Navigating the startup landscape takes confidence, speed and little help from friends. Those were a few of the key takeaways during a panel discussion with experts from Velocity, Waterloo’s startup incubator, on June 28 at the Collision tech conference in Toronto.

Here are four key takeaways:

1) Take advice, but remember you know your company best

“Founders know their company best, know their vision best and should know what they should spend their energy on,” explained Daniela Roeper, founder and CEO of Borealis Wind. She started her business at 23 years old and admits she didn’t always know what she was doing. “I did get very good advice through all the programs that I was in. But I did get some bad advice, of course, and I did follow some of that bad advice, and I put my energy into things that I probably shouldn't have.”

2) Build your network and leverage it for success

“Developing a supportive ecosystem at the very early stages can help not just develop, but also grow the company,” explained Moazam Khan, a Velocity alum and current director of Velocity health. He experienced this first-hand while raising a round of seed funding for his own startup. With three months of runway left, Khan reached out to other heath founders and asked them to add a blurb about his company in their next investor update. The tactic was a success and brought in cheques that kept the company going. “Developing and fostering a culture of helping each other out, really helps founders of the next generation go forward.”

3) Think like an investor when managing risk and rewards

“If you're taking on investment, you're giving away some equity and you're hoping that that will lead to a rise in the overall value of the equity pool,” said Akash Vaswani, general partner of the Velocity Fund II. This type of asymmetrical risk and reward, where the slight risk of a loss is worth the larger potential gain, is how many investors think. “From a founder perspective, if you start looking at your company that way, you're going to be more aligned with investors,” explained Vaswani. “It’s a powerful way to look at your own company beyond your product and your revenue.”

4) Nurturing talent is key to Canada’s economic productivity

Canada is slipping in terms of its economic productivity, and startups can play a key role in generating growth. “Universities and post-secondary education in general have a real opportunity to help students get into a mindset of ‘hey, I can build something, I can change something,’” explained Adrien Côté, executive director at Velocity. Instilling a founder mindset early, during post-secondary studies, can inspire a willingness and ambition to become an entrepreneur, and in turn creates a generation of talent who want to create change by building a business. "I think that's going to be the way that we can have more effective startups land into the ecosystem, and those can be the seeds for greater productivity.”

Velocity scales startups

For the last 15 years, Velocity has been helping founders build scalable companies by creating optimal conditions for their growth. Since launch, they’ve helped more than 400 companies create a total enterprise value of more than US$26 billion. Building on that success, the recently announced Velocity Fund II (VFII), a new private, for-profit venture capital fund, will work to secure investments in Velocity companies and beyond. The University of Waterloo will be a VFII investor, with the University’s endowment investing up to $5 million. It is the first time a Canadian university invests from its endowment into a VC fund launched by the team behind its affiliated start-up incubator and reinforces Waterloo’s commitment to sustaining a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.