Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G6
The Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement is embedded in Waterloo Region’s dynamic social innovation ecosystem, and participants in our Epp Peace Incubator program have the opportunity to leverage resources and support from this supportive community. One case in point occurred on February 27, when Nastaran Saberi found herself on a stage at Catalyst 137 in Kitchener pitching for a $50,000 investment at the Velocity Fund Pitch Competition.
Saberi and her partner Amin Gharebaghi are the co-founders of a start-up called GeoMate, and have been a part of the Centre for Peace Advancement since September 2019, as they seek to make communities safer and more accessible through a software platform called AccessMate.
AccessMate is a geo-spatial mobility platform that uses artificial intelligence to address accessibility challenges in cities. They use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create data sets that outline the varying safety level of travel routes, with a current focus on sidewalks. This information is valuable to many different types of partners, such as insurance companies and municipalities, and many different types of community members including the elderly, parents with strollers, and cyclists, as well as individuals with limited mobility.
GeoMate is one of several “tech for good” companies found at the Centre for Peace Advancement, and Saberi values this focus on the social benefit of technology: “This is not a platform for money, but a platform for people—that’s the main idea. Our ultimate goal is to provide a better quality of life for all people.”
The company is currently completing pilot projects in Stratford and Kitchener, working with local political leaders to help them improve their accessibility. Indeed, GeoMate’s pursuit of strategic partnerships with governments demonstrates the Centre for Peace Advancement’s unique expertise in helping start-ups think and work politically.
Saberi is grateful for the way the Centre has helped connect GeoMate to important individuals and resources, including arranging a meeting with a cabinet minister in the federal government, helping set up a partnership with the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region, and accessing the Microsoft Azure cloud computing service through the Waterloo AI Institute.
The Velocity Fund Pitch Competition provides crucial financial support to tech start-ups in our community by awarding $50,000 investments to four startups each term. While they did not receive an investment this time around, it is a testament to GeoMate’s drive and determination that they were selected to be one of the ten finalists.
Saberi values the different areas of support that different organizations in our innovation ecosystem can provide: "We are both a social company and a technical company. Working with Velocity and the Centre for Peace Advancement has helped us bridge these two worlds."
Five other start-ups in the Centre’s peace incubator have been supported by Velocity in the past, including Demine Robotics (formerly Landmine Boys), Marlena Books, EPOCH, Lunaria (formerly SheLeads), and Panic, Anxiety & Stress Support (PASS). In addition to coaching and mentorship, these ventures have received a total of $100,000 in awards from Velocity, providing an important kick-start to their entrepreneurial journeys.