Director Startups (me)
  3. Director Campus (Camelia Nunez)

A brief history of our growing impact

We’ve evolved from an on-campus experiment/bet on students’ capacity to innovate, to a portfolio of programs which move the needle for entrepreneurship in the Region of Waterloo, as well as across Ontario and Canada. When we first started, we were engaging ~70 students per term.

As of today, Velocity:

  • Engages >1,500 students per term (via Velocity events)
  • Provides >$100K annually in grant funding to students (undergraduate & graduate)
  • Enables knowledge and idea translation to product development/startup-formation (via the Velocity Science Discovery Lab)
  • Provides >$600K annually in pre-seed startup funding
  • Supports the growth of ~70 startups into scaleups via Canada’s most productive incubator (by investment and job creation), who collectively have: raised >$1M per month of investment, and hired 60-80 co-op students per year. 
  • Uniquely enables highly-ambitious deeptech (advanced manufacturing, medtech, materials science, biotech, etc) startups via our globally differentiated infrastructure, advisors, and alumni
  • Supports and leads ecosystem-wide (Toronto-Waterloo Corridor) efforts to channel support towards high growth startups (e.g., Corridor Demo Day)

This has led to an ever-growing portfolio of impact, which includes: 

  • >2,200 people employed in Ontario by Velocity companies
  • >$950M of investment into Velocity companies
  • Helping establish notable startups/scaleups such as North, Vidyard, Kik, AvidBots, ApplyBoard, Faire, Sortable, ChefHero, Embark, and MappedIn

The Executive Director will ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

At Velocity, we’ve maintained focus in the face of growth by looking at the entirety of our activities and segmenting them into two focus areas. These focus areas fit squarely into Velocity’s overall focus of igniting and fueling the entrepreneurial spirit at UWaterloo, in the Waterloo Region, and in Canada. These segments drive clarity, purpose, and alignment in the who/how/why/what of our execution. 

The two focus areas are:

  1. Preparing the UWaterloo campus community for an increasingly entrepreneurial world by being the one of the primary providers of inspiration, information, and guidance for anyone interested in entrepreneurship; and
  2. Supporting high growth startups with opportunity discovery, product development, and preparing to scale.

Camelia leads our campus focus (1), while I lead our startup focus (2). We see these roles as vehicles for us to maximize our respective impact. There are a lot of cross-over areas where we support each other, but in an “80/20” sense this segmentation drives focus in the face of breadth and scale.

An opportunity has become evident for a higher level of executive and strategic leadership to bind these focus areas together, promote the overall mission, and ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is why we have created and are recruiting for an Executive Director of Velocity.

The voice of Velocity entrepreneur

The full scope of the Executive Director role can be found hereAt a high level, the role will ensure that Velocity’s missions and activities align with, and are well understood in, the broader University community. This includes being a key “voice of the entrepreneur” at the highest levels of leadership and administration. In this role, the Executive Director will be responsible for overseeing the administration, programs, and strategic planning of the Velocity organization, playing a critical role in fundraising, outreach, and building strategic relationships with government/industry, as well as constructing/supporting policy and forward-thinking ecosystem leadership. The Executive Director will represent Velocity and the University of Waterloo in local, national, and international forums–enhancing our institution’s global leadership position with respect to entrepreneurship.  

The type of person that will thrive in this role will have first-hand experience in entrepreneurial environments, be able to empathize with entrepreneurs and bring that depth into administrative/strategic/policy dialog. The Executive Director will be the antidote to entrepreneur-quenching-red-tape and an amplified voice-of-the-entrepreneur.

If you have any questions, please reach out at velocity.director@uwaterloo.ca. If this sounds like you (and you think you’re a great fit), please send a curriculum vitae and a statement of interest in the position, in confidence, to Chris Read at chris.read@uwaterloo.ca.

Onwards!

Jay Shah
Director, Velocity
(soon to formally be modified to Director Startups, Velocity)

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