Startup experience shapes Waterloo alum

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Andrew Leest, former Waterloo Kinesiology student speaking at an event hosted by Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business.

By: Namish Modi

After four traditional co-op work terms, Andrew Leest decided it was time to take on a new challenge.

With a keen eye for entrepreneurship, the former University of Waterloo Kinesiology (BSc ’16) student embarked on an Enterprise Co-op term (E Co-op) to work on his startup, Chasr Athletics.

“(E Co-op) is very self-driven and self-motivated,” says Leest. “You have to learn to have high intrinsic motivation towards your goals. The thing that is really different is your goal isn’t always super clear.”

E Co-op is run by Waterloo’s Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business with support from
Co-operative and Experiential Education. It allows students the opportunity to start their own business and earn co-op credit in the process.

Working for himself helped pave the way for Leest’s current role as a start-up advisor at Tech Alliance of Southwestern Ontario. As part of his job, Leest provides guidance to startups by providing resources and educational opportunities and helping them make valuable connections.

“It’s something that I really love to do,” says Leest. “I get to talk to entrepreneurs all day, and I kind of live vicariously through them, which is really great.”

Startup venture

Leest was on the Waterloo Warriors track and field team during his first two years at the University.

“I started to notice an issue with the way that we were training,” says Leest. “We weren’t collecting data in the off-season, or even at practice, specifically for shorter distance races.” Leest noticed that stopwatches did not provide enough accuracy on timing, which is supremely important in the sport.

So, he founded Chasr Athletics to create cost-effective and easy-to-use laser timing systems for athletes in track and field or football.

Through his undergraduate degree, during his E Co-op, and into his Masters (MBET ‘17), Leest worked on the startup before issues with the business model forced him to close.

He believes that despite the organization not working out in the end, the experience he gained was vital for the future.

After he closed the startup, Leest took a job as a business development representative to help fill some of his skill gaps.

Leest pitched Chasr Athletics in Waterloo’s Velocity pitch competition.

Traditional vs E co-op terms

Before his E Co-op term, Leest completed a work term at Mars Canada, the Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Centre in Barrie and two terms in Athletics and Recreation at the University

With traditional co-op terms, Leest says there are a clear set of tasks and goals to work through. Through his E Co-op experience, Leest found that his goals and tasks changed frequently and he was constantly learning new things.

“Holding yourself accountable is something that I would say leads toward success. The risk with entrepreneurship is failure, but you are usually failing upwards,” Leest says.

Something I think encourages a lot of students to go into the E Co-op program is that you don’t necessarily count on creating a successful business. But, the learning experience will outweigh the risk of failure.

- Andrew Leest, University of Waterloo Kinesiology (BSc ’16)

After graduation, E Co-op students can continue with their own venture, begin a new one, or use the experience they gained to obtain employment elsewhere.

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