Entrepreneurship is in Waterloo's DNA: Economic Impact Series Part III

Monday, March 9, 2020
by Feridun Hamdullahpur

waterloo entrepreneurs

There are few experiences as exciting as watching a pitch competition at the University of Waterloo. The student-entrepreneurs are full of passion, focus and expertise that they are utilizing to create truly unique and groundbreaking ventures. It is quite inspiring, but it’s only the tip of the entrepreneurial iceberg at Waterloo.

The ventures that have come out of the hard work of thousands of Waterloo students and graduates continue to disrupt industries and make significant contributions to our local, regional and national economies. In the third and final part of my Economic Impact Series, I am going to explore the wide-ranging and ongoing contributions of Waterloo’s entrepreneurship programs and talented entrepreneurs.

Fostering Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship can happen anywhere, anytime. A good business idea has no exclusivity to Silicon Valley or a global city with millions of people. What makes the difference, however, is surrounding that good idea with the support and guidance it needs to make the leap from inside someone’s head to out into the world. Waterloo has made this support an integral part of our institution for more than a decade and it has made a difference.

Velocity has been a staple at Waterloo since 2008 and since then has become Canada’s most productive startup incubator with more than 300 ventures being incubated that have raised a collective $1.26 billion in funding. The Accelerator Centre (AC) has supported more than 200 companies since 2006 – 93 per cent of them graduating to thriving businesses after the two-year accelerator program. Most recently, Concept was launched at Waterloo as a pre-incubator program to reach out and engage with those students who have an idea and want to start the process of turning it into a business.

There are even more programs at Waterloo, including St. Paul’s Greenhouse, that makeup Waterloo’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, and its long-range impact have benefitted Canada in so many ways.

Job Creation and Economic Activity from Coast-to-Coast

We recently released our Economic Impact Assessment report from Deloitte which showed how Waterloo contributes to the economy through our entrepreneurship efforts.

The report shows how our entrepreneurship programs have created more than 7,500 jobs across Canada in little more than a decade. These ventures have generated revenues of $2.3 billion – and growing. The ongoing activities of Velocity and Accelerator Centre companies in 2018/19 added $170 million to Canada’s GDP.

These contributions are only possible through our bold and visionary founders, but also through the vast support from dedicated staff members, mentors, industry partners and a network of alumni who do everything they can to take our entrepreneurs to the next level.

Looking Ahead: Startup to Scale-Up

Canada has seen the benefits of Waterloo’s entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem. The past decade has been one marked by tremendous growth and evolution of how we view a university’s role in supporting the national, startup landscape. Just as co-op is part of our DNA, so too is support for entrepreneurship. Our journey has been one marked by continued success, but our next step must be to take what we do now to the next level.

We have already started with the creation of Concept and the coming of age of the Velocity Fund Pitch Competition from a $25,000 grant to a $50,000 investment. Now we must focus on not just the development of dynamic startups, but also on scaling up those startups ready to take the next leap and become global leaders.

Waterloo will continue to support our entrepreneurs in any way we can throughout their journey. They are a testament to what Canada is capable of when we get behind those with a vision for what could be and then go out and do it.