Waterloo lays claim as home to the second highest density of startups outside of Silicon Valley — and those startups need a lot of space. Thankfully, Google Waterloo’s growth has opened up some prime real estate on one end of the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor.
Earlier this year, Google’s Waterloo office moved to a newly renovated building around the corner from its home in the Tannery District. The University of Waterloo’s Velocity Garage, already the world’s largest free accelerator, has taken over some of the former Google space. Today, Velocity Garage celebrated the official opening of its expansion.
The expansion is a whopping 29,000 square feet. This brings the total space to 37,000 square feet that can house up to 120 startups. Velocity’s software, hardware, life sciences and social entrepreneurship startups were located in separate facilities on the University of Waterloo campus and in downtown Kitchener. The expansion now allows for all of the programs to work under one roof.
Since the inception of the Velocity program, over 175 companies have been founded, creating more than 1,200 jobs. Velocity startups have raised just over $425 million in funding. That includes the recent $158 million series B raised by Velocity graduate Thalmic Labs last month.
The expanded facilities include a new biosafety level one certified wet laboratory, assembly space, workshop, and prototyping lab for startups developing hardware and science innovations. Repeated requests to use the centrifuge to try and separate a cold pressed juice were not answered.
The Velocity program provides more than just space. Startups also have access to business mentorship, equipment, and a vibrant startup community.
As with any expansion, there have been challenges. “Velocity is a community. From the outset we focused on how to keep that,” said Wes Worsfold, associate director of the Velocity Garage.
To help keep that sense of community, startups in the Velocity Garage are divided into three stages. Stage 1 startups are focused on product-market fit and customer discovery. Stage 2 startups are focused on building and refining their product and initial sales. The third stage includes startups that have sales and are starting to scale. “Stage 3 companies are ones that are getting ready to move out into their own space or into an accelerator like Communitech Rev,” added Worsfold.
“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 Jay Shah, director of Velocity.
Shah took the helm in July as director of the Velocity program, taking over from original Velocity director Mike Kirkup, who joined Velocity graduate Encircle as their CTO in April.
The opening of the expansion included remarks from Shah, UW president Feridun Hamdullahpur, Kitchener-Centre MPP Daiene Vernile, and the mayor of Kitchener, Berry Vrbanovic.
Photos by Harminder Phull