One thing is evident when you work in the Waterloo Region tech scene — our companies punch above their weight. Thanks to a recent AngelList report, there's more data to back that up. According to the report, business ventures founded by University of Waterloo alumni produce a higher-than-expected return on investment than their counterparts at Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.
One of the ingredients that goes into producing these industry-disrupting startups is the University of Waterloo's Velocity program, an incubator for promising early-stage and pre-seed tech startups. Leading Velocity on the University of Waterloo Campus and at the Velocity Incubator in Downtown Kitchener is Adrien Côté, Velocity's Executive Director. We sat down with Adrien to learn more about Velocity and how they've continued to support startups throughout the pandemic.
With a scientific and corporate research background, Côté's primary goal has remained the same throughout his career — getting new technology to market.
"I was drawn to Velocity as a business advisor first. I could directly help the people who are building these companies by improving the process of introducing them into the market."
Côté was named Executive Director in January 2020, a short few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work. More than anything, Velocity is a community. Côté and the entire Velocity team quickly moved to find ways to provide continuity in their services and support for their startups.
"We focused on making sure we could sustain the founder experience while supporting ventures at the incubator on a case by case basis. Our leading question was – how do we help these founders land successfully?"
Instead of seeing companies falter under the pressures of the pandemic, Côté said the startups found creative ways to pivot and thrive as they adapted to the changes in the market. Côté also prioritized taking a deep dive into Velocity's investment process, optimizing it to secure further funding for companies.
"The pandemic has exposed the resiliency of people in this region," said Côté. "There's a real sense of determination in our community and I believe Waterloo Region is going to be a leader as we come out of this pandemic."
Community keeps collaboration coming
Earlier this month, Velocity announced that their startups have collectively raised over $2.4B in funding to date. Examples including Faire ($260M in Series F with a $7B valuation) and ApplyBoard ($375M in Series D with a $4B valuation) show how much faith investors have in Canadian tech companies.
Côté said that Velocity is honoured to be a part of these startup journeys. "They take their passion and turn it into greatness. We're here to provide the resources and community that supports them."
The Velocity community's uplifting and collaborative nature helps set University of Waterloo founders apart from the crowd. Côté noted that the founders are very open to collaborate and share what they've learned to help others facing similar challenges.
Building arenas, hybrid models, and beyond
As the University of Waterloo campus and the Velocity Incubator reopen, Côté said Velocity will continue to create more opportunities to get founders engaged with the right people at the right time. "We're excited to get back and reconnect with the community," said Côté.
There are some exciting developments down the road that will help support their mission.
Velocity will be expanding its space with the opening of the Innovation Arena. Projected to open in 2023, the Innovation Area is a much larger, purpose-built space that will allow for more collaboration and development — especially in the deep tech and health tech space.
The Velocity team won't have far to move. Their new home in the Innovation Arena is right across the street from their current space inside the Tannery building. "Staying close to the community with Communitech and the Accelerator Centre nearby is still very important," said Côté.
To learn more about Velocity and its services, visit velocityincubator.com.