How does community impact entrepreneurship?
Velocity grads share how a supportive community helped them succeed, and how they give back to other entrepreneurs.
Velocity grads share how a supportive community helped them succeed, and how they give back to other entrepreneurs.By Megan Vander Woude Office of Advancement
We often hear from entrepreneurial alumni who cite their communities and networks as an important component of their journey, whether that community was found in the Velocity program or elsewhere. Below, you’ll find four great examples of entrepreneurs who benefitted from Waterloo’s entrepreneurial community and Velocity program, and see how they give back through the Startup Pledge.
Martin Basiri (MASc ’13) signed a Startup Pledge to provide other entrepreneurs with the same opportunities he had as a Waterloo student and founder in the Velocity program. Startup Pledgers like Martin commit to donating a portion of their company’s future success. When their company has a liquidity event, like an IPO, a small portion of the realized options are converted into a gift.
Finding and applying to the right school for his graduate degree took Martin more than a year and a half. Eventually, he came to the University of Waterloo to study mechatronics engineering, and he later helped others find and apply to North American institutions. His company ApplyBoard was born out of these experiences, and offers a platform where international students can find and apply to the best school for them.
“I hope my future gift will help students like me,” he explains. “It’s my time to give back to international students who may not have all the funds that they need, or entrepreneurial students who could benefit from the Velocity program, as I did."
Faculty of Science graduate Popy Dimoulas-Graham started the website Charity Republic to learn about charities and other people’s volunteer experiences. It began as a hobby, but once she was accepted to the Velocity program, Charity Republic (also known as Hour Republic in educational systems) transformed into a business. She benefited from the mentorship and legal support provided through the program. But to her, one of the biggest advantages was working beside other entrepreneurs.
“It’s a very collaborative environment,” she explains. “The Velocity community made for a very transparent, trustworthy environment. You were never worried about someone stealing your ideas. Everyone was just extremely helpful and collaborative.”
Popy is still in touch with some of the other founders she met in Velocity, and she supports other entrepreneurs in the community, giving them mentorship and advice. Plus, she signed the Startup Pledge, which will support entrepreneurs in the Velocity program.
POPY DIMOULAS-GRAHAM, Founder, Charity Republic
It takes a village to create a company. Velocity gave so much to me and to Charity Republic, and I want to give back to help other entrepreneurs.
SnapTravel co-founders Henry Shi (BCS ’14) and Hussein Fazal (BMATH ‘’05) honed their skills, found their passion and gained confidence by taking advantage of all the opportunities available through their communities. As students, Henry and Hussein benefitted from the experiences and contacts they made in co-op terms. As entrepreneurs, the Velocity program and its community played an important role in their success.
“The ecosystem at Velocity is extremely founder friendly,” says Henry. “You have students, staff and faculty all supporting each other, and people look up to and reach out for help. The community members are genuinely motivated to help each other succeed and it’s amazing to see alumni, who aren’t much older than you, building great companies and giving back to future student success.”
Giving back is core to what SnapTravel is all about. Henry and Hussein take time out of their busy schedules to mentor students, and they are advocates for accessible public education via their Fellowship Scholarship program. Plus, they signed the Startup Pledge to support the next generation of innovators.
With support from colleagues and mentors, Calvin Chu expanded the scope of his company Monogram (then called Palette Gear). His controllers were originally meant to reimagine the editing process for photographers. During his time in the Velocity Garage, he expanded his target audience to include a variety of creative professionals like video editors and DJs.
In 2019, Monogram launched Version 2 of their system from their office in Downtown Kitchener.
"We’ve had a lot of pull to move to Silicon Valley and other places, but we wanted to stay in this region," says Calvin. "We wanted to give back, and there’s a lot of great talent here."
Today, Calvin gives back to the Waterloo community by hiring co-op students and mentoring entrepreneurs in the Velocity program. He also made a StartUp Pledge as a way to give back to Velocity and the University of Waterloo as a whole.