University of Waterloo president says talent is key to innovation ecosystem

With the second largest startup density in the world, The Waterloo Region has been steadily climbing the ranks as an innovation ecosystem to be reckoned with. Central to this ecosystem is the University of Waterloo, which Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian once said is creating the business leaders of the century.

The Disruptors co-host Amber Kanwar sat with Feridun Hamdullahpur, president of the University of Waterloo, to find out how the university has fostered this culture of innovation that it’s known for worldwide.

“The two main ingredients are the talent and how we put this talent in an environment where the combination is very successful,” Hamdullahpur said. As Kanwar said that the University of Waterloo’s notable co-op program was integral to fostering Waterloo’s ecosystem “almost by accident”, Hamdullahpur said that the beginning was intentional, but they never imagined that it would create the it would create the ecosystem today.

“The free spirit and innovative environment, that wasn’t an accident. That translated into our intellectual property policy — when you put all these things together, we had no idea what it was going to result into. What we’re seeing here, this dynamic environment, is just the tip of the iceberg,” Hamdullahpur said. “If I close my eyes and look at this even five years from now, I will be seeing a different environment.”

He added that BlackBerry, once considered the heart of Waterloo’s tech ecosystem, was a good example of how dynamic an ecosystem can be. “Like everything else, you make one product and it reaches a point where it’s challenged by others. This will keep going on, so you don’t base your entire community ecosystem on one product or company,” he said. “I’m seeing in five, ten, fifteen years, there will be 100 BlackBerrys in this region.”

Watch the interview below:

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Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is BetaKit's News Editor.