Startups in the fields of biotechnology, energy and urban-air commuting were among the winners of the Velocity Fund Pitch Competition, as the University of Waterloo’s flagship entrepreneurship program brought its marquee event to downtown Toronto for the first time in its history.

The four winners, who each received direct equity investments worth $50,000, were chosen from a slate of 10 finalists who made their pitches in front of a soldout crowd at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon in the Toronto Reference Library on Thursday night.

Winners take the stage last night in front of a soldout crowd at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon in Toronto.

Winners take the stage in front of a soldout crowd at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon in Toronto. PHOTO: RYAN ANTOOA

SquidBio, a biotech company that has developed a benchtop DNA synthesis device, was among the recipients of the grand prize. With their printer, researchers will be able to synthesize DNA and put it into bacteria to solve real-world problems in-house and on their own time — cutting down on costs and the weeks it currently takes to have the same product ordered and delivered.

Co-founder Danielle Rose said the win represented the culmination of several months of preparation. “This is an amazing opportunity because we can get going with our clients. We can make some real progress towards hitting the market.”

During the competition, 10 finalists pitched their businesses to a panel of judges representing the investment, startup and business communities. Judges considered innovation, market potential, market viability, traction and overall pitch.

The following three startups also won investments and will continue to work at or be admitted to the Velocity startup incubator:

Maple Precision is building an online mapping platform, similar to Google Earth, but with millions of geographic data sets that city builders rely on.

Stacktronic is developing a rapidly scalable, modular battery platform that simplifies and expedites the design process for electric powertrains, allowing any vehicle, of any size and production volume, to be battery-powered in an instant.

Watfly is building “Atlas,” single-seater air vehicle powered by the latest in electric propulsion technology.

Jay Shah, Director of Velocity, said bringing the pitch competition to Toronto opened the competitors up to a greater pool of capital and talent. He said the quality of this round’s pitches was "unique in our competition's history."

“What’s really impressive about this round is that no matter who won, we couldn’t make a mistake,” Velocity Director Jay Shah said. “All 10 companies represented that high ambition we’re always looking for.”

The Toronto event marks a busy year for the incubator. In January, Velocity Fund transitioned from a grant program into a pre-seed investment fund. The AngelList-powered venture fund invests in startups in industries ranging from HealthTech to software. It gives investors a simple way to invest in a diversified portfolio of early-stage startups supported by Waterloo’s Velocity Garage startup incubator.

The panel of judges

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