Our History Igniting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Since its inception in 2008, Velocity has worked with over 300 startups as they discover, build, and scale business opportunities. These companies continue to make a significant impact in Waterloo Region and beyond, having raised over $815M+ in funding to develop exciting technologies and employing more than 2,300 people. We’re proud to have played a role in their growth and are excited about what the future holds for this community of current and prospective entrepreneurs.
Creation of the Velocity ResidenceFounded in 2008, the Velocity Residence provides a unique opportunity for University of Waterloo students to live in an innovative and entrepreneurial environment right on campus. Located in the Minota Hagey Residence, each term 70 students work on projects, access the latest technologies, and share the opportunity to learn from a great network of entrepreneurs through guest speakers. The vision of Bud Walker and Sean Van Koughnett, the Velocity Residence started as an experiment to see what would happen if student entrepreneurs lived together and worked on projects that interested them. Taking over from Sean’s leadership, Jesse Rodgers continued to build the program and support companies like Vidyard and Pebble, and groups like 7 Cubed and others.
Kik launches from the Velocity ResidenceKik launched from the Velocity Residence in 2009 and was founded by a small but passionate group of University of Waterloo students. At the time, chat between Blackberry (yes, Blackberry), Android and iPhone users wasn't possible, so they wanted to break down barriers and build a company that would allow users to chat with whoever, whenever. Kik messenger now has over 300 million registered users and is valued at a billion dollars based on investment from Tencent.
Creation of the Velocity GarageWith the Velocity Residence succeeding in fostering the entrepreneurial spirit on campus, the need for a space to incubate early stage companies became obvious. So in 2010, the Velocity Garage startup incubator opened a 1,500 sq. ft. space in the repurposed Lang Tannery in downtown Kitchener, providing free workspace and mentorship to startups.
Partnering with CommunitechThe Velocity Garage startup incubator has received significant support from Communitech from its very inception, as the two organizations work closely to provide founders with the resources to grow scalable startups. As an example of the partnership, the very first physical space for Velocity companies in the Lang Tannery was provided by Communitech.
Creation of the Velocity FundEstablished in 2011, the Velocity Fund (previously Venture Fund and Demo Day) was inspired by a donation of $1 million from Kik Founder, Ted Livingston. Ted donated the money when he was 23, shortly after Kik secured US$8 million in venture capital financing. The first pitch competition took place in Spring 2011, and Lumos (Rebel Hippo), Maide (Couple, acquired by Life360), and GooseChase were the first Velocity Fund winners, each winning $25,000.
Mike Kirkup becomes Director of VelocityFormer Director Mike Kirkup started working at Velocity in 2012. He spent four years helping build Canada's most productive startup incubator and entrepreneurship program. In 2016, he was bitten by the startup bug and joined Encircle (a Velocity Garage alumnus company) as CTO to help scale the company. Mike continues to play an active role in the Waterloo startup community.
Expansion of Velocity Garage to over 7,000 sq. ft.In two short years, the Velocity Garage quickly outgrew its original 1,500 sq. ft. space, and in 2012 expanded to over 7,000 sq. ft in the Tannery building. Adding more workspace, meeting rooms, and mentors allowed the Garage to house over 30 startups working full-time on their business.
Maluuba launches from the Velocity Garage
Vidyard launches from the Velocity GarageVidyard, an online video platform that allows businesses to increase leads and accelerate their pipeline, launched from the Velocity Garage in 2012. Now, with over 230 employees and a new office in Vancouver, it comes as no surprise that Vidyard was ranked #16 on Deloitte's list of Canada's 50 fastest-growing tech companies for 2017.
Creation of Velocity StartLaunched in September 2012, Velocity Start (previously, Velocity Alpha, Campus and I2E) is a starting place for people who want to explore entrepreneurship on the University of Waterloo campus. At Velocity Start, students find the mentorship and collaborative environment to discover entrepreneurship through weekly workshops and startup coaching.
North launches from the Velocity GarageNorth (prev. Thalmic Labs), the wearable tech and human-computer interaction (HCI) startup behind the Myo armband and Focals smart glasses, launched from the Velocity Garage in July 2013. Since their founding in 2012, the company has grown to a world-leading team of engineers, researchers, and designers committed to building the future of wearable technology with offices in Waterloo Region and San Francisco.
5-Year AnniversaryIn September 2013, Velocity celebrated its 5-year anniversary with a party on the Velocity Residence green. Complete with a live DJ, magician and photo-booth, it was a time to celebrate the growth of the programs, success of its startups, and the awesome community that had formed.
Creation of Velocity Fund $10K science and hardware awardVelocity received a donation from the founders of BufferBox, Mike McCauley, Jay Shah and Aditya Bali in December 2013 to encourage the creation of a hardware award, given the additional costs to build successful hardware and science startups. In March 2014, Palette was the first company to win the $10K award at the Velocity Fund Finals.
Mike Stork donates $1M towards Velocity FundIn March 2014, Velocity received a generous donation of $1 million from renowned entrepreneur and angel investor Mike Stork in order to keep the Velocity Fund Finals pitch competition going.
Creation of Velocity ScienceVelocity Science was founded in the spring of 2014 to help undergraduate and graduate students initiate science-based startups. A partnership with the Faculty of Science, this science lab and community provided students with 750 sq. ft. of lab space, mentorship, and a supportive group of peers interested in discovering and building science ventures.
Mappedin launches from the Velocity GarageMappedin’s wayfinding platform began at the University of Waterloo when the founders wished they had a better way to navigate the sprawling campus. The company launched from the Velocity Garage in 2014, and today Mappedin works with nine out of ten of Canada's largest malls, the largest REITs in the US, and are helping make the indoors more discoverable in stores, hospitals, campuses, and airports around the world.
Creation of the Velocity FoundryIn 2014, the Velocity Foundry opened at 45 Water St. South, an 11,000 sq. ft. facility that provided the resources for hardware and science startups to grow. In 2016, the Velocity Foundry closed, coinciding with a major renovation of the Velocity Garage that brought every software, hardware, and science startups together under one roof, to create a more robust and collaborative community.
Bridgit launches from the Velocity GarageBridgit is making construction less complicated with their software that streamlines the entire construction process from pre-con to completion. Launching from the Velocity Garage in 2014, their software has been used on thousands of construction projects across North America and they recently raised $2 million to drive product development and revenue growth.
Sortable launches from the Velocity GarageSortable, a machine learning ad-optimization startup, launched from the Velocity Garage in December 2015. Now, for the second year in a row, Sortable has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing tech companies in Canada, ranked #28 on the 2017 Deloitte Technology Fast 50.
Nicoya Lifesciences launches from the Velocity GarageNicoya Lifesciences is developing scientific instruments to extend human life. Launching from the Velocity Garage in 2016, Nicoya recently raised $2 million to change how the next generation of drugs will be discovered. Their instruments have been used by hundreds of researchers in over 25 countries.
Encircle launches from the Velocity GarageEncircle launched from the Velocity Garage in 2016 with their process automation tools that allow a workforce to collaborate, collect and share information. Initially focused on modernizing the insurance industry, their customers also include the finance, and hospitality industries.
ApplyBoard launches from the Velocity GarageApplyBoard, a platform revolutionizing how international students apply to school in North America, launched from the Velocity Garage in 2016. With a recent office expansion in downtown Kitchener to accommodate their 50+ person team, and partnerships with over 500 schools, the company is growing fast.
Velocity Science lab expands to new 2,500 sq. ft. locationTwo years after the first lab opened, it was time to expand. In July of 2016, the Velocity Science lab tripled in size to 2,500 sq. ft. A partnership with the Faculty of Science, Velocity Science is located in the Earth Sciences and Chemistry building on campus. The program provides students interested in building a science startup with the right tools and resources to initiate and develop world-class science companies.
Jay Shah becomes Director of VelocityIn September 2016, Jay Shah became the new Director of Velocity. Jay began his entrepreneurship journey twelve years ago at the University of Waterloo while pursuing a degree in Mechatronics Engineering. During his studies, he co-founded BufferBox, self-serve kiosks for consumers to retrieve shipped parcels, and along the way won the Velocity Fund $25K and worked out of the Velocity Garage. BufferBox was ultimately acquired by Google in 2012, where Jay worked for 3.5 years before joining Velocity.
Expansion of Velocity Garage to over 37,000 sq. ft.In October 2016, Velocity celebrated the Grand Opening of the Velocity Garage startup incubator, after completing extensive renovations to its facility in the Tannery building in downtown Kitchener. At 37,000 square feet, the facility offers workspace for up to 100 companies to work and included a new science lab, assembly space, workshop, and prototyping lab. The City of Kitchener provided $500,000 in funding to build the new state of the art science lab at the Garage, to foster the development of startups commercializing science research. Velocity is also very grateful for OCE funding (Province of Ontario), and CAIP funding (Government of Canada) over the years to support the program.
The first World’s Challenge Challenge UWaterloo competitionThe first World’s Challenge Challenge UWaterloo took place in March 2017. The competition invited teams of three diverse students to pick one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and propose a solution. Each member of the winning team in the UWaterloo round received $1K and moved on to the international competition at Western University. The first team that won was RAPTRS for their Rapid Anti-Poaching Technological Response System to prevent the poaching of Elephants and Rhinos in Africa.
The first Quantum Valley Investments Problem Pitch CompetitionIn March 2017, Quick Alert won $4K at the first-ever Problem Pitch Competition, which is now called the Quantum Valley Investments Problem Pitch Competition. The problem Quick Alert pitched was that there was no way for patients to communicate their histamine status during a severe allergic reaction. Velocity and the Problem Lab collaborate each term to offer this competition that provides financial awards to support the R&D efforts of student teams that demonstrate the most thorough understanding of industry problems.
Launch of an investment fundSeven years of Velocity Fund pitch competitions has led to 91 grant-winning startups that are now valued at over $1 billion. The competition transformed to include investments in startups and expanded eligibility.
A redesigned entrepreneurship program
Entrepreneurship support at the University of Waterloo just got even stronger. Concept will exclusively support students and the campus community. While imagined and supported by Velocity, Concept will have its own identity and will replace all existing Velocity-branded offerings on campus.