The Velocity Fund
The Velocity Fund is a non-equity grant program for startups that offers $375,000 each year to local startups through its Velocity Fund $25K and Velocity Fund $5K programs.
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 produces three pitch competition events where the Velocity Fund awards $125,000 in money to winners.
Velocity Fund $25K
Three times a year, 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 startup winner at the Velocity Fund Finals.
Velocity Fund $5K
Students with innovative ideas are invited to pitch at the Velocity Fund $5K Qualifers, 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 three $5,000 prizes.
Velocity takes no equity and no intellectual property in return for the grant. Our reward is helping to make amazing and successful companies.
The Velocity Fund was established in 2011, and was inspired by a donation of $1 million from Kik founder and Velocity Residence alumnus Ted Livingston. 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 of pitches and prizes. There is $125,000 in grant prizing awarded to seven lucky startups. And we do it THREE times a year!
The event starts with the Velocity Fund $5K, where 10 University of Waterloo students of any discipline who qualified at our $5K Qualifier, will present their ideas for the chance to take home one of three $5,000 prizes. It’s an opportunity for startups to get exposure to more than 500 live attendees and a large global audience watching online.
Following the Velocity Fund $5K, Velocity presents the Velocity Fund $25K event. Ten tech startups will pitch their ideas for the chance to win one of four $25,000 prizes. 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 demos of their products/services.
Join us for a fast-paced, jam-packed event with unlimited value and entertainment for the attendees. We even provide free lunches so you can refuel and be ready to roll for the second half of the event.
Velocity Fund $5K
- The person pitching must be a full-time University of Waterloo student
- You must participate in at least one “$5K Qualifier” to qualify
In order to qualify for the Velocity Fund $5K, UWaterloo students are required to make a 3 minute pitch in front of a panel of judges at one of two “$5K Qualifiers.” These $5K Qualifiers provide an informal pitching environment complete with full stage and microphone. $5K Qualifiers are open to any University of Waterloo student in any faculty.
The top teams from both nights are selected to participate in our Velocity Fund Finals where they can compete for one of three $5,000 prizes: the best two companies are selected by our judges, and one prize, the People’s Choice Award, is voted on by members of the audience.
Winners of the Velocity Fund $5K must incorporate to receive the funding.
VF $5K Important Dates
October 31, 2016 – $5K Qualifier Signups Open
November 16, 2016 – $5K Qualifier – Night 1
November 17, 2016 – $5K Qualifier – Night 2
December 1, 2016 – Velocity Fund Finals $5K
Velocity Fund $25K
- Your team must have at least one University of Waterloo co-founder who owns at least 20% of the company. The University of Waterloo co-founder(s) must have been a continuing full-time student or have recently completed their course credits and conferred their degree within the last year.
- Products must be technology-based and core to the business model for the company. However, we do not require it to be aimed at any particular sector as we have had Velocity Fund $25K winners with varied business models from parcel delivery (BufferBox) to placing advertisements in 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. VentureStart) and personally liable loans (e.g. CYBF).
- 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 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 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.
You cannot apply if your startup has received more than $75,000 in external investment (convertible debt, equity, etc) not including government grants (e.g. VentureStart) and personally liable loans (e.g. CYBF).
You MUST have at least one cofounder with at least 20% equity of the company who has been a continuing full-time uWaterloo student, or has graduated from UWaterloo, within the past year.*
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 demo of your product (if at all possible) so that we can see how you plan on executing on 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 people. 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 come together to form the final results.
*Prior Velocity Fund $25K winners are not eligible to reapply.
VF $25K Important Dates
October 17, 2016: Written applications open
November 6, 2016 at 11:59pm: Written applications due
November 11, 2016: Company Interviews
December 1, 2016: Velocity Fund Finals $25K
Thank you to our generous event sponsors.
Velocity Fund Questions
Q: What types of companies are eligible to apply to the VFF $25K competition?
A: We are focused on technology related companies (software, hardware, and science) that are using 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: What is the earliest stage at which a startup can be considered “competitive” for the Velocity Fund? At the idea, business plan/lean canvas or demo stage?
A: The goal of VF is to help a team get their business started. You don’t have to use a demo, but you should have a working prototype as it will help demonstrate your ability to execute.
Q: For startups with a product, does it need to be aimed at a particular sector such as digital media or can it be any type of product?
A: Products must be technology based and core to the business model for the company. However, we do not require it to be aimed at any particular sector as we currently have VF winners with businesses that help deliver parcels (BufferBox) to placing advertisements in escalator handrails (Weston Expressions).
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 drives many startups. Software is one great way of being able to achieve these types of growth rates but there are others. Paul Graham does a great job of describing this element in one of his essays. http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html
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 as much as possible 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, Accelerator Centre and others. Although Velocity provides a ton of great services it is critical that we also be able to leverage the support of other programs for our companies. We can’t do it all on our own.
Q: When is a company “too mature” to compete for VF?
A: 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. VentureStart) and personally liable loans (e.g. CYBF). Your team MUST have at least one University of Waterloo co-founder who owns at least 20% of the company. The University of Waterloo co-founder(s) must be a current student or graduated from a program within the past year.
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: What are the responsibilities of VF winners?
A: 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 a bank account, etc. You will be hard pressed to find easier money for your company.
Q: Do I need to be a current student, or are alumni eligible?
A: To be eligible, at least one co-founder needs to have been a continuing full-time Waterloo student, or have graduated, within the past year.
Q: Can a person be part of more than one team competing for VF?
A: Yes, absolutely. However, you will NOT be able to pitch for multiple teams during the VF finals.
Q: Are all of the interviews on a specific day? What happens if we are unable to make it for an interview on that day?
A: We will do our best to reschedule the interview to find something that works for you based on the reason that you are unable to attend. The majority of the teams should be interviewed on the scheduled day.
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 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: Can I apply and win Velocity Fund again with a different idea?
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 are looking for – 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.
Q: What’s the difference between the Velocity Fund $5K and $25K?
A: The $5K pitch day focuses on early stage startups still cutting their teeth in the startup world. As an individual or as part of a small team, the entrepreneurs want to gain experience pitching and receiving 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. To be eligible, you must have been a continuing full-time Waterloo student, or graduated, within the last year, must have at least a 20% equity in the company, a prototype, and the business must be tech-based. When a team wins they also must have a fully formed, cohesive team ready to execute on the business.
Q: What is the earliest stage at which a startup can be considered “competitive” for the Velocity Fund $5K? At the idea, business plan/lean canvas or demo stage?
A: The goal of VF $5K is to help a team get their business started. You could simply have an amazing business plan with a solid problem/solution and a very good team (passion and dedication are the key elements we look for). You don’t have to use a demo but it will help demonstrate your ability to execute.
Q. What types of companies are eligible to apply to the VFF $10K award?
A. All hardware companies are eligible to win this award if they are competing in the Velocity Fund Finals $25K.
Have a question about the Velocity Fund that’s not here? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.