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Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competitions

The Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition


The Problem Lab, the Faculty of Science 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 November 1st, 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.

Application are now closed

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.
    1. Digital Ads
      The growing ineffectiveness of online advertising.
    2. Human-Proof Cybersecurity​
      Cybersecurity failures caused by human error or malicious intent.​
    3. Non-Lethal Weapons
      The need to restrain persons without causing harm.
    4. Recommendation Engines
      The need for recommendation engines to serve e-commerce and search.
    5. Truth-Teller
      The difference between true and false information online.
  3. Discovery Tools
    A category for science students to demonstrate their understanding of obstacles to research in biological and physical sciences. In partnership with the Faculty of Science.

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

problem pitch dates flow chartDate details:

  • Applications Open: Thursday, September 6th
  • Application Deadline: Sunday, September 30th @ 11:59pm
  • Billion Dollar Problems Workshop: Wednesday, October 3rd from 9am-1pm @ DC 1304** 
  • Open Problems Workshop: Thursday, October 4th from 9:30am-3pm @ DC 1304** 
  • Discovery Tools Workshop: Friday, October 5th from 9:30am-3pm @ STC 2002** 
  • Problem Topic Deck Submission Deadline: Sunday, October 21st @ 11:59pm
  • Problem Pitch Semi-finalists Notified: Wednesday, October 24th
  • Discovery Tools Qualifying Pitches: Thursday, October 25th from 10am-1pm @ STC 2002** 
  • Open & Billion Dollar Qualifying Pitches: Monday, October 29th from 5pm-7:30pm @ EV3 3412** 
  • Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition: Thursday, November 1st from 7pm-10pm @ STC 0050

** Mandatory attendance from at least one team member. Workshops are designed as a drop-in format. 

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 Discovery Tools applicants, at least half the team must be enrolled in the Faculty of Science.

*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.