From left: Mike Kirkup, Director of Velocity, Feridun Hamdullahpur, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waterloo, Peter Braid, MP for Kitchener-Waterloo, Daiene Vernile, MPP for Kitchener Centre and Peter Heuss, manager of the Foundry.
The University of Waterloo officially opened its Velocity Foundry today with an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Foundry, an extension of the university’s successful Velocity incubator program, focuses on hardware, materials and life sciences startups.
Feridun Hamdullahpur, President and Vice-Chancellor of the university, emphasized the significance of the morning as local entrepreneurs and political representatives from all levels of government gathered in the bright 11,000-square-foot space in downtown Kitchener.
Velocity’s success in incubating hardware startups like Pebble, Thalmic Labs, MappedIn and BufferBox was a driving force behind the Foundry, a dedicated lab space just down the street from the Communitech Hub and the existing Velocity Garage.
“Waterloo Region, as we all know, has no shortage of cool new ideas, from the smartphone to wearable technology,” said Peter Braid, Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo and the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities.
“And I am willing to bet that the next big thing will start in Kitchener-Waterloo, right here in this building,” he said.
Braid also highlighted the federal government’s recognition of incubators and accelerators as the key to commercializing ideas into that next big thing.
“Prime Minister Harper was here in June to announce that the University of Waterloo had been selected in the CAIP (Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program) funding process, in partnership with Communitech, [Wilfrid] Laurier [University] and the Accelerator Centre, and those details are now being finalized,” Braid said.
The newly renovated space is already at capacity with 20 companies taking up residency, and another five set to move in by the end of the month.
“Our plan as it stands right now is to stay at that two-year limit for how long they can continue to stay here and build their business here, but we will see as that progresses,” said Mike Kirkup, Director of Velocity.
Mechatronic companies are the most prevalent right now, followed by those in materials, but Kirkup sees the ratio changing as the Foundry progresses.
“We have a huge pipeline of science companies coming down through our startup program, Velocity Science, so we actually have seven companies waiting in the wings,” he said.
Like the Velocity Garage, the Foundry will focus on entrepreneurship and leveraging the community of founders and the broader Waterloo Region ecosystem.
The equipment in the facility is intentionally pretty basic, Kirkup said.
“Unfortunately for most people, what they don’t understand is that learning to run a 3D printer or a laser cutter has no bearing on your success as a company,” he said.
Instead of buying all that machinery, the Foundry will leave the more complex tasks to well-equipped community partners like Hyphen Services (Christie Digital’s rapid prototyping facility) and local machine shops, and will cover part of the cost for its startups to use those services. he said.
Unlike the Velocity alumni hardware companies that paved the way to Y Combinator and back, Foundry startups have a head start in creating their products.
So, when will we see the next hardware darling?
“There are several companies in here that are on the verge of that… and I would say within the year,” said Peter Heuss, manager of the Foundry.