The Velocity Fund
The Velocity Fund is a grant program for startups that offers $390,000 in equity-free funding each year to local startups through its Velocity Fund $25K and Velocity Fund $5K programs at the University of Waterloo.
Velocity is committed to providing funding in a way that is useful to startups by incorporating application, interview, and pitch experience into its funding program.
Each year Velocity hosts three pitch competitions where the Velocity Fund awards $130,000 to winners.
Velocity Fund $25K
Every four months, startups can apply to compete for one of four $25,000 prizes. The top applicants are invited to interview with a panel of Velocity leaders and alumni, and the top 10 are invited to present their pitches at the Velocity Fund Finals.
An additional prize of $10,000 is awarded to the most innovative hardware winner at the Velocity Fund Finals.
Velocity Fund $5K
Students with innovative ideas are invited to pitch at the Velocity Fund $5K Qualifiers, held each term. Up to 40 teams pitch over two nights to a panel of judges from the local startup community. The top 10 are invited to pitch at the Velocity Fund Finals for their chance to win one of four $5,000 prizes.
Velocity takes no equity and no intellectual property in return for the grant. Our reward is helping to build amazing and successful companies.
The Velocity Fund was established in 2011, inspired by a donation of $1 million from Kik founder and Velocity Residence alumnus Ted Livingston, who was 23 years old at the time. In December 2013, Velocity received a donation from the founders of BufferBox, Mike McCauley, Jay Shah and Aditya Bali to encourage the creation of a hardware award given the additional costs to build successful hardware startups. In March 2014, Velocity received a donation of $1 million from renowned Waterloo Region angel investor Mike Stork.
Velocity Fund Finals
The Velocity Fund Finals is an action-packed day, with $130,000 in prizes awarded to eight startups.
The event starts with the Velocity Fund $5K, where 10 University of Waterloo students from any discipline who qualified at our $5K Qualifiers, pitch their ideas to hundreds of spectators for the chance to take home one of four $5,000 prizes to help bring their idea to life and build a business.
Following the Velocity Fund $5K, Velocity presents the Velocity Fund $25K event. Ten scalable startups will pitch their ideas for the chance to win one of four $25,000 prizes, while the top hardware or science company will win an additional $10,000. Each winning startup will also win $5K in intellectual property services from PCK. Connections, credibility and much-needed capital — key components of start-up success — are on the line when entrepreneurs compete in the Velocity Fund Finals.
Throughout the day, attendees can meet the Velocity Fund finalists and see product demos. Join us for a fast-paced, jam-packed event with unlimited value and entertainment for the attendees.
Velocity Fund $5K
In order to qualify for the Velocity Fund $5K, a University of Waterloo student from any faculty (who is a co-founder of the team) must make a 3-minute pitch in front of a panel of judges at one of two $5K Qualifiers. Only one member of the team is able to make the 3-minute pitch. These $5K Qualifiers provide an informal pitching environment complete with full stage and microphone.
The top five teams from both nights are selected to participate in the Velocity Fund Finals, where they can compete for one of four $5,000 prizes, which are awarded by our panel of judges.
This competition is in collaboration with the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility (MSAA), and we are able to award two additional $5,000 prizes to projects that integrate accessibility into entrepreneurship. It is our goal that this funding will incentivize students to develop and pitch innovative new solutions for accessibility challenges, and ultimately create awareness of the economic and social benefits of incorporating accessibility into your business idea. Read about Spring 2018 winner, Elevate.
Winners of the Velocity Fund $5K must incorporate to receive the funding.
VF $5K Important Dates
Velocity Fund $25K
- Your team must have at least one co-founder who is currently, or has been, a University of Waterloo student, who owns at least 20% of the company. This individual must have been a continuing full-time student, or completed their degree, within 2 years of the application deadline. Alternatively, this individual must have completed their degree in the last 5 years and started a company less than one year ago, in order to allow applicants to take time after school to work before starting a company.
- Products must be tech-based and core to the company’s business model, but we do not require it to be aimed at any particular sector. Past Velocity Fund $25K winners have had varied business models, from parcel delivery (BufferBox), to ad placements on escalator handrails (Weston Expressions).
- You are not eligible to apply if your startup has received more than $75,000 in external investment (convertible debt, equity, etc.), including government grants (e.g. OCE SmartStart).
- All teams will be required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covering the basic terms associated with the funding provided by the Velocity Fund. These terms do not restrict your company in terms of what you can spend the money on, but rather focus on the mechanisms for obtaining the money, including incorporating, setting up IP assignments, setting up a bank account, etc.
