University of Waterloo: Bridging the gap between student to full-time entrepreneur

Beyond Velocity’s well-known incubator in Kitchener’s innovation district, Velocity supports more than 5,000 students per year through on-campus programs, such as Zero, Problem Lab and Cornerstone, designed to give University of Waterloo students an early start in entrepreneurship and create experiences to build key skills for any career path. Introduced during the pandemic, the Cornerstone program helps the most advanced student teams refine their startup ideas and prepare them to start a career in entrepreneurship.

Six early-stage teams who worked on their startups through Cornerstone and other programs at Waterloo are moving into the incubator where they will receive support from Velocity business advisors and product development team as they refine their initial startup idea, business model and proof of concept over the next several months.

“Students have a fantastic opportunity to build out their own ideas and try starting a business while they are pursuing their undergraduate or graduate degrees. The University of Waterloo is a supportive environment where they can access Velocity’s abundant free resources to help them test their ideas. By starting early with Velocity’s on-campus support, students can de-risk their jump to full-time entrepreneurship upon graduation, when the Velocity Incubator can give them the best chance at success,” says John Dick, Velocity’s director of Campus Programming.

“We here at TAMVOES Health are so excited to be members of Velocity. We have found so much value in working with our advisors to date and are looking forward to working more directly to maximise growth,” says Jessica Lunshof, co-founder at TAMVOES, one of the first companies to join the incubator post-pandemic.

The Velocity Incubator founders, many of which have received venture capital investments, can help guide these six new companies through the unique challenges of building a startup and pursuing private investment.

“While we have a keen understanding of our market and our solution, at this stage, our exposure to the investor side of entrepreneurship is still limited. This is why we really value this opportunity to join the Velocity community and meet with other founders, including founders at the same stage as well as founders who have already gone through raises. We also look to Velocity’s advisory team to help us navigate the early-stage Canadian venture capital ecosystem and set the goals and milestones that will guarantee our investor readiness. We are glad to be part of this new program. The mentoring we’ve received at Velocity is not something I have found anywhere else,” says Margaret Mutumba, CEO and co-founder of MedAtlas.

The Southwestern Ontario Health Innovation Partnership also opened a path for companies started by graduates of the Western Medical Innovation Fellowship to join the Velocity ecosystem and benefit from Velocity’s connection to the University of Waterloo to connect with research labs and institutes for additional technical support.

Meet the new six participating companies
Six companies will join the 51 companies at the Velocity incubator starting in a few days. Five of the teams were founded by Waterloo students and alumni:

MedAtlas is a digital health startup making it easy to find licensed specialists and doctors from anywhere in Africa. MedAtlas was founded by Margaret Mutumba, a PhD candidate in Public Health and Health Systems at Waterloo, Samuel Mutumba and Christoper Nsimbe. Earlier this year, Mutumba shared that it wasn’t until she had attended a Concept pitch competition that she thought, “I could do this.” MedAtlas went on to become the third-place recipient of the Concept Graduate Student Startup Fund in 2020 and a first-place showing at the Concept $5K competition in 2021. MedAtlas has also completed the Cornerstone program and participated in Translation through Velocity’s on campus programming.
Sway’s social commerce platform lets creators launch curated shops on their social media. Creators can seamlessly promote and sell brand products to their audience through Tiktok and Instagram Shops integrations. Sway was founded by Mathematics student Sam Minkov-Temis and Engineering student Ayush Bhargava. Sway’s campus to incubator journey was highlighted with winning a Concept $5K Grant with their sustainable fashion marketplace solution called ChangeRoom in fall 2020. They then propelled further as they pivoted to address a larger market and completed the Cornerstone program where they were able to validate their solution.
TAMVOES is an online health management platform that supports and stores the information of individuals, families and professional teams. TAMVOES is a women-led startup with the goal to empower individuals with their health information; giving them the ability to make more informed health care decisions. TAMVOES was co-founded by Jessica Lunshof. TAMVOES continually supports the hiring of University of Waterloo co-operative education students and in 2022 completed the Cornerstone program on campus through Velocity. They were also an active member of GEDI (Gateway for Enterprises to Discover Innovation).
Adaptis, empowers circularity in construction by automating and optimizing building adaptation and material reuse planning. They enable existing owners, architects, and engineers to make informed decisions for decarbonizing their buildings and lowering costs. Adaptis was founded by Sheida Shahi (BAS ‘12, MA ‘14) and Aida Mollaei (MES ‘21). Shahi an architect and holds a PhD in Circular Engineering from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Waterloo. Mollaei is a PhD candidate in Master of Environmental Studies at Waterloo. Shahi received recognition in the Concept Graduate Student Startup fund in 2019 and went on to participate as a member of the Cornerstone program.
ESGTree has built one of the most advanced ESG tracking and reporting technology platforms for private equity and venture capital globally. ESGTree was founded by Majid Mirza, a PhD candidate in Sustainability Management who is expected to graduate in 2023. More than two years ago, ESGTree was awarded funding through Concept by Velocity helping to accelerate their work and have since been supported by the Grebel Peace Incubator.
The sixth company, Vessl, which was founded by graduates of Western University’s Medical Innovation Fellowship, joins the Velocity ecosystem thanks to the Southwestern Ontario Health Innovation Partnership (SOHIP), a program funded by a $10 million investment by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. SOHIP is opening pathways to support the strong pipeline of health tech companies that is emerging in southwestern Ontario by connecting them with services, support for health tech product development and access to specialized research labs and clinical trial spaces as part of Velocity’s offerings and the University of Western Ontario’s medical programs and innovation partners.

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