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A symbiotic relationship: Waterloo and innovation

By Matthew Sourgoutsidis, uWaterloo Student (Arts and Business, 2B) and Marketing Assistant, VeloCity

velocity speakerWhat do companies like MappedIn, BufferBox, Thalmic Labs, and Kik Messenger all have in common? Aside from experiencing levels of great success and having founders who went to the University of Waterloo, they were all part of an entrepreneurial program and community called VeloCity. VeloCity is a program that provides a working space with a vast network of mentors, facilitates peer-to-peer guidance, and coordinates entrepreneurial events in the uWaterloo community.

VeloCity began as a residence on the uWaterloo campus in 2008, and is now growing with increasing speed. The program created a stir of excitement in August with the mark of their 5 year anniversary and the announcement of 30 teams that will occupy the VeloCity Garage for the fall term. The excitement is far from over for the people involved in the program.

Blacktree Health Team Some of this excitement surrounds Blacktree Health (pictured above) and the release of their AIRO health-monitoring device, a sleek wristband that automatically monitors calorie consumption, stress patterns, daily exertion and sleep quality. Blacktree Health also has roots in uWaterloo, with its three co-founders Emmanuel DeVries, Naman Kumar and Abhilash Jayakumar graduating from the university’s faculty of engineering program.

“VeloCity has a way of improving internal processes with the same culture of speed and efficiency that you can expect from the startups it services,” says Abhilash Jayakumar, co-founder and CEO. “They were able to cover gaps by adding marketing and public relations mentors. They solicited feedback from many of the founders they are working with and have since improved the program to really give us all the tools we need to take our companies to the next level.”

But it is not just the VeloCity team that Blacktree Health thanks for their increased growth. The peer-to-peer network was also influential. “Having people around to talk to that have been through things that we haven’t was huge. Companies like Thalmic Labs and Weston Expressions are hardware companies that were further along than we were. Whenever we had a problem with hardware, they were always there to help,” Abhilash explains.

The accelerated growth of VeloCity is directly linked to the growth and success of the startups involved in the program. VeloCity provides the channels and the opportunity, but it is up to the students to take full advantage of the tools placed in front of them.   The relationship between students and VeloCity is truly a symbiotic one. Each side benefits from the hard work and success of the opposite party, together working towards creating entrepreneurs originating from the University of Waterloo community.