STAGE 1: Written Submission
You will be required to submit information before the deadline that provides a general outline of your business, including the name, product concept, market opportunity and team profile. Written submissions will be judged based on their clarity, problem statement, and size of the market opportunity.
The team profile is particularly important. It should include how well your team works together, how your skills will complement each other, and how passionate you are about the problem you’re solving.
STAGE 2: Interview
If your team is chosen based on your written submission, you will be granted an interview. All interviews are 15 minutes in length and will include two key components: a three-minute pitch and 10 minutes of rapid-fire questions from the judges. You will be expected to answer questions from the judges about your business model, team composition, market, challenges, and ability to execute.
Your three-minute pitch should include the following elements:
- Solution and demo (if any)
- Market and size
- Traction (if any)
Please come with a product demo, if possible, so that we can see how you plan on executing your vision. If your product does not have a demo, be prepared to outline exactly how you see it working.
STAGE 3: Velocity Fund Finals
If you have a successful interview, you will be asked to participate in the Velocity Fund Finals $25K in front of more than 500 live attendees and global live stream viewers. You will be given three minutes to pitch your business to independent judges, based on the high-level pitch provided in Stage 2.
The winners will be chosen based on how they meet the criteria during the interviews (evaluated by one set of judges) and how they meet the criteria during the pitches at the Velocity Fund Finals (evaluated by a different set of judges). The two scores, each weighted at 50%, will be used to form the final results.
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Velocity Fund Questions
Q: What types of companies are eligible to apply to the VF $25K competition?
A: We are focused on scalable companies (software, hardware, science, and social impact businesses) that use technology as a core aspect of their business, such that the business is not possible without that technology. Service companies such as consulting businesses are not eligible.
Q: Why does Velocity focus on tech companies?
Growth – startups should be focused on growth as the primary objective, and it is the search for a business that can grow at astounding rates that drive startups. Read Paul Graham’s essay on growth.
Expertise – The University of Waterloo is well-known around the world for being able to build incredibly talented people with tech skills from a variety of programs. We want to leverage those skills, and a passion for solving different problems, to help those students build their own companies.
Ecosystem – the local community has cultivated an amazing ecosystem that supports tech companies, including organizations like Communitech, the Accelerator Centre, and others. Although Velocity provides a ton of great services, it is critical that we also leverage the support of other programs.
Q: What’s the difference between the Velocity Fund $5K and $25K?
A: The $5K focuses on early-stage startups still cutting their teeth in the startup world. As an individual or as part of a small team, these students want to gain experience pitching and receive feedback from the greater startup community. Any Waterloo student from any faculty can showcase their work at the Velocity Fund $5K event, once they have qualified, by winning a finalist slot at one of our $5K Qualifiers.
The goal of Velocity Fund $25K is to help a team get their business started. The business must be tech-based and a working prototype is strongly encouraged, to help demonstrate your ability to execute. When a team wins they should have a fully formed, cohesive team ready to execute on the business.
Q: What types of companies are eligible to apply to the VF $5K competition?
A: All companies are eligible to apply to this competition. There is no general area of expertise that we require – your business can be a service or a product. In fact, you can simply pitch a great idea, without actually having the product/service finalized – it’s a great way to get feedback and experience pitching.
Q: Do you have to compete in the $5K Qualifier to participate in VF $25K?
A: You do NOT need to participate in the $5K Qualifier to be eligible for VF $25K.
Q: Can a person be part of more than one team competing for VF?
A: Yes, however, you will NOT be able to pitch for multiple teams during the Velocity Fund Finals.
Q: My company has previously won the VF $25K, can it reapply to future VF competitions?
A: No, companies that have previously won the Velocity Fund $25K are not eligible to reapply.
Q: Can I apply to the Velocity Fund again with a different idea?
Q: Are all of the interviews on one day? What happens if we are unable to attend that day?
A: Yes, all interviews happen on the same day and an in-person interview is preferable. We are able to video-conference people into the interview if absolutely necessary.
Q: If I win the Velocity Fund, can I drop out of the co-op process for the upcoming term?
A: If you win the VF award and are a current co-op student going through the hiring process, you are required to honour any matches or employment commitments you have made for your co-op work term. If you are unemployed, but have attended interviews and are awaiting the results of an employment match, you must immediately contact your CECA Student Advisor if you do not wish to be matched for the position(s) in light of winning the VF award. If you do not honour your co-op employment commitments or match results, your award money will be revoked.
Q: What types of companies are eligible to apply to the VFF $10K award?
A: The top hardware will win an additional $10K in the Velocity Fund Finals $25K event. If no hardware team is selected as a winner, the top science team will be selected to win this award.
Have a question about the Velocity Fund that’s not here? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.