In the summer of 2012, Jay Shah was just one among many of the bright young people chasing their startup dreams inside the University of Waterloo’s Velocity Garage.

Alongside co-founders Mike McCauley and Aditya Bali, Shah was toiling diligently at BufferBox, the parcel delivery kiosk startup that excelled in the Y Combinator program, and that Google would acquire just a few months later, taking the three young entrepreneurs with it.

Now, four years and multiple achievements later, Shah – still just 27 – is set to return as Velocity’s new director, overseeing what UW proudly bills as the world’s largest free startup incubator.

At nearly 37,000 square feet, that incubator has grown substantially inside Kitchener’s former Lang Tannery, where its closest neighbour is the Communitech Hub. The Velocity Garage houses about 80 startups at any given time, in the software, hardware and science sectors.

Shah, a mechatronics engineering graduate who described himself on LinkedIn as an “entrepreneur on loan to Google,” has been working as a product manager in the company’s Canadian engineering headquarters in Kitchener since BufferBox was acquired. After Google wound BufferBox down, he helped lead development of OnHub, Google’s consumer wireless router.

“I’m feeling elated,” Shah said today in an e-mail interview. “Specifically, I feel very fortunate to be part of such an energetic and supportive ecosystem and have the opportunity to expand our region’s impact on the entrepreneurial landscape. “

Not surprisingly, he said, “It feels like I’m coming home. Velocity, in addition to the many other startup and technology champions in this community, were a huge part of the BufferBox journey, so there’s a warm-fuzzy feeling of being able to come back into that ‘family’ in an entirely new capacity.

“While I haven’t started in the role yet, let alone finished up in my previous role, I feel extremely energized to tackle what lies ahead,” Shah said.

McCauley and Bali, who now work for Google in the San Francisco Bay Area, couldn’t be happier for Shah.

“I am so beyond excited about this news and could not think of a better person to be taking on this role right now,” McCauley said today in a Facebook post. Added Bali: “Jay Shah is the nicest and smartest person you’ll meet, and the right person to lead Velocity in its next chapter of growth.”

When he takes up his new post this September, Shah will have no shortage of work to do. In addition to the Garage, Velocity runs several entrepreneurship programs, including Velocity Start, with weekly business-skills workshops; Velocity Residence, a dorm for student entrepreneurs; Velocity Science, which incorporates a lab for science-based startups; and the Velocity Fund Finals pitch competition that grants $375,000 to promising companies each year.

Shah will work closely with Velocity companies and act as a link to the broader tech community, as did his predecessor, Mike Kirkup, during a successful four years as director that ended this past spring.

About The Author

Anthony Reinhart
Director, Editorial Strategy
Google+

Anthony Reinhart is a veteran journalist who left the Globe and Mail to join Communitech in 2011. Tony has covered everything from crime, politics and courts to business, the arts and sports, and his writing has won numerous journalism awards. He is Communitech's Director of Editorial Strategy and senior staff writer.