The University of Waterloo’s latest Velocity Fund Finals had at least four startups win big.
The competition had 10 startups pitching to a panel of judges including Seth Bannon, founding partner of Fifty Years; Dianne Carmichael, chief advisor of health tech at the Council of Canadian Innovators; Eric Migicovsky, Pebble founder and visiting partner at Y Combinator; and Tomi Poutanen, co-CEO of Layer 6 AI.
“Building a business is one of the boldest risks, yet our companies continue to demonstrate the vision and drive to think big.”
One of the $25,000 winners included Innovative Protein Technologies, which created Frost Armour, a spray-on-foam to help farmers protect crops. Farmers remove it after several days with another solution that converts it into a fertilizer. The team created the foam after witnessing the effects of a devastating spring frost in 2012 that knocked out about 80 percent of Ontario’s apple crop.
Other $25,000 grand prize winners included Altius Analytics Labs, a startup that helps occupational groups better manage musculoskeletal injuries; EPOCH, a skills and services marketplace that connects refugees and community members, using time as a means of exchange; and VivaSpire, which is making lightweight wearable machines that purify oxygen from the air without the need for high pressure.
“Frost damage not only affects farmers’ livelihoods, but also our food supply,” said Erin Laidley, a Waterloo alumnus, who co-founded the company with Tom Keeling and Dan Krska, two alumni from the University of Guelph. “There are other spray-on solutions, but ours is non-toxic and has no negative environmental impact.”
While the $10,000 prize for best hardware or science company usually goes to a grand prize winner, this edition was the first time that wasn’t the case. The winner was Vena Medical, which is working on a camera that makes navigating through arteries faster.
Third company from @UWVelocity Science pitching at #VelocityFund Finals is Vena Medical @WaterlooSci pic.twitter.com/lxX098ffKp
— Bob Lemieux (@UWscidean) July 20, 2017
Along with the Velocity Fund Finals, 10 teams of University of Waterloo students competed for three prizes of $5,000 and access to Velocity workspaces. The winners of the $5K finals included HALo, which works to provide manual wheelchair users with accessible solutions to motorize their wheelchairs; QuantWave, which provides faster, cheaper and simpler pathogen detection for drinking water and food suppliers; and SheLeads a story-based game which works to help girls realize their leadership potential.
“Building a business is one of the boldest risks you can take, and yet our companies continue to demonstrate the vision, talent, and drive to think big and tackle challenging problems,” said Jay Shah, director of Velocity. “Today, we are fortunate to benefit from an enormous wealth of experience from our judges who are leaders from the global investment, health and artificial-intelligence communities and entrepreneurs at heart. In helping Velocity award $125,000 in funding to these companies, we have taken a bet of our own in these founders, and said be bold, think big, and go out and change the world.”