The Palihapitiya Venture Creation Fund provides two $50,000 awards to University-selected Capstone Design teams with the intention to transform their Capstone Design project into a promising startup post-graduation.
Created in 2014, the Palihapitiya Venture Creation Fund is a gift from Chamath Palihapitiya, Waterloo Engineering alumnus and founder of Social Capital, a venture capital fund that aims to solve the world’s hardest problems by starting and investing in breakthrough companies in healthcare, education, financial services, consumer and enterprise.
Your project could be the next one to benefit from the Palihapitiya Venture Creation Fund!
Eligible teams must have at least two Waterloo Engineering graduating students. It is recommended that the students take at least one BET course (at the 300 and/or 400 level) by the end of 4B to prepare for this unique support. Winning teams (all members) must NOT have accepted job offers after 4B, and are expected to work on their projects in Kitchener-Waterloo for at least four months after graduation.
Two student teams will be funded with awards valued at $50,000 each, to be divided equally among team members.The teams will also receive mentorship, training, and advice from successful entrepreneurs.
Application deadlines and selection process
Student teams interested in applying must complete and submit the application by February 28, 2020. Selected student teams will be invited to present their project idea to an interview panel in March 2020 (exact date to be determined) during the 4B term.
The interview panel, comprised primarily of faculty members from the Faculty of Engineering and the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business, will select two teams based on project innovation and market viability to each receive an award to support their project.
About Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya received his BASc in Electrical Engineering in 1999. In 2018, it was revealed that Chamath made the largest individual donation of $25 million to Waterloo Engineering’s "Educating the Engineer of the Future" fundraising campaign that raised just over $100 million.
He is the founder and CEO of Social Capital, which invests in and starts breakthrough companies in areas including healthcare, education, financial services, and enterprise with the mission to advance humanity by solving the world's hardest problems.
Before founding Social Capital, Chamath was a member of the senior executive team at Facebook and a key driver behind its rise to become one of the most important and impactful companies in the world. Prior to Facebook, Chamath held leadership roles at Mayfield Fund, AOL and Winamp. He is a part owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors and a frequent visitor to Waterloo Engineering events where he shares his unique insights to the delight of students, staff and faculty.
In 2019, more than 657 billion smartphone photographs were taken. Scope, a Nanotechnology Engineering team, is working on a new type of optical zoom lenses with electronically tunable optical power will help people take better photos while reducing battery use, costs, and processing power of smartphones. The system tackles this problem by redesigning the fundamental lenses creating the camera and making them electrically tunable, allowing for a single aperture to do everything that current systems need 3-5 apertures to do. The team has also created software to allow for optical zooming with the single lens. The Scope lens can also be used in other optical applications and markets including optical microscopy, AR/VR headsets, consumer robotics and drones.
Stacktronic, a Mechanical Engineering team, addresses the unfilled market for high-convenience battery packs with minimal user design and integration effort. Small companies, design teams, and research groups are increasingly in need of high-voltage, energy-dense, mobile power sources at relatively low production volumes per configuration. Existing solutions either require custom engineering at high expense and long lead times, or are of low quality and require significant work on the part of the user.
Project Beacon, from Systems Design Engineering, created an emotional wellbeing platform that supports universities with the increasing demand for counselling services on campuses, and also helps students get care faster for their mental health concerns. It provides resource recommendations, where the improvement will be measured using validated scales. It also provides universities with data analytics for resource utilization and insights of overall campus wellness.
In 2018, the winning project was SannTek from Nanotechnology Engineering. They have developed a “marijuana breathalyser” that is capable of determining the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana, present within a breath sample. Essentially, it is a breathalyzer equivalent for marijuana detection. The two-part device which features a single-use disposable cartridge and a portable analyzer has undergone user testing at the law enforcement level to establish ease of use and accuracy. Competitive products have proven too fragile or complicated to ensure proper usage and readings, making SannTek’s device a front runner.
The endoscope – called SWIRVE, an acronym for ‘short wave infrared vascular endoscope’ – is the brainchild of mechanical engineering students Michael Phillips, 22, of Sussex, New Brunswick, and Phil Cooper, 22, of Pembroke, Ontario, who plan to call their startup Vena Medical.
VivaSpire is the second team made up of nanotechnology engineering students John Grousopoulos, 22, of Kitchener, Mostafa Saquib, 21, of Kitchener, and Chris Hajduk, 22, of Guelph.
With the support of Chamath both of these entrepreneurial student teams will be able to expand the potential of their ideas, further expanding the capabilities of their working prototypes and through mentorship explore future business opportunities for Vena Medical and VivaSpire.