As Velocity continues to celebrate ten years of igniting the entrepreneurial spirit, a diverse range of new startup stories were front and center at the 22nd Velocity Fund Finals. Twenty startups pitched their ventures to a crowd of spectators for a chance to win a share of $130,000 in funding.
Before the 3-minutes pitches began, Jay Shah, the Director of Velocity, recognized the diversity of students and alumni who initiated startups from across every faculty, as well as the high number of graduate students working to commercialize their research or thesis work. Today, half of the startups that pitched had a graduate student as a founding team member. Shah also highlighted the impact of Velocity’s 315 company portfolio, which have created nearly 2,300 jobs and raised $815 million in funding. An open invitation was also extended to Velocity’s 10 year celebration on September 28.
The day kicked off with the $5K competition at 11am, where ten early-stage startups showcased what they were working on, and at 1pm the event continued with the $25K competition, where ten later stage companies competed for the top prizes. The four companies awarded $25K prizes were SheLeads, which enables female-focused organizations to assess their programs to fund initiatives, evaluate efforts, and influence policy changes; Micromensio, which is developing a platform technology for low-cost, disposable, wireless biosensor microchips for bacterial identification; Hodlbot, which puts a user’s cryptocurrency investing on autopilot; and HITCH, which is a locally relevant education platform designed for African schools. The additional $10K prize was awarded to Micromensio to help with the additional costs associated with building a hardware startup. These startups will also receive $5,000 in IP legal services from PCK and workspace in the Velocity Garage, Canada’s most productive startup incubator.
The companies awarded $5K in seed money were OcuBlink, which creates eye models to help scientists test and develop better eye care products, from eye drops to smart contact lenses; IntelliCulture which is bringing the future of fleet connectivity to the agricultural industry; Nebula which is developing systems to provide clean drinking water through fog harvesting; and Membio which is developing hardware for manufacturing next-generation medicines. Each of the $5K finalists also receive an offer to live in a residence at a discounted rate, offered in partnership with University of Waterloo Housing.
The judges that decided the fate of the companies pitching were a diverse group of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and senior executives from the Waterloo-Toronto Corridor. $25K judges included Kevin Crews, Senior Product Manager of the Alexa Fund Fellowship; Nicole LeBlanc, Director of Investments & Partnerships at Sidewalk Labs; Molly McCartin, Partner at Drive Capital; and Mohamed Musbah, Head of Product at Microsoft Research Montreal. The judges for the Velocity Fund $5K competition included Matt Kennedy; Acquisition Associate at Skyline Clean Energy Asset Management, Sunny Verma, CEO of TutorBright, and Katarina Ilić; Head of Research & Development at Voltera (a past Velocity Fund $25K winner). The judges praised the pitches today and shared these words of encouragement:
“Never in your life will you have so much accessibility to all the great resources and funding provided by Velocity and the University.”
– Kevin Crews, Senior Product Manager of the Alexa Fund Fellowship
“I was right here on this stage five years ago pitching Voltera and I totally understand what you [the pitchers] are all going through. The bar for the competition has risen so high since then. It was truly fantastic to see and it was really hard to choose the winners.”
– Katarina Ilić; Head of Research & Development at Voltera
This Velocity Fund pitch competition provides nearly $400K in funding a year to foster the startup ambitions of students and alumni, and this program was made possible through donors Ted Livingston and Mike Stork, whose initial and subsequent donations have played a key role in the growth of nearly 100 companies.