Skip to content

Velocity Entrepreneurs Shak Lakhani and Andre Bertram win Thiel Fellowships

How does a $100,000 grant sound, paired with a two year program aimed to help youth under the age of 22 develop their ingenious ideas? The Thiel Fellowship offers an elite few the opportunity to pursue a different path and work full-time on their idea. This gives them the freedom to achieve their entrepreneurial goals while networking with like-minded people and connecting with investors, partners, and prospective customers.

The Thiel Fellowship is a two-year program for young people who are entrepreneurial minded and want to build new things. To qualify for this fellowship, you need to demonstrate meaningful progress toward an interesting concrete vision. Students gain access to team building opportunities, incorporated into a program that does not take any stake in ownership from their project. The organizations that the Thiel Fellowship helped foster since inception have a combined value of over 1 billion dollars.

Out of thousands of applicants, Shak Lakhani, Co-founder and CEO of Avro Life Science, and André Bertram, Co-founder and CEO of HelpWear, were chosen as two of only 20 annual recipients for this prestigious fellowship (representing two of three Canadian recipients). Avro Life Science is developing skin patches for generic drug delivery, focusing on medication for children and the elderly. A biopolymer technology is used as a platform for passive transdermal drug delivery of small molecules and drugs. They aim to deliver drugs at a consistent rate throughout the day without side effects, all through stickers that have fun designs that appeal to children, who often have difficulty swallowing medication. In 2016, the team began working out of the Velocity Science lab on-campus at the University of Waterloo before winning both the $5K and $25K competition at the Velocity Fund Finals pitch competition. They would later win as national runners up for the James Dyson Award in 2017, as well as attend Y Combinator. Avro Life Science continues to work out of the Velocity Garage startup incubator, where they work out of its science lab to further commercialize their technology.

“The Fellowship will be an amazing opportunity to learn from other young entrepreneurs who have been way more successful than me. It’s also an opportunity to meet incredibly impressive and fascinating people working on a variety of problems that I would have never thought about. I’m excited to broaden my horizons and grow as a person. Of course, the network is great, so I can’t wait to work with the Thiel Foundation more closely to continue building Avro.” – Shak Lakhani, Co-founder and CEO of Avro Life Science

HelpWear is building a 24/7 wearable heart monitoring system that detects when a user suffers a heart attack and contacts emergency services. Their HeartWatch also records heart palpitations and arrhythmias and can flag them for review by a doctor. Andre was just 17 when he co-founded HelpWear with classmate Frank Nguyen at the University of Waterloo. The team worked out of Velocity Science, and Andre was the youngest person ever to pitch at the Velocity Fund Finals in the fall of 2016. HelpWear would also attend Y Combinator in the summer of 2017. The team is now focused on clinical validation, and is set to attain FDA approval in late 2018 or early 2019.

The full list of 2018 Thiel Fellows can be found here.