After completing extensive renovations in the Tannery building in downtown Kitchener, the University of Waterloo’s Velocity Garage held the grand opening of its new 37,000 square foot space this morning, which will provide space for up to 120 companies to work, making it the largest free startup incubator in the world.
The Velocity Garage Grand Opening ribbon cutting ceremony was presided over by Kitchener-Centre MPP Daiene Vernile, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, University of Waterloo president and vice-chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur, and Velocity Director Jay Shah.
“What is happening here is important, not just to our community, but also the world,” said Hamdullahpur. “Velocity companies continue to be leaders in solving important, global problems, while building profitable businesses along the way.”
Since its opening in 2008, Velocity has facilitated the growth of 175 companies, which have gone on to raise $425 million in funding and created more than 1,200 jobs through its programs, such as Velocity Science, operated in partnership with the university’s Faculty of Science, Velocity Start, and Velocity Residence, which provides dorm space for student entrepreneurs.
The Velocity Garage has added more than 29,000 square feet to its previous space with this expansion, which will allow software, hardware, life-sciences and social entrepreneurship startups, currently housed in separate buildings, to come together under one roof and share growth strategies through peer mentorship.
“Velocity is a key component of the region’s innovation ecosystem and a symbol that the University of Waterloo is leading in economic growth and job creation through entrepreneurship,” said Velocity director Jay Shah.
Velocity has never charged fees or taken any equity from companies that have gone through its incubator process.
The City of Kitchener provided $500,000 in funding to build the new science lab at the Garage, and has benefited from co-location in the Tannery building alongside Communitech, one of Canada’s premier hubs for industry partnerships and support services, as well as a gift of furniture from Google, who recently moved their more than 350 employees into a 185,000 square foot office space in the nearby Breithaupt Block.
The Velocity Garage provides a workspace, access to a mentor network, and introductions to investors for companies attempting to build cutting-edge technologies in the Waterloo Region, providing access to a science lab, assembly space, workshop, and prototyping lab for companies that are developing hardware and science innovations.
Teams that apply are mainly from current University of Waterloo students and alumni, with exceptions made for outstanding applicants from outside the university.
Teams, generally of 10 people or less and working for a company generating less than $250,000 in annual revenue, are evaluated based on their background, skill, and ability to work effectively together.
The Velocity Fund has become Canada’s premiere pitch competition, awarding $375,000 in non-equity grants per year, benefiting from the generosity graduates such as the three founders of BufferBox, Mike McCauley, Jay Shah and Aditya Bali, who provided a donation to the Velocity Fund Finals, after they themselves won the competition in 2012 and subsequently attended Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, shortly after which BufferBox was acquired by Google in 2012 for a rumoured $25 million.