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It's raining heavily. I'm sitting with my co-founder Daxal and all-star intern Rachel at the Blueprint/PCH headquarters. Only an hour left before we have to pitch to nearly 400 University of Waterloo alumni at the annual alumni event. Time to hustle. I dispatched our UberX ride and gathered our things.
During the short ride we spoke to our driver, an immigrant from Brazil. I thought about what makes people leave their country, the kind of risks they consider and the kind of courage they need. Entrepreneurship from my view is not very different.
What made the difference between taking a leap of faith and starting a company and forgoing the same opportunity was location and resources.
From EyeCheck's perspective, the University of Waterloo has been a crucible. Pairing a world-leading vision research center with a competitive engineering school a few blocks away is something that happened organically. It came about as a direct result of the principles that make UWaterloo unique: innovation and open collaboration - it was not a formal pathway or contrived bridging program. Add to the crucible a support system like Velocity and a project like EyeCheck can become a company very quickly.
Once at 99Sudbury, the evening's venue, it was clear that this was a new event for UWaterloo. The place was teeming with energy and excitement leading up to the pitches. For some it was the first chance to engage with the school since they left. Others were Alumni event veterans: exchanging cards and updates with old friends but also lending their advice. The same warmth was extended to the startups immediately before and after the pitches. Each of us walked out with a stack of cards and new ideas that needed to be explored.
There were two highlights of the night for me. The first was sitting among my betters in the two founders' rows. In addition to being a reunion of teams that pitched at Velocity Fund Finals, it was a collection of founders across markets and industries, united by an undying passion to solve important problems. The second highlight was being on stage. Instead of the usual looks of confusion, disbelief and intrigue, this audience was proud. They seemed genuinely pleased with the problems being solved as well as the people involved in solving them.
UWaterloo Alumni are an important part of the innovation crucible. They have the skills, network and resources required to solve big problems. I look forward to being in the crowd at the next event and look upon the newest batch of UWaterloo innovators.