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Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competitions

The Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition


The Problem Lab, the Faculty of Environment and Velocity present the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch. The competition invites teams of up to four students to choose an important industry problem, and thoroughly research it to understand its history, scope, and impact, before pitching the findings to a panel of judges on March 14th, to compete for a share of up to $30,000 in grant funding.*

The winning teams will demonstrate the best understanding of an important problem and will win $5,000 to be used to fund R&D for a venture that solves the problem identified. Winning teams will be under consideration to double their prize winnings post-event if they are able to demonstrate financial need and progress over time, in consultation with the Problem Lab.

Applications are now OPEN until February 3rd

The competition is broken into three segments, with a winner selected from each segment. Students can choose which segment to participate in:

  1. Open Pitch
    Students can pitch an important problem on a topic of their choosing.
  2. Billion Dollar Problems
    Students can opt to research and pitch their understanding on an important problem within topics presented during Larry Smith's Billion Dollar Briefing in Velocity Start.
    1. Discovery Tools
      Significant obstacles and limitations to research in biological and physical sciences.
    2. Talent Identification
      There is a lack of an accurate, reliable and systemic means to assess talent.
    3. Entertainment Machinery
      The entertainment industry has a powerfully continuing need for new entertainment attractions and environments.
    4. Manufacturing Robots
      The use of robots in mass manufacturing has been plagued by serious limitations in effectiveness.
    5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Data
      The ability for machine learning to create powerful applications across a wide range of applications and industries is severely limited by teh availability of adequate training data.
    6. Digital Ads
      The growing ineffectiveness of online advertising.
    7. Human-Proof Cybersecurity​
      Cybersecurity failures caused by human error or malicious intent.​
    8. Non-Lethal Weapons
      The need to restrain persons without causing harm.
    9. Recommendation Engines
      The need for recommendation engines to serve e-commerce and search.
    10. Truth-Teller
      The difference between true and false information online.
  3. Climate-Driven Environmetal Emergencies
    A category for environment students to demonstrate their understanding of problems related to environmental emergencies.  In partnership with the Faculty of Environment.

Pitches are not to exceed five minutes and must clearly answer the Problem Pitch questions, with research and sources cited. 

Problem Pitch important dates chart

Date details:

  • Applications Open: Monday, January 7th

  • Application Deadline: Sunday, February 3rd @ 11:59pm​

  • Teams Accepted After Initial Screening: Wednesday, February 6th

  • Research Workshop (with UWaterloo Entrepreneurship Librarian): Thursday, February 7th from 4:30pm-6:30pm @ EV3 3412

  • One-on-One Mentoring Sessions: Friday, February 8th-15th** (scheduled on a team-by-team basis)

  • Pitch Deck Submission Deadline: Sunday, February 24th @ 11:59pm

  • Problem Pitch Semi-Finalists Notified: Thursday, February 28th

  • Practice Pitches: Monday, March 4th from 5pm-7pm @ EV3 4412

  • Problem Pitch Semi-Final (Qualifier): Thursday, March 7th from 6pm-9pm @ EV3 4412**

  • Problem Pitch Finalists Notified: Friday, March 8th

  • Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition: Thursday, March 14th from 7pm-10pm @ EV3 1408

** Mandatory attendance by at least one team member from accepted teams.

For each chosen problem, conduct the following analysis

Scale of the problem:

  • Document the number and characteristics of those affected by the problem.
  • Determine how relatively important the problem is to those affected.
  • Solving the problem should produce global sales of at least one billion dollars in the near to medium term.

You may wish to consult market research and media articles to acquire this information about your specific problem.

Context of the problem:

  • What are the causes and effects of the problem?
  • Is your problem a primary problem – one that causes other problems?
  • Or is your problem a secondary problem – one that is caused by other problems? [Solving a primary problem would solve other problems, amplifying its effect.]
  • What circumstances or conditions affect the problem?

Consult media articles, industry research, and people within your own network to help uncover what important problems exist.

Research the history of the problem:

The history of the problem provides the insight necessary for an excellent solution.

  • How long has the problem been recognized?
  • Does the problem appear to be growing in importance?
  • Has the scale of the problem changed?
  • Has there been a change in those affected by the problem?
  • Have the causes or effects of the problem changed?
  • Have the circumstances and conditions affecting the problem changed over time?
  • Has the primacy of the problem changed over time?

Consult academic research, government sources, industry research, textbooks, and media articles to gain greater insight into your specific problem.

Failure analysis:

  • Describe previous attempts to solve the problem. [You need to know why they failed. You are looking for a specific mistake, one that you can take action to correct.]
  • Identifying an actionable mistake is essential since it tells you where to start your own research for a solution.



This competition is open to teams of 1 to 4 people. We encourage your team to bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds and areas of study. The team member pitching at the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition must be a current full-time, or part-time University of Waterloo student (undergraduate or graduate) and all members are encouraged to attend prep sessions prior to the competition. For Climate-Driven Environmental Emergencies applicants, at least 50% of the team must be enrolled in the Faculty of Environment.

*Funding won at the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition is to be used for R&D to develop a solution to the problem and must be used within 1 year of receiving the funding. It will be administered by reimbursing approved expenses – receipts and documentation must be provided for reimbursement. Competition organizers will determine if an expense is eligible or not. The decision to award one, two or three competition winners is at the judges’ discretion. Problem Pitch winners may be eligible for additional funding, up to the amount of the initial funding, based on their R&D progress. The Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition is a collaboration between the Problem Lab, the Faculty of Science and Velocity.

The Problem Pitch Competition is made possible by $300,000 in funding from Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, principals of Quantum Valley Investments® and founders of Blackberry.