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Building a Startup Inside a Dorm Room

The Velocity Residence is not your average university dorm. Located on campus at the University of Waterloo, the Residence provides a unique opportunity for students to live and work in an entrepreneurial environment, and meet people with similar interests. The Residence was the genesis for the Velocity program, and many successful startups have begun inside its walls since 2008, including KikMappedin, and Couple.

Daniel Weisberg, and Qile Wang are second year Engineering students, and currently live in the Velocity Residence for their second 4-month term. While both residents were attracted to the University of Waterloo because of Velocity, Daniel was particularly interested in the Residence, and it is one of the main reasons he chose to study here. We connected with them to chat about their experience.

The first week of the term at the Velocity Residence is known as “Bootcamp Week,” and it features many events and activities that help residents find a team and project to work on throughout the term. Many of those projects go on to become businesses, competing for funding, and developing sales, but regardless of the outcome of these projects, residents learn valuable skills and develop new interests through the experience of working with others on something they’re interested in. When asked what their favourite memory of living in the Residence was, Daniel and Qile were quick to give the same answer: the Bootcamp hackathon. The two met for the first time during Spring 2016 while working on separate projects, but joined forces this term to build a robotic arm prototype during the hack night.

“We were never actively looking for someone to work with, it was more or less we both found something interesting, and decided to pursue it together.”
– Daniel Wiesberg

Later on in the Spring 2016 term, the duo became interested in applying for the Velocity Fund $5K competition with their company ENVR; an add-on to a virtual reality device that provides vibration and wind sensation to enhance the experience. ENVR was the result of an all-nighter the day before applications were due. After competing as $5K finalists at the Velocity Fund Finals, the pair continued to develop their product, even when it meant working across the country while on co-op to do so. Since returning to the Residence this term, Daniel and Qile are currently working on their third prototype, which was 3D-printed (pictured below – left to right shows the progression of newest to oldest).

Living in the Velocity Residence has provided many resources to Daniel and Qile in the early stages of their startup, including access to 3D printers, micro-funding, mentors and dinners with founders. “The people are absolutely phenomenal here, everyone is an expert in the field, or willing to learn,” said Qile. Micro-funding has provided them with the means to purchase small parts for prototyping, as well as a micro-controller, and software to program their device.

In order to live in the Velocity Residence, you must have an interest in learning about entrepreneurship, and working on a side project throughout the term. That’s it. You don’t need to already have a business, and residents from all areas of study are encouraged, because entrepreneurship is something that requires drawing on many different talents and areas of knowledge. For Daniel and Qile, the students living in the Velocity Residence with this goal and mindset have made all the difference.

If you’re interested in joining a tight-knit, passionate, and entrepreneurial community, apply to the Velocity Residence. Applications are open for the the Spring and Fall 2017 terms